AS_pedia Project Vol. 2, In-EAST, Germany, 30 Oct 2018 -

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AS_pedia Project    Text by PARK Heejung(Curator)

The AS_pedia Project is an encyclopedic archive project of ordinary objects around us. The AS_pedia consists of 'AS' from Asia and 'pedia' from encyclopedia. This word compound means archiving links between different cultures.

Participated in the first edition of the AS_pedia Project in 2015, Kim Woojin, Kim Insook and Hanae Utamura were born in Korea and Japan, respectively, and lived in other countries for their studying abroad and residency programs. Their works were attributed to these experiences of living as foreigners in the different contexts for a few months or a few years.

Kim Woojin explores the relationship between the mass and the individual, Kim Insook tries to get acquainted with people, and Hanae Utamura asks questions about the boundary or distinction. They share their interests in a specific situation or environment.

Based on these shared interests, the first AS_pedia Project focused on the relationship between Korea and Japan and paired each country's ordinary objects and cultural customs which are considered traditional and unique in spite of the similarities. The project sought to examine the origins and changes of them over time and by contexts. As a result of the first project with the exhibition, we created a publication, including research items, references, research questions, and dialogues. In addition, the research and the images collected on the web were visualized.

Edited as a dictionary format by adding several items to the previous edition, this publication is the outcome of the second edition of the AS_pedia Project. The project team drifted across the sea of information which lacked proofs. Occasionally, the team criticized each other without a specific reason due to patriotism. Consequently, the AS_pedia Project colloborated the reciprocal relationship between two countries that can not be determine by superiority and the boundary. It is as Geert Hofstede asserts, "culture is created beyond national boundaries."

The AS_pedia Project has a flexible format like Wikipedia which allows anyone to modify and supplement existing knowledge and information. Beginning with the editions for Korea and Japan, the project items will be extended to objects of East Asia and Europe.

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Introduction: <AS_pedia Project Vol. 2: A Tale of Korea and Japan>

Text by Benjamin RABE(social scientist)


In November 2014, a team of Japanese and Korean artists collaborated with a Korean curator and a German Social Science scholar started the "AS_pedia Project", which aims at investigating Korean and Japanese cultural similarities and differences. Their target was to develop a better understanding of the origins and roots of some of the core elements defining the daily life in these East Asian nations like green tea, miso (fermented soy), chopsticks, folk tales, and traditional music (e.g. Enka (Japanese) and Trot (Korean) songs). The geographic proximity of the Korean peninsula and the Japanese islands lead to a vivid interaction of both countries spanning over many centuries. The exchange of people, knowledge, language, ideas, technologies, philosophies, and information lasts until the present day. Hence, it is not surprising to find variations of the elements mentioned above in the daily lives of both, Korean and Japanese citizens.

Every artist of the AS_pedia Project team focused on one item of their choice, questioning the notion of "originality" and "tradition" by seeing them as socially constructed cultural artifacts. In other words, each team member tried via archival work and other forms of data collection to elaborate why and how the items evolved differently throughout history in Japan and Korea regarding styles, forms, and structures. The presentation of the results in the encyclopedic art book - the AS_ pedia - reflects the creativity and craft skills of each artist individually. On top of that, the cultural diversity of the team allowed a fruitful discussion, seeing every artifact from multiple angles-spanning from daily interaction to scientific analysis-leading to the expansion each member's knowledge and understanding of culture, the two countries, and even East Asia as a sphere of significant cultural exchange.

The final exhibition at Gallery PURPLE in Namyangju in December 2015 supported by Gyeonggi Cultural Foundation, attracted a diverse audience. To enable the exhibition, each artist created an additional visual artwork based on their research, while considering the elaborated connections between the cultures. Starting from the first stage of the project that targeted Japan and Korea, the team plans to expand the subject to more countries like China and other interrelated countries from Eastern or Northern Asia - being significant parts of the sphere of cultural exchange introduced via the example of a smaller, bilateral case during the first stage of the project.

The 2018 exhibition in the rooms of the In-EAST Institute of the University of Duisburg-Essen has two foci. The first is to continue and to expand the links of East Asian contemporary artists to academia. Even though the outcomes might differ (artwork vs. publication of academic papers), the methods employed to generate data in social sciences are similar to the ones in some of the recent projects of the artists.

Hence, there is potential for learning from each other and discussing East Asia using a similar "language." The next focus is kicking-off the second phase of the project that intends to look at a larger Asia with research involving more countries. As this new stage demands a new set of abilities, the team, furthermore, hopes to attract more scholars and artists to join. Therefore, the first exhibition outside of Asia offers a unique chance to expand the network of the AS_pedia Project team, especially when the outstanding research infrastructure of the In-EAST is considered.