Interviewee: Hee-Jun Jeong, Director of Arte Museum Valley Gangneung
Written by: Jio Lee
Photo: Deok-hyun Jo, provided by the interviewee 

Arte Museum Valley  Gangneung, which is at the forefront of the production of future Korean media art, is situated in a uniquely Korean setting that includes the serene Heo Gyun, Heo Nanseolheon Park, and the lush Gyeongpo Lake. ‘Arte Museum’ is a media art exhibition hall created by ‘D’strict,’ a firm known for creating the Time Square Waterfall visuals. Korea now has four huge exhibition halls, including those in Jeju, Yeosu, Gangneung, and Busan, which is set to open next year.
Director Hee-jun Jeong, who has been with Arte Museum Valley Gangneung since its inception, provided extensive and honest responses spanning from the introduction of the exhibition hall to the expert’s perspective on Korean media art.

Please begin by introducing yourself.

Hi. I am Hee-jun Jeong, the director of the Arte Museum Valley Gangneung.

Please present the Arte Museum Valley Gangneung to us.

Valley Arte Museum Gangneung is a new exhibition space that opened on December 23, 2021. There are now three sites in Korea: Jeju, Yeosu, and Gangneung. More than 2,900 individuals come daily, according to the cumulative daily average.

Arte Museum’s common theme is ‘Eternal Nature.’ Although the topic is nature, it is not a mere representation of nature. It is an immersive media art installation of nature inspired by D’strict’s interpretations.
Each space is distinguished by a mix of sight, sound, and scent, allowing you to experience a more immersive display. Moreover, focusing on the fragrances that are set uniquely for each location will make the display more pleasurable.

Arte Museum Valley Gangneung houses a total of 12 pieces of media art. Have you prepared a message for each pavilion? Are there any particular exhibitions that the director recommends?

As previously stated, the Arte Museum is organized into sub-themes per area within the overarching subject of ‘Eternal Nature.’ Jeju is the ‘ISLAND,’ Yeosu the ‘OCEAN,’ and Gangneung is the ‘VALLEY.’ The artwork is meant to be made up of the mountains, valleys, and sea that constitute Gangneung’s beautiful surroundings.

There are now 12 spaces on exhibit, including ‘Waterfall,’ ‘Flower,’ and ‘Thunder,’ as well as one special exhibition. The special exhibition is the first offline exhibition of our D’strict’s NFT initiative, and it features pieces from the ‘SPIRIT FOREST INCANTO’ series (4/30~7/20, Arte Museum Valley Gangneung). It will thereafter be utilized as a testing ground for new works.

Many people are interested in the exhibitions I propose. When this happens, I always recommend the ‘Garden.’ The film is around 30 minutes long, with the first half consisting of works by world-renowned artists and classical music, and the second half consisting of works with gorgeous Gangwon landscape in the background. An Arirang tune is performed in the backdrop by Korean traditional musician So-hee Song, and it is quite moving. I wish everyone feels this way.

Aside from the exhibition, the ‘Tea bar’ area stood out from the ticket office. Is there a café within the exhibition hall?

The ‘Tea bar’ is not the same as a café. Similarly, it is an interactive display. Guests are given their own beverages. Images of flowers and the moon rising from the ceiling are projected using a beam projector. Using the sensor, the picture travels together with the moving cup. It is a place where you may have the splendid sensation of sipping flowers in full bloom.

Since its inception, the museum has had a large number of visitors. Rumor has it that, it is considered one of Gangneung’s new trendy tourist spots. You must be taken aback.

My hometown is actually Gangneung. So I’ve been keeping a close eye on this region for quite some time. There are numerous outdoor activity places in Gangneung, as you know, but the absence of indoor experience space was disappointing. Hence, I am quite glad that local inhabitants have the opportunity to enjoy a high-quality cultural life through such a huge exhibition hall, and that it is receiving a lot of attention.

What type of appeal do you believe the Arte Museum has that attracts so many visitors?

First and foremost, our Arte Museum has a parent company named ‘D’strict.’ Our internal personnel is used for content, strategy, and manpower replacement. It is an acronym of Design Street, as the name implies, and it is a company with an operational philosophy and attitude that emphasizes uncompromising design and superior quality. With more and more latecomers in media art, I believe the ‘power of content’ is drawing attention to Arte Museum.
The objects on exhibit at the Arte Museum include extremely fine detailing. I believe that visitors find it appealing to feel the emotion of nature’s reinterpretation without feeling alienated from the current surrounding scenery.

The most well-known kind of media art is a basic experience display. I’m curious to know about your definition of media art.

I believe that media art delivers something that you can’t experience in the real world to an exhibition space, allowing you to feel as if you have, producing a sense of fulfillment and, more importantly, inspiration. It all boils down to our display in the end. Feeling surreal in the reinterpretation of nature and I think it can also be characterized as the ability to substitute real experiences with virtual experiences.

Until recently, Korea did not receive enough attention to make it safe to declare that it was a “barren land of media art.” With the growth of social media and greater public awareness of culture and art, I feel that new disciplines of art are being found and brought to light. In your opinion, what is the present state of ‘Korean media art’?

In fact, it appears that Korean media art is just becoming closer to the public, in a stage of taking its first step forward. The Arte Museum and D’strict are at the heart of everything, and we take pride in being the industry pioneer.
We are no longer confined to Korea, but we are continuing to plan for international expansion. When it comes to media art exhibits, we are working hard to ensure that Arte Museum is the first to come to mind.
Media art appears to be gaining traction and reaching a wider audience in the future. As a result, there will be several new attempts in the near future. In truth, there is some debate over whether “media art” is art or not, but it is certain that in the near future, such exhibitions will be commonplace. I believe the media art exhibition hall will play a significant part in this.

In this sector, the United States and Europe are already regarded as powerhouses. Now, from a competing standpoint, what do you believe is the way for Korean media art to go, or what are the gaps or elements that need to be supplemented?

First, I believe that the most important thing is to take the time to become acquainted with the public, both as a cultural and recreational place. As I noted previously, the situation in Korea is still in its infancy in comparison to other countries, therefore many people are unfamiliar with this genre.
And it’s not a shortcoming, but if there’s one thing I’m concerned about, it’s that our Arte Museum Valley Gangneung has Korea’s largest exhibition hall. In reality, securing such vast land for an exhibition hall is very difficult. Regardless of the tendency, if media art exhibitions grow in size, I am concerned that it will become a war of scale rather than substance. In this early stage of development, I may be unduly worrying.

I’m intrigued about Arte Museum Valley Gangneung’s plans.

Our objective is to foster a culture in which anybody may enjoy art and produce works without regard for online or offline borders, similar to the NFT project we are now working on, in which anyone can become an artist.
To achieve this objective, we used natural materials in our exhibition and worked hard to make it more welcoming and simpler for the audience to feel. Our display does not require any specific expertise and may be experienced using all five senses. Please come by at any moment to experience the ambiance of the place, find delight in those things, and snap lots of photographs to create beautiful memories.