Nine Dragon Heads




Ali Bramwell.  Channa Boon.  Claudia Bell.  Daniela de Magddalena.  Harold de Bree.  iliko Zautashvili.

John Lyall.  Kim Nam Jin.  Lee Seung Taek.  Magda Guruli.  Park Byoung Uk.  Paul Donker Duyvis

Shin Yong Gu . Susanne Muller. Yoko Kajio . Yoo Joung Hye.



15thInternational Environment Art Symposium


Nine Dragon Heads 2009


Nine Dragon Heads makes an attempt and stimulation to leave better heritage in the future from the environmental and spiritual viewpoint. Human beings have repeated development with enormous domination and control about environment. There is no doubt that human beings are superior in every respect.    


Thinking back to the past history, many species on the earth were exterminated because for some reason the friendly environment which helped their birth changed into hostile attitude. While mankind, the first species that had the ability of operating on surroundings, have got out of innumerable change of nature to some degree.  


But human has regarded the nature as the target of challenge and conquest, that is to say, as the subject of testing mankind's ability in the process of transforming and possessing the nature.

Ultimately if we are asked a question when the mankind will disappear, we may answer "the day will not be far distant." No matter how peculiar men may be, we must deeply realize that men are also the product of appropriate environment and the part of huge nature.  Can men lead a life with understanding and respect about the world of nature ?

Can men maintain a life peacefully and fairly for the long survival of mankind ?                           What decide this future of human is the mutual relation between human and human, human and circumstances.


NINE DRAGON HEADS changes close-minded 'I' into open-minded 'I' and urges to reconsider equilibrium relation between human and environment through the art holding in common human's infinite imagination, experience, and ideas. NINE DRAGON HEADS joins various culture and unfolds international composite art. We hope to have in common community consciousness and impulsion of the cooperation existed deeply in human's heart through these various forms. Human beings who have single species of Homo Sapiens Sapiens have developed wide and diverse culture. we understand that the diverse difference of culture is the speciality of culture itself, not comparison or superiority.


NINE DRAGON HEADS expects to have a new understanding of human nature and world through the art as long as men. We anticipate that we can leave healthier environment-the heritage of future-to posterity through the curable function of art.


" Later in the evening when the Island had fallen silent apart from the occasionally audible singing of the shaman and his colleagues down the way, as they attempted to entice the wayward spirit of someone who had fallen ill to return to the patient thus restoring her to health."


Every human being has a need to jump into the unknown.
For some reasons some people do it, some people don't.
Fear for the unknown.

Fear the other part of our instinct is what stops us.
We have a strong need to discover.

To go further than our father.

To go more West, to go more East ...

Discover the unknown sea, the unknown forest, the unknown desert, the unknown island.

The Island stands for our desire, for mystery, isolation, safety and paradise.
All things that humans lack in daily life. The treasure is always hidden on the Island.
An island is a piece of land that is surrounded by water.
The Island is inhabited by people who want to escape the turmoil of the modern cities of the mainland with quickly changing lifestyles, cultures, rigid ethics and aesthetics.

The inhabitant of Islands are often sincere keepers of traditions, myths, legends.

Usually they live moderately.

An amazing example was the discovery of a famous book - The Edda - the Icelandic medieval manuscript Codex Regius ('The King's Manuscript'). The Edda kept the forgotten stories of Northern European mythology and Germanic heroic legends. The Christian Church and fundamentalist missionaries had done their work properly. Almost all the cultural heritage of pre-Christian wisdom, science,culture, religion, literature, music, dance and art was wiped out.  

A whole continent brainwashed completely. The earth became flat in every sense. Thanks to the remoteness of the island Iceland we have a bit of our ancestors memories back.
A similar thing happened in Indonesia where radicals of the dominant Islamic religion are still wiping out animistic cultures, shamanistic rituals, languages, music and so on. Indonesia was a melting pot of of many islands, religions, languages and cultures: In the Jungle since pre-historic times: animism At the sea side and harbour places Hinduism, Buddhism and later Islam and the Christian religion was introduced by sailors from India.


