DDP Open Curating Series vol.14 <Chaeknuna Project: Little Big Stories>

Can we read books with our eyes closed?
How can we read if there is no letters written?
Can we tell a story without talking verbally?

<Chaeknuna Project: Little Big Stories> is an exhibition held from December 19th 2019 to January 9th 2020 to showcase a book-reading culture of a nonprofit book and arts education organization, Chaeknuna Project’s archive for the past seven years as a form of art and to share the joy of reading picture books with various senses in our bodies.

We put ‘sharing’ into practice through collaboration with professional artists and children in our community, especially with those whom has visual impairment, low-income family, single-parents household, and multi-cultural household. To design an ‘exhibition for all’ we created audio guide for visually- or audibly-impaired visitors and English-speaking visitors. Special museum etiquette education for under-aged visitors were conducted for every visitors. Special docent programs for various target visitors, movement workshop, radio theater, shadow theater were organized for family visitors. Without any exclusion of minorities, visitors were able to enjoy the exhibition by expressing, guessing, feeling, and hearing a story.

Chaeknuna Project, the organizer of the exhibition, is a nonprofit organization found in 2013 to provide book and art education program for children and youth to spread a a culture of reading paper books. Book(chaek) sisters(nuna) and brothers, as we call ourselves, visit social welfare institutions, schools, or small libraries nation-wide and offer creative programs to raise children who can read books to others by themselves. In addition, we open cultural events for adults to pursue a virtuous circle of society by holding book concerts, campaign, and workshops.

This exhibition was introduced is presented by Seoul Design Foundation who has been introducing new art curators and designers through the program of ‘DDP Open Curating’ since 2015. This year the Seoul Design Foundation opened an application for inventive ideas to deeply engage ‘Active Design’, which is a set of urban planning principles that promote active and physical activity.

EXPRESS A STORY

The first section of the exhibition ‘EXPRESS A STORY’ is where visitors can express a story with their bodies. On the first day of the exhibition, LEE Kyunggu, a contemporary dancer and a choreographer of the team Goblin Party showcased a contemporary dance piece <The Fox Without a Tail> based on a fairy tale by Aesop in front of the commissioned-painting <The Fox’s Forest> painted by Dain Kim, an artist based in Korea who mostly works on mural, illustration, live painting, design and other various genres using her unique traditional method mixed with tropical designs. The contemporary dance piece was exhibited in digital next to the painting throughout the exhibition period and visitors could watch and listen to the story in the video and express a story in front of the painting. A fake fox tail and cute performance props were exhibited for family visitors to make a fun photos as well. This section was also used for various other special programs to express stories with movement such as movement workshop with books, shadow theater, yoga workshop from Aesop’s fables, story theater, and so on to build a family-friendly environment.

GUESS A STORY

When we read books for children, we often don’t read a story first but simply show pictures of each pages to provoke children’s imagination. This also helps for children who cannot read letters yet as well. GUESS A STORY section is where visitors can guess a story by seeing the rows of artworks and find a new way to enjoy picture books. These works were created by Big Future Child Care Center students with photographers LEE Junho and LIM Jihye in collaboration with KIM Jiyoung, a picture book illustrator and writer who won the Nami Concour Illustration Green Island Prize in 2019. Students went through a process with Chaeknuna sisters and brothers to read Aesop’s Fable and thought about how to express stories with their bodies. Photographers took each scene and the final process was created by the picture book illustrator as if one complete picture book. Throughout 10 months of creation, the project was cooperated by Nami Island Art and Education Inc. and Cheil Grinding Wheel Ind. Co., Ltd.,.

Students of Big Future Child Center are taken cared by principal of the center who is a North-Korea refugee and are mostly from low-income family or physically-disabled who rarely get a chance to do any cultural activities other than classroom activities. Through this process they were able to gain self-confidence by becoming the main character of the exhibition. In addition, we took a special care not to express the fact that the characters in the piece are actual students of child care center for the visitors. When visitors found out the process behind the story through special docent programs, they were astonished. We tried to focus on the artwork itself rather than drawing an attention to differentiate ‘us’ and ‘them’.

