Kelp Lab (다시마 기르기)
2011 ‧ Idong-ri Harbor and OpenSpace Bae, Busan
- Learn-ful installation ‧ kelpfarm apprenticeship ‧ organic photograms ‧ coastal agroecologies
Commissioned by OpenSpace Bae (오픈스페이스 배) artspace in collaboration with kelpmasters Lee ChongNam, Hong SukJin, Hong ChongKo, An JangSuk, Han JanYu, Choi ByeongIl, Kim SuBok, Kim KilDeok. With interpretation support from HeeKyoung Jeikei Jeon, SeokKyung Han, In JinMi, DaeHong Kim, Daeil Lee, and SangHo Seo.
In a ten-week apprenticeship with kelp farmers, techniques, meaning and stories surrounding sea tangle were acquired. This informed an installation of illuminated lanterns made from leftover bits of this light-sensitive organic material farmed in the fertile coastal waters of south-western Korea. The artisan knowledge around tending, preserving, and utilising kelp turned the artist studio into a kelp lab where local children were introduced to the slippery craft of shaping leather-like kelp sculptures.
Organic photograms from the sea: The beauty and challenge of sculpting with kelp (sea tangle) is that the material has a mind of its own. It dries in ways that can not be fully predicted, making the result a co-creation between maker and organic matter. During the serendipitous experimentation, the light sensitive qualities of kelp were discovered. Covered with opaque objects and exposed to sunlight, kelp is able to render monotone, photograms (camera-free photograph). The kelp farmers brought up their concerns during the apprenticeship. They included changing taste preferences that diminish demand for this traditional condiment, seawater pollution leading to jellyfish infestation and staining of the crop, or the hazard of slippery kelp leaves that is cause for many accidents. These concerns were represented through the photograms of the resulting kelp sculptures.