Bali is the most famous Indonesian Island for tourists. Because of its remoteness Bali is still the only place in Indonesia that is not Islamic. It kept the richness of the Hindu culture and religion, mixed with local animistic traditions. Another example are the remote Mentawai Islands, an Ethnographic Wonderland. The Mentawai Islands form a chain of seventy islands off the western coast of Sumatra in Indonesia. Siberut (4,030 km²) is the largest of these islands. The inhabitants live a semi-nomadic hunter-gatherer

lifestyle in the coastal and rainforest environments of the islands.

The people are characterised by their heavy spirituality, body art and their tendency to sharpen their teeth, to make them even more beautiful.
After Indonesian independence, Catholic Italian missionaries established a presence here. The first thing they did was to 'dress' them and make them feel

guilty about their nakedness. Post-independence government policies relocated the indigenous population into villages, in contrast to their traditional dispersed house groups (uma), with the aim of promoting "development". Cultural tourism started to develop in the late 1980s, and when in the mid-1990s world-class waves were discovered by some Australian surfers, surfing tourism started to develop....Indonesia promised to protect the unique culture of the Mantawei in Siberut, but with the exception of "Ilmu", the equipment of the Sikerei [shaman], such as the tattoos and the kabit ["loin cloth"] they wear. "This we don't need. This we must get rid of, because it is getting in the way of development." ... "The kabit is just a symbol of poverty; the tattoo is a mark of enmity. We don't need such things now." ...


Let's jump!
Touch the ground, touch the surface of the water.

Feel the earth.

Listen to the frog Chorus!

Listen to the singing Fishermen, when they pull the nets, before it is too late. To Jump is a basic need.
Have no fear.

Forget your narrow aesthetic, political, philosophical concept.
Enjoy! Play! Find new joy for Art, joy for each other...
The jump is a symbol of overcoming fear and is an attempt to become open minded and tolerant. To encounter the unknown and preserve the variety that is still around us.

Nine Dragon Heads is about to touch the New and the Old gently!
Nine Dragon Heads is about respect. Respect for nature, the base of everything, respect for variety in culture, art, philosophy and religion.Nine Dragon Heads is about relativation.
About relativity and stimulation.   


Written ; Paul Donker Duyvis


Open Air Symposium ; 1st Period : 15th ~18th Jeju Island


Udo Island, Chagwido Island. Songhaksan Cave, Sagye Beach


The international Nine Dragon Heads artists were excited about going to make work on Jeju Island.  This is South Korea’s largest island, a popular vacation spot. Its central ancient volcano Halla is a striking physical feature. Along the beaches small sea food restaurants offer numerous meal options.

The artists’ mission on Jeju Island was to make installations, mostly on the beach and in the sea-caves. Park and Susanne Muller assembled tents in the sea caves, as if seeking double protection from the elements. Later they walked the open tents on their backs across the stony beach, human legs with colourful giant carapaces picking their way through the rocks.

Daniela de Magddalena                   

Daniele de  Maddalena’s  squid-faced woman danced in her cave, amidst a row of transparent-wrapped tea lights. Her dried squid face mask referenced both local nature and culture: the squid’s ocean home, and the abundant local restaurants where squid is a favoured dish.


Ali Bramwell built a tiny illuminated city in a derelict seaside concrete bunker. Her little buildings, rectangles and cylinders, glowed in the evening light. The crumbly walls sheltered them from the cold evening wind. This appealing little construction was something of a beacon that, as darkness descended, increasingly stood out against the bleak grey beach.


Meanwhile Harold de Bree installed a long horizontal radio aerial. It pulled down ambient signals out of the ether, their strange mutterings and beeping a technological counterpoint to the beautiful natural beach. Those signals surrounded us: this piece reminded us or our own obliviousness to ambient sound. 

John Lyall’s small bronze frog from the street market in Insadong found a perch on blue-painted scoria.

