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Sejong Center's Sync Next aims to attract new audiences

May 20, 2024 - 16:03 By Park Ga-young
Artists participating in Sync Next 24 by the Sejong Center for the Performing Arts pose for photos at the Sejong pop-up in Seongsu-dong, eastern Seoul on Thursday. (Sejong Center)

The Sejong Center for the Performing Arts, one of the country’s best-known performing arts centers, is bringing back Sync Next 2024, the name for its its program this summer, to contemplate the future of art and to “synchronize” with the audience, which is always “ahead.”

“Art has always strived and transformed desperately to connect with its audience in every era. Artists have endured immense suffering to gain audiences, and art has continuously evolved to meet new audiences. I believe this evolution is an expansion of genres,” Ahn Ho-sang, CEO of The Sejong Center, told reporters Thursday during a press conference held at Seongsu-dong, a neighborhood known for trendy shops and cafes.

The Sejong Center ran a pop-up theater there from Friday to Sunday to showcase the upcoming Sync Next 2024 season, slated to take place from July 5 to Sept. 8, offering 10 programs.

Introducing the 10 programs, Ahn explained he hopes to attract younger audiences to Sync Next 2024, now in its third year, through the pop-up with three performances and other exhibitions there.

Ahn said the contemporary season is also a platform for foreigners to discover the country's pioneering artists and contemporary art scene.

"I hope that after one or two more seasons, overseas producers will come to discover Korean contemporary art," he said, adding that the center is making efforts to offer easier access for foreign audiences, who now take up one-tenth of the audience during the day.

The Sejong Center for the Performing Arts pop-up in Seongsu-dong, eastern Seoul (Sejong Center)

The upcoming season features a lineup of diverse fields, including women’s musical drama, comedy, jazz, installation art and choral music at Sejong’s black box theater, which supports experimental and avant-garde artists in creating works without genre restrictions.

The oldest participant this season is Cho Young-sook, 91, the first-generation master of gukgeuk, or musical drama. Gukgeuk blends elements of traditional music, dance, and drama and is performed by all-female troupes.

Cho will join forces with contemporary musicians Jang Young-gyu and Park Min-hee in “Youngsook Goblin Cho,” an homage to gukgeuk, which died out in the 1960s, and gukgeuk artists.

Artists participating in Sync Next 24 by the Sejong Center for the Performing Arts pose for photos at the Sejong pop-up st in Seongsu-dong, eastern Seoul on Thursday. (Sejong Center)

Artist Woo Kuk-won designed the season’s key art. “As a flat-surface artist, I live with the pressure of adapting to a new era. I decided to participate because it allowed me to try new things. I am thinking of exploring new genres because it feels like I am venturing into new territories and boundaries,” Woo said during the press conference.

Meta Comedy, known for revolutionizing how comedy is consumed and enjoyed online, is set to offer a mandam skit performance on Aug. 15 and two stand-up comedy acts on Aug. 16 and 17. Mandam is a traditional Korean form of comedic storytelling or dialogue.

Iranian playwright and director Amir Reza Koohestani’s new piece, “Blind Runner,” will get its Asian premiere from July 18 to July 21. Koohestani is the first foreign artist invited to Sync Next.

Actor Kim Shin-rock and visual artist Son Hyun-son will craft a language of art from the forgotten whispers of time and space in a performance titled “Excluded Time” from Aug. 2 to 4.

Gut, a traditional Korean shaman ritual, will be reinterpreted by EASThug, a media art group and 64ksana, a band that combines electronic and traditional Korean music. They will present a never-before-seen stage based on gut music, entitled "Edge of Sacred," in three performances on Aug. 23 and 24.

Park Da-wool, who plays the traditional Korean six-string zither geomungo, pansori performer Yu Taepyeongyang, who delivers traditional Korean narrative singing, and Ryu Sung-sil, a contemporary artist who won the Hermes Foundation Missulsang, come together to depict the life of a young man in an unexpected and captivating manner. Their “Four Seasons” will take place on July 11 and 12.

The poster of Sync Next 2024 designed by artist Woo Kuk-won (Sejong Center)