[PAMS Choice] Art Project BORA


[People] Zoom In on the Language of Body, and the Image Becomes the Message
[PAMS Choice] Art Project BORA

Art Project BORA is led by Kim Bora, who has emerged in recent years as Korea’s most spotlighted choreographer. The group has seen significant growth with their performances both at home and abroad. Their continuous evolution helped them build up a repertoire of style and colors that remain unique to themselves. As a dance company, Art Project BORA defies the rigid constraints of logic and concepts, creating a feast of images and senses. I sat face to face with the choreographer Kim Bo-ra, the director of Art Project BORA, to gain insight into her the nuances of her work.

The Identity of Dancing, the Elaboration of Expression

QSong Nam-eun: Tell us briefly about Art Project BORA.

Kim Bo-ra: It started off in 2013 as a one-person project for producing solo work. Now it has expanded into a group of dancers, producers, and affiliated artists with myself in the center. Founded on contemporary dance, we embrace different fields such as visual arts, films, performance art, music, and fashion. Our aim is to discover an expressive language that is one of a kind. We are working on a range of plans, aiming to be more flexible than a traditional dance group while sharing stronger solidarity than other short-term project groups.

Q. You kick started working under the name Art Project BORA about three years ago and you have seen some significance achievement both at home and abroad. Tell us more about it.

A: Winning the Critics’ Award at the 2014 Yokohama Dance Collection in Japan was the foothold for our overseas activity. We were invited to more than 10 Asian festivals to perform, and we are scheduled for more. There is the Festival International Cervantino, Rencontres Chorégraphiques Internationales de Seine-Saint-Denis in France, December Dance in Belgium, International Tanzmesse NRW in Germany, and the KORZO Theatre in the Netherlands, to name a few.  

Q. What do these overseas performances mean to you?

A: Meeting international audiences and cultivating a diverse range of reactions was enthralling. It was a chance for me to realize that the distribution of my work is as important as the creation itself. It gave me an opportunity to think deeply about my artistic identity. It was an experience of taking on challenges, which ignited my desire to grow and mature as an artist.  

Q. What were some memorable reactions from the audience?

A: After performing for the December Dance in Belgium, I was interviewed by a local journalist. The feedback I received then was a huge comfort; it was along the lines of feeling like I was being freed from a fixed technique or style, something rough and unpolished but unique. It was not Western-oriented but neither was it based on the Eastern tradition. The journalist said it was unpredictable to determine the inspiration for my work, that it was simply a work of “Kim Bo-ra.” That person’s response provided me with much confidence for overseas performances. As an artist I was motivated by those words to grow and to take on challenges.  

Tail Language ©Art Project BORA Tail Language ©Art Project BORA

The Birth of a Wonderful Image from Observing the Unimportant

Q. What triggers you to create your work? Where do you find the source of motivation, and where does it begin?

A: To me, “image” has always been the source of inspiration and motivation for my work. By image, I mean a range of things from objects and things to plants, animals, and people that we see in our everyday life to artwork produced by other artists. The curiosity is triggered by an image and it turns into a desire to transform that idea into bodily language. This mechanism is quite hard to explain. Observation of the unimportant suddenly turns into a mesmerizing moment, a phenomenon that I express through my work. The things that appear in my work other than dance—everything with a different form of art—are not just for the dramatic effect. They are embedded everywhere in my work. Wouldn’t the audience find something magnificent in it as they continue to observe?

Q. To you, the word “image” is the starting point of your work, but is it also the final goal?

A: My head is consistently occupied by thoughts on how I would express what I find in my daily life through art. In the process of transforming what I see into a bodily language, the initial images go through change and exaggeration, and sometimes they are reborn into imaginary images that my eyes have never witnessed. But this is different to simply reproducing images. While translating what I see into a language of body, I seek a new language of communication. I do not establish conclusions. I can say that, based on my own experience, the process of reducing something to verbal and written words leaves no room for interpretation and imagination. I felt caged by it. As a result, in my work I try to remove the boundaries created by that particular type of language. I want things to be freely interpreted and done so solely by observing the image.

Image Telling: The Desire to Communicate with Intuition and Imagination

Q. Many tend to approach dance from a narrative or descriptive sense, similar to theater or literature, but Art Project BORA is more like design. Namely, the image becomes the message itself.

A: You’re right. In that sense, “image telling” would be a more accurate description of my work than storytelling. My approach is quite different from those kinds of works in which the whole piece is supported by one fixed subject or narrative.. Instead, I want to draw out emotions or feelings that I associate with connecting, overlapping, and transforming images. In response, audiences would have their own way of interpreting things; even the dancers themselves do as well. There is definitely a message I want to express, but I don’t want my work to be a one-way communication channel.