Someone’s garden wall had been painted a surprising ultramarine.  And so the frog squatted, a puzzling displacement of creature and space.  John’s embroidered and sequined New Zealand native birds roosted in local shrubbery, again enacting a curious dislocation of nature.


Yoko Kajio quietly walked into the cold sea, white garments floating gracefully about her. The chilly water ebbed gentle about her body, her video camera witness to this. This romantic action – walking into the sea fully clothed, at a place where we saw wet-suited local women gathering seafood became, on her video, an elegant dreamy drama.( Video Link )


Open Air Symposium : 2nd Period : 19th ~21th BUSAN

Haewundae Beach. Mipo Fiserman Port.

A few days later the artists relocated to a friendly old hotel overlooking Hyundae beach, Busan. To visitors from small countries, like New Zealand and Switzerland, Busan is an enormous city.  Almost four million people occupy the hundreds of high-rise apartment buildings that sprawl up meandering valleys from the sea.  Tucked away from the city centre in their sea-facing high-rise, overlooking a small pebbly beach and a tiny fishing port, the artists made work. The plan was to create and exhibit work in small tents on the beach. Unfortunately very heavy rain impeded this. So a novel alternative was suggested: every artist’s hotel room would become a little installation space.



They could then invite guests, I ncluding fellow artists, to view their work, and to enjoy a presentation about themselves as artists, in the intimate bedroom spaces

Bedroom as public gallery:


the artists welcomed this idea.

They spent a day constructing their exhibitions. They rearranging their furniture, or eliminated it

altogether. Some set up laptops for presentations of their work. Others collected debris from the beach

below the hotel, to install in their private spaces.  The bedroom windows were engaged in some work, with transparent text in the foregrounds, the gray sea and the Busan highrises in the distance. The wardrobe, the doors, walls, mirrors… every inch of each room was reassessed for its possibilities as a potential display space.

Yoo Joung Hye

Bedroom as public gallery: this raises questions of public and private space. A hotel room is a temporary haven, one’s only refuge, one’s only space for privacy and intimacy in a huge foreign city. These are spaces wherein private, personal acts take place: sleeping, washing, dressing. Now they were to be open to the public gaze. Those 20 kilograms of luggage allowed by most airlines were all that the room occupant owns, in that space.  From that resource, and whatever they could find in the vicinity, the artists carried out their various projects. And so each bed-room was re-assessed as something of a blank canvas  or empty installation space. Because they were guests, there was no  permanent imprint of their own personality imprint the space, in the choice of colour scheme, wall paper, furnishings.  The uniform ‘Love hotel’ aesthetic was already present, with highly ornate furniture, and the Korean custom of shoes placed at the doorway.

Park / Harold De Bree

Daniela de Magddalena

Paul Donker Dyuvis

Ali Bramwell


Room to Room : 23th. April  

Bedrooms as Galleries in Busan, South Korea

Iliko Zautashvili and Magda Guruli arranged a long white satin banner over their bed. 

Printed upon it in plain black text, a litany of words of oppression:  Nazi, homosexual, racism, empire,  The white banner was familiar: earlier the pair had they had held it and let it billow over the incoming tide on the beach below.  Now, draped over the Love

Hotel’s ‘princess’ style bed, the light caught the soft creases in the satin, highlighting individual words.  The purity of the white, the connotations of innocence, privacy and the un-political nature of the bedroom space: these juxtapositions gave the simple white cloth extraordinary power. 

Channa Boon transformed her room into a museum of local artifacts. Through arrangements of physical objects, she restated her own intrigue with items novel to her, but familiar in Korean culture: cooking knives, domestic tools, and empty shells, their original inhabitants eaten at a nearby seafood restaurant. This was a commentary on the awareness of difference a visitor feels when visiting a foreign environment; everyday implements and trivial items found in the environment differ from those we have at home. And so Channa transposed the notion of ‘cabinet of curiosities’ to her Busan bedroom.

Yoko Kajio formed a mound of triton shells in her bathtub. In that pristine environment they conveyed a sