If you want to see and enjoy performances, is the theater your only option? Actually, a typical city street or space in front can serve as a stage. Capitalizing on this idea, the Hi Seoul Festival floods the streets of Seoul with romance, music, and spirit.
The Hi Seoul Festival 2015 is a week-long street arts festival that represents not only Seoul but all of Asia. It is a festival where the city, people, and art come together to create something completely new, seeking new meaning in this space we call a “city.” Furthermore, it aims to bring people together to engage in acts of creation and enjoyment through various citizen participation programs. Every October, street performers from around the world flock to Seoul Plaza and the surrounding area to put on performances for the people of Seoul to enjoy free of charge
A total of 54 prominent street art performances (some 170 performance sessions), including ten performances from six overseas countries, including France, the United Kingdom, and Spain, were held as part of Hi Seoul Festival 2015. Through this event, Seoul Metropolitan Government provides opportunities for everyone to experience the spirit of artists without the necessity of purchasing a ticket.
Each day of the festival, street art performances captivate viewers. Moreover, the diversity of performances, including everything from puppet shows beloved by children and mime performances enjoyed by the entire family to events with a special social message, makes it an event everyone can enjoy.
The opening program of Hi Seoul Festival 2015 was “As the World Tipped” (Wired Aerial Theatre) by a group from the United Kingdom. This popular performance, which has been featured in major festivals across Europe since 2011, was staged in Asia for the first time at this year’s Hi Seoul Festival. A massive, stage-like screen slowly rises vertically and hangs in the air as seven artists perform on that stage (or screen), carrying out dizzying, awe-inspiring acts at a height of 30 meters while hanging from wires.
The closing program, and highlight of the festival, was “Grandmother’s 70th Birthday Party” (Theater Company Seoul Kedam & Hwarang Art Pyrotechnics), which surprised viewers with a giant puppet 8.5 meters in height, three meters in width, and four meters in breadth. Celebrating her 70th birthday this year, “Granny Young-ja” represents Korea’s modern history over the last 70 years, including its liberation from Japanese colonial rule, the Korean War, rapid economic growth, and the sinking of the Sewol Ferry, all of which were expressed through dance and song.
On the last day of the festival, a 435-meter section of Sejong-daero, running between Cheonggye Plaza and Seoul Plaza, is blocked to traffic, and both the road and sidewalks become part of the festival grounds. At this time, the streets appear to change color with the autumn leaves.
Various participatory programs and Korean snacks from the old days can be enjoyed here.
Another major event of the festival is a unique flea market, in which merchants take part in the initial planning stage to offer special services and brands.
Furthermore, experts on street arts festivals from home and abroad, including France and the United Kingdom, gathered together to share information on street arts festivals around the world and discuss future directions of the industry at the 2015 Street Arts International Conference, held three years after the Hi Seoul Festival became a true street arts event. These experts exchanged views on major issues regarding street arts festivals and engaged in passionate discussions.
By introducing new ways for people to enjoy the streets of Seoul, the Hi Seoul Festival is playing a major role in promoting the street arts of Asia on the international stage.
While some people play music or stage fantastic performances, others just enjoy watching. But what is clear is that this festival has been created through the commitment and dedication of performers and viewers alike, showing that everyone knows how to have a good time. With everyone looking forward to the new developments and captivating performances of Hi Seoul Festival 2016, expectations are running high.