FEEL A STORY

 For the past 7 years, children in our program also grew with us. They are no longer the ones who just passively listens to our story but the ones who are willing to actively change the future through book-reading. ‘FEEL A STORY’ section is one of the longest projects Chaeknuna Project worked on with students of Good Friend Child and Youth Center in collaboration with Illustrator’s collective Creambook, and Game company Nexon Korea. In this section 6 creative textile books for blind children were exhibited along with 4 expanded book pieces created by students of Good Friend Child Care Center. Next to the book, audio books were also exhibited for children who cannot read as well. Visitors can feel the story with the tips of their fingers and listen to the stories children wrote. ​

The main collaborator of the artwork Good Friend Child and Youth Care Center is based in Hwagok-dong, Seoul taking care of children and youth under the age 18 and provide social welfare services for those who needs help. The center has been experiencing and practicing the book-reading culture with Chaeknuna Project since 2015. Children who has been educated with various topics through picture books initiated this project and particiapted from creating a story, textile designs, to audiobook recording. To raise the artistic quality, the illustrators collective Creambook artist volunteered to visualize the story, and review the writings. Chaeknuna Project sisters and brothers also added some mentoring and guidance in ‘voice-over acting’, ‘story-telling skills’, ‘creating a design’, ‘curating textiles’, and ‘understanding the disability’. With a cooperation of Nexon Korea’s sound team, the full audiobook was also created.

These artworks were created with a support of Seoul Arte Rotary Club and individual donors through social funding, Naver Happy Bean donation in cooperation with a nonprofit organization Thanks Give. Textile books and audio books will be donated to the School for the Blind after the exhibition.

HEAR A STORY

In the HEAR A STORY section, visitors can go into the cozy small houses of Bobo & Archie and hear their stories. <Bobo & Archie> tells a story of two friends; Bobo who uses senses of hearing, smell, taste, and touch to see the world and Archie who is non-disabled. Through their friendship, hear a story how they understand each other and become good friends. The full season is composed of 8 episodes and you can hear 3 episodes among them in Bobo & Archie’s house.

The pieces were created in collaboration with Storycoam, the story contents production company with Chaeknuna Project who has many years of experience in reading books for blind children. It was created to raise an awareness for the blindness and to provide story contents for blind children to sympathize. The contents are provided for free through the Naver Audio Clip service.

With a planning of LIM June who is also representing Storycoam, JANG Soohye, the founder of Chaeknuna Project participated in writing the script, JEON Sooyeon and JEONG Yeojin, board members of Chaeknuna Project participated as voice-over actors. Visitors can not only hear the stories inside the houses but also draw characters of Bobo & Archie answering questions about the content that makes people think about the disability more deeply than ever before.

Program Outcomes

  • After 7 years of volunteering, 26 artworks were created for one year of collaboration with 150 artists, young volunteers, children and youth.
  • 1412 people visited during the 19 days of exhibition period and 14 free community programs were organized.
  • Media sponsored by the Naver, the mainstream websearch platform of Korea and Dongdaemun History Park Station.
  • Exhibited pieces were delivered to blind children and audiobook series was released on the web hitting over 1000 subscribers.
  • Textile map was donated to the Dongdaemun Design Plaza after the exhibition for the blind visitors.
  • Narrowed cultural gaps through the book culture
  • Raised awareness towards disabilities and social classes and influenced positive outcomes for the cultural diversity.
  • Promoted active arts and culture activities and expanded achievements through the culture of sharing.
  • Diversified professions utilized their abilities for the bigger impact.
  • Balanced governmental, commercial, and individual funding sources.
  • WON the best prize for the excellency in Cultural Diversity by the Ministry of Culture, Sports, and Tourism

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