Q. You tried different genres for experimenting different images. How did you approach them?

A: In collaboration with other artists, I have been the pivoting point for laying out the direction of the work. From now on I want to try a more active collaboration that sparks chemistry between me and another genre. But it should always be done to the extent that I can maintain my work’s identity as a dance piece. External stimuli are always a requirement, but the purpose would be to branch out from the center. It would not be about shattering the pivot to cloud the identity.  

Tail Language ©Art Project BORA Tail Language ©Art Project BORA  

Focusing on Language of Body

Q. Your work was selected for 2015 PAMS Choice. Tell us about Tail Language.

A: Having been first revealed in 2014, Tail Language will be showcased for the second time in this year’s PAMS Choice. Cats use tail language to express their emotions, and that became the motif. Animals have their own ways of saying things, and I thought maybe humans are also able to have instinctual communication with our bodies. As I said, limits set by language twist communication and create boundaries, and this works speaks to my desire to overcome the limitation of language by focusing on the bodily language.

Q. All characters seem to carry some kind of symbol. And I noticed all of them are women?

A: The female dancers in this work all represent imaginary characters from myths or fables. I needed a bizarre or a fantastical image that could be either human or animal. I put much thought into creating that bizarreness where something looked like a woman in one moment and then all of a sudden an animal in another. It was a tool to help people untangle themselves from the trap of prejudice. Watching body language without preconception is vital in my work. Right at this moment, I feel as though I may be defining things with a language.  

Q. What is your plan for the future?

A: This October we will be performing Tail Language for PAMS Choice and Festival International Cervantino in Mexico. In November we are showcasing new work called Somu as part of the support project for ‘ARKO’s Performing Arts Fostering Program.’ In 2016 we will be collaborating with a French film–producing group N+N Corsino, which will be displayed in a form of exhibit in Marseille, France. We have been invited to perform Somu at France’s Rencontres Chorégraphiques Internationales de Seine-Saint-Denis in May.

Q. The key here is maintaining your current momentum so you can continue branching out overseas. I would like to wrap up the interview by hearing what you have to say about fulfilling this plan.

A: In Korea, it is difficult for a project that was created over a period of months to be performed several times as a series. But as doors are opening for us to go overseas, there is always one performance that is being showcased to difference audiences, and becomes part of our repertoire. This keeps me interested in exploring new platforms overseas, and since then we have boosted our connections with foreign promoters to help us gain a foothold in various distribution channels. Just doing one event takes up a lot of energy and dedication, and being able to perform multiple times clearly works as a motivation for artists. Our goal is beyond simply going overseas or exchanging with people over the border—our ultimate hope is to have continuous business in the foreign performing market.  


©Song Nam-eun

2015 PAMS Choice Selection : Tail Language

The symbolic system within the tail language of cats and gestures is the motif behind the work. It parodies hypocritical refinement and misinterpretation of language. With the language of tails, structural and semiotic movements of lines and surface, or lines and shapes as they are recombined and dismantled. Through this process, a whole new level of language is created, reassuring the presence of “me” while being reminded of the meaning of community of “us” and “them.” The issue of communication asks us what is most essential in modern society. Bearing this in mind, the work is focused on discovering a bodily language that is clearer and more intuitive than verbal or written words. It is her attempt to look for the “truth” underneath all the social communication and relationship hidden under hypercriticism and refinement. In March 2014, it was first performed at Rough Cut Nights, and will be again at Mexico’s Festival International Cervantino in October 2015.  

2015 PAMS Choice Selection (Group) : Art Project BORA

Art Project BORA revolves around contemporary dance and takes on a lot of experimental work through collaboration with other genres to actively dismantle the concept of genre and space. The group approaches contemporary themes with a more unique and broad manner. They showcase works that touch upon people’s emotion using their witty drama, grotesque artistic expression, film-like choreography, and directing. Representing works are A Long Talk to Oneself, Frankenstein, I’m Not There, Tail Language, and Somu.  


Song Nam-eun_promoter, The Arts & Co.
Song Nam-eun_promoter, The Arts & Co.
As therepresenting promoter of The Arts & Co., SongNam-eun has been conductingconvergent projects from different dance-based art genres since 2010. She planned, produced and hosted many projects fordance creators such as the DanceLAB Seoul international choreography workshop and aperformance platform called Rough Cut Nights. She is exploring new directions basedon ideas including art, lifestyles, city culture, the global community and developingcreative platforms toconnect them to businesses.