NOTE: This is more of an intellectual bookmark than a fully developed argument. Hashing this out in public and shooting down/pumping up parts of it is part of my process for "pre-chewing" this idea before I decide to scrap it or invest more into making it into an academic paper. At the very least, it's something likely to be worthy of discussion for my university classes and could be something interesting to the right researcher/thinker/student.
First Things First
I've never really written a proper Urban Studies or Geography paper. But given what I've been noticing about the particularly peculiar space in which I have been doing ethnographic data gathering for the past five years (ten Seoul Fashion Week seasons at the Dongdaemun Design Plaza), I felt compelled to write things up in some organized and marginally academic form. So I'm taking a crack at it and writing out my thoughts, laying them out so I can even better organize them in my head.
Background of the Paper
During my class on Hallyu Marketing, I had asked the question of how the Dongdaemun Design Plaza building itself worked to define a particular, peculiar kind of social space for the street fashion scene during Seoul Fashion Week. And it occcured to me that one factor in the explosion of the street fashion scene at DDP after it opened in 2012 was the way the nature of the sturucture itself set the tone for a new kind of social/sartorial culture, bounded spatially by the structure of the alien "spaceship" and temporally by the SFW event itself. Ayway, I think there's a lot to flesh out here.
An A L I E N Space
Much ado has been made about the alienness of the DDP structure. From "Embracing the Alien Spaceship" in the Korea Herald to the same spacey sentiment being echoed by CNN Travel and The Korea Times, and even received a (literal) sendup video put together by what appears to be some Arirang TV folks in their spare time.
In short, the association with aliens was clear and immediate and initially set off alarm bells as a long, publicly funded project that had been fraught with construction issues, clashing political agendas among myriad actors, and the jarring, sheer alienness of a structure that was a monument to Parametricism and quite likely a milestone in the future of architecture and human relationships to the built environment, but in that very way, was just plain strange. But it is that very strangeness of the building that I'd like to explore here, as my observations of the street fashion culture at Seoul Fashion Week since it opened the building in 2012 have told me that the strangeness of the building is what imbued the space it physically defines with a different, broader range of social options and actions that was very un-Korean and enabled a certain kind of social and sartorial freedom to thrive. The "spaceship is surrounded and filled with a "force field" of social and sartorial openness with a power generated by the twice yearly Seoul fashion Week event. The SFW event permanently held twice a year at the DDP defines a unique place in social spacetime in which all bets and restrictive social norms are off, and provide a social cover under which the social "freaks" do indeed feel free to "come out", to use the words of the old Whodini standard.
Developing the Hypperreal Aesthetic
I had the goal of creating a lookbook that 1) addresses the nature of DDP during SFW as an un-Korean space for social aliens, and 2) provides an aesthetic match for the documentation of DDP during SFW as a space of Hyperreality, and 3) offers an aesthetic and stylistic consistency between the pictures in the collection as a lookbook.
This hypermodern aesthetic is characterized by:
- Heavily mediated reality. Instagram filters, frames, everything. All aspects of the images' initial mediation -- from filters and frames and exposure fixes -- are included as a part of the final image. It's as important as the initial moment of imagemaking itself.
- Spatial and social layering. The images should ideally match the idea of showing the subject in relation to "a space of simultaneity" in which layers of space and spaces of social action are visible, in the way that the unique conception and construction of the building encourage flow, and the use of the spaces that have no delineated end or beginning, inside or outside, in which "each space is made unique and memorable in its articulation, albeit without fragmenting the overall aesthetic" Photographically, this means a sense of layers and separations between elements and actors, yet they are unified within the frame, without a feeling of discrete separation between them, in the way the building structure allows for the unique kind of relationship and type of social interaction the building was designed to engender.
- A surreal affect. A "flashy," commercial look.
- Close-up, direct portraiture. The eyeline of the subject goes directly into the lens and the gazer. It's a direct, intimate connection that anchors what is obviously the central element and offers a point of direct communication with the viewer.
Two Prongs of Investigation
- Documenting an extant culture of Hyperreality with the proper tools, along with written theory, as an academic paper utilizing standard academic tools such as recorded audio interviews.
- An expression of Hyperreality through heavily mediated, aesthetically enhanced Visuals as a commercially viable Lookbook.
Here are some theoretical strings I've found that seem to be worth pulling, some possible points of attaching good theoretical handles to this whole thing.
Also worthy of consideration is the idea of consuming alienness itself, or difference itself. Of particular interest in the interview and interactions I've had was the idea of differently alien spaces in the trendy Itaewon/Kyeongnidan/Haebangchon are being "exotic" (이국적인) places overflowing with a feeling of "freedom."(자유) Here are a couple of the representative interview/interaction/portraits. It remains to be seen if I'm going to tie this into the DDP Alien structure idea or spin it off as another paper unto itself.
Working Bibliography (my reading homework, actually)
Architects, Zaha Hadid. 2013. “ARTICULATION,” 44–51.
Butler, Judith. 1993. Bodies That Matter. Routledge. Vol. 36. doi:10.1177/0306312706056409.
Cho, Myung-rae. n.d. “Flexible Sociality and the Postmodernity of Seoul.”
Collection, Proquest Scitech. 2014. “Blend of Design , Art and Technology ...”
For. 2012. “Report Information from ProQuest.” Organization Development Journal, no. April. doi:http://dx.doi.org/10.1108/17506200710779521.
Goffman, Erving. 1975. The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life. Life as Theater. doi:10.2307/258197.
Hwang, Jin Tae. 2014. “Territorialized Urban Mega-Projects beyond Global Convergence: The Case of Dongdaemun Design Plaza & Park Project, Seoul.” Cities 40. Elsevier Ltd: 82–89. doi:10.1016/j.cities.2014.03.007.
Kim, Ji Youn. 2016. “Cultural Entrepreneurs and Urban Regeneration in Itaewon, Seoul.” Cities 56: 132–40. doi:10.1016/j.cities.2015.11.021.
Kim, Ji Youn. 2014. “COMMUNITY OF STRANGERS: ITAEWON FROM ‘AMERICANIZED’ GHETTO TO ‘MULTICULTURAL’ SPACE.”
Križnik, Blaž. 2013. “Changing Approaches to Urban Development in South Korea.” International Development Planning Review 35 (4): 395–418. doi:10.3828/idpr.2013.27.
Leach, Neil. 2015. “(In)formational Cities.” Architectural Design 85 (6): 64–69. doi:10.1002/ad.1979.
Ryu, Chehyun, and Youngsang Kwon. 2016. “How Do Mega Projects Alter the City to Be More Sustainable? Spatial Changes Following the Seoul Cheonggyecheon Restoration Project in South Korea.” Sustainability 8 (11): 1178. doi:10.3390/su8111178.
Schuetze, Thorsten, and Lorenzo Chelleri. 2016. “Urban Sustainability Versus Green-Washing-Fallacy and Reality of Urban Regeneration in Downtown Seoul.” Sustainability (Switzerland) 8 (1): 1–14. doi:10.3390/su8010033.
Schumacher, Patrik. 2016. “Parametricism 2.0: Gearing up to Impact the Global Built Environment.” Architectural Design 86 (2): 8–17. doi:10.1002/ad.2018.
Section, Long, and Zaha Hadid Architects. n.d. “A Cavernous Experience.”
Yun, Jieheerah. 2014. “Construction of the World Design Capital: D^|^#233;tournement of Spectacle in Dongdaemun Design Park ^|^amp; Plaza in Seoul.” Journal of Asian Architecture and Building Engineering 13 (1): 17–24. doi:10.3130/jaabe.13.17.