Generally, many people regard the subway as a stifling space so that they cannot help but be swept along in the crowd every morning and evening. Especially, some university students who commute to school by subway also think the same. Additionally, according to the survey conducted by Korea Information Society Development Institute (KISDI), 86.3 percent of the public transportation users use smartphones among various portable media, including books, audios, and others. In order to break such negative images of the subways as the above, there have been interesting changes in terms of both public and individual sectors these days. Therefore, people who ride subways can see or enjoy various contents during the journey. These changes on the subway show a quite different feature from many other existing subway trains or stations which do not contain any attractions or things to enjoy but lots of commercial advertisements.
Attractions are emerging in the subway stations
In Sindorim Station, you can find the cultural complex called “Culture Railway 959.” Since it is a transfer station where the line number one and two cross, many people pass by there. On the first floor of the station, kids’ book cafe, whose shape is similar to the subway train carriage, is located so that children can play with a moving mini train and their parents can have a meeting. Park Eun-hee, a user of the book cafe, commented, “Since the book cafe is located in the transfer station, it is very comfortable for me to visit there. Also, I think the facility provides people cost effective services.”
|The art creation village of "Culture Railway 959" in Sindorim Station is in a shape of the train and provides the artists places to concentrate on their artworks.|
|/Photograph by Kim Min-ji|
In addition, the art creation village and cultural classrooms are on the third floor. The fact that the art creation village is placed in the quiet spot helps artists concentrate on their works and they can also provide citizens with education in the cultural classrooms. Kim Gyeong-hwan, the action officer of Culture & Tourism Division of Guro District Office, said, “By establishing ‘Culture Railway 959,’ we expect to manage the Sindorim Station as not only station but also cultural complex so that people who take subways can make better use of the space.”
Moreover, the stations of the recently opened subway, Ui-Sinseol Light Rail, became an object of a new project “Culture Metro 2017.” According to the announcement of the organization, it is a project aiming to make the subway provide people with a space to get some rest. As a part of the project, there is “Art Station” that six subway stations including Sungshin Women’s University Station and Shin-seol Dong Station are decorated with some artworks on the wall. People can take a look at them while transferring to other lines of the subway or going up along the escalator to move out of the station.
|"SET V.9: Pattern" painted by artist Kim Young-na is hanging on the wall in front of the escalator in the Sungshing Women’s University Station.|
|/Photograph by KIm Min-ji|
For example, there are several pieces of installation artworks of the artist Kim Young-na, who had won the “Prize for the Young Artist Today” in the Sungshin Women’s University Station. Park Su-jin, who is working as a guide in the Sungshin Women’s University Station, said, “I have heard that the change in the subway stations just like what is happening in the Ui-Sinseol Light Rail is one of the current trends. I think it is an impressive change and the artworks hanging on the wall look good to me.”
The interior of the subway is decorated with unique design
Not only “Art Station,” the project “Culture Subway 2017” on Ui-Sinseol Light Rail also includes the change inside the subway train. It is a project to remove commercial advertisements in the subway trains and decorate with various images in certain concepts. These days, there are two concepts of subway trains: “Running Art Gallery” and “Running Library.” For example, “Running Art Gallery” is a project which implies that every citizen is an artist, and there are the artworks made by several selected artists wrapped inside the subway trains.
|Paintings of around a thousand people illustrated by artist Jeong Eun-hye, who has been suffering from Down’s Syndrome, are wrapped on the wall in Ui-Sinseol Light Rail train.|
|/Photograph by Kim Min-ji|
Shin Hye-yeon (Freshman, Department of Economics) of Seoul Women’s University, who takes Ui-Sinseol Light Rail, mentioned, “When I first saw the subway train filled with images, I thought it was quite fresh and unique so I even took pictures of its interior. Additionally, since the subway trains are decorated with interesting images, people would throw away less trash in it than before while commuting to schools or companies.”
Not just as a part of the government organization project, several companies are also trying to attract people by reforming the interior of the subway trains. “Baedaltong,” a company providing a food delivery service has been advertising itself by adding model chickens and delivery bags to the straps in the subway trains especially on the line number two and three. This has been appealing to subway users and spreading widely since the number of its pictures uploaded on Instagram on the first day exceeded a hundred.
Choi Eun-ji (Sophomore, Department of International Trade) said, “When I saw the advertisement in the subway, the chicken-shaped straps were big enough to catch my attention. I thought it would be more effective to advertise in the public space in that way compared with the previous flat ones.”
Cultural mobility is expanding cultural spaces onto the subway
Looking at all these cases regarding the subway together, one common thing can be found: “Cultural Mobility.” This term is, although it does not have commonly accepted definition yet, used among some cases overseas as the temporary cross-border movement of artists and other cultural professionals. To apply this concept to the examples above, it can also mean that the subway, as a space, is expanding into the cultural space, exceeding the border of public transportation.
In other words, people who take the subways are able to easily appreciate some pieces of art in everyday life, which is represented by the subway in this context, even if they do not strive to find it by themselves. Since the subway station takes a role as a landmark, which can show the regional images, it can be said that subway stations are qualified to transform into the museum. Such change appears in the way of overlaying certain image and realizing various interpretations on the certain space.
Such a new flow of cultural mobility has been started to be applied in the transportations, taking the lead in western countries. For instance, in the US, an SF artist Franks installed a swing in the subway to let people who take subway play on it. Then, when people get off the subway, they listen to the cello performance, appreciating the artworks attached on the wall. In addition, “Glasgow Subway Festival” in England offers many kinds of performances in the subway train and also holds concerts and parties in about 20 subway stations. These kinds of projects have provided opportunity to newly read the text of ordinary space by breaking the frame of the space with unique events.
Ryu Ji-min, the action officer of the Regional Revitalization Division in Seodaemun-gu Office, who previously had worked for the project “Culture Metro 2017,” explained, “In general, subway is nothing but a space passed by while people commute to school or business. However, cultural mobility is now reinterpreting the space creatively with cultural arts and sharing the meaning and value of regionality.” She also added, “Cultural mobility is a worldwide trend that has been firstly spread among the Europe such as London, Stockholm, and Munich. In Korea, the Seoul Foundation for Arts and Culture started to apply the concept into Seoul subways and plans to spread it to a wider area gradually.”
Changes on the subway become much more diversifying
As described above, the changes on the subway and its stations have diversified the contents. Until recently, subway trains and stations were filled only with commercial advertisements in general. However, nowadays, not only the advertisements exist but also attractions and artworks flourish. It can make people see something special in the daily space and be interested in those unique and artistic decorations.
Moreover, the changes on the subway and the station have been and will be diversified in terms of the form of the elements involved in such transformation. There are many artworks on flat surfaces, which include normal ones, trick art works, and three-dimensional structures. This kind of artworks with various shapes offer subway users pleasurable experiences. For example, Seoul Metropolitan Government is planning to create street art zone at Bomun Station so that they can make the public encounter the performing art. Also, the president of the Seoul Foundation for Arts and Culture also expressed his wish to perform the musical “Line 1” at subway line number one.
The action officer Ryu said, “As the media has been changed from the form of texts into the video, it is being developed, adding the feeling of movement and the sense of reality to make indirect experience seems to be direct one. This phenomenon, I think, has been influencing the feature of the changes on subway from flat surface to three-dimensional structures, allowing people to realize the world in more authentic way.” If such movements continue in the subway and are expanded to wider area, people would be able to take public transportations with more joy and be less overwhelmed by long subway journey.
Kim Min-ji email@example.com
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