Julian Opie’s latest project on dancing people comes to Busan

Julian Opie, a celebrated British pop artist known for his iconic “Walking People” series, has brought his latest project on dancing people, the virtual reality (VR) world and life during the pandemic to South Korea’s southeastern port city of Busan.

The exhibition, titled “OP.VR@Kukje/F1963.BUSAN,” features a wide range of works including paintings, sculptures, LED installations, mosaic tiles and a VR experience. It opened Wednesday at Kukje Gallery’s Busan branch and F1963 and will run through July 2.

The 65-year-old said he began working on depicting dancing people after he came across videos of shuffle dancing, a type of upbeat, repetitive subgenre popular among youngsters, on social networking platforms amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I wanted something which is very fast, very lively to kind of pull away from this very quiet, lonely time that was in England for a year and a half … I came across shuffle dancing on YouTube and TikTok. I saw something in there,” Opie said during a press conference at Kukje Gallery’s Busan branch on Wednesday.

Opie said he made his daughter, a professional dancer, and her colleagues dance in front of a camera in tune with fast dance music from the 2010s to capture five simple movements. Then he drew some 60 images for each movement in his signature style, bold outlines filled with flat blocks of color, to create animated images on LED screens.

“These images are fast and are quite commercial in the sense of being available and feeling like the high streets or the airport,” he explained.

For the Busan exhibition, the first such in five years, he commissioned a local photographer to take photos of people walking along Haeundae Beach to create site-specific works of art in the forms of paintings and sculptures.

Through the exhibition, the pop artist blurs the line between reality and virtual reality.

Visitors can stop for a moment to walk on one of four treadmills installed in one room against the backdrop of a light blue canvas, making them look like pedestrians in his works.

Opie said the experimentation is part of his attempts to engage with contemporary audiences who often take their photos in front of art works.

“As for an artist, this is challenging for obvious reasons. But I thought, instead of fighting this, maybe it’s interesting to see how can you make use of this new desire to photograph everything,” he said. “People can kind of join in and then they can be part of the painting and their friends can take the photograph.”

In the VR zone, visitors can have the immersive experience of watching a collection of his major artworks through VR headsets.

Opie explained the VR project is part of his efforts to represent images of our everyday lives beyond sculptures and paintings and helps understanding of his works better.

“I think that the real experience of art is not so much these logical thoughts and these projects,” he said, adding all of his work is about unlocking the “sense of what an extraordinary thing it is to be alive and to be existing.”

Source: Yonhap News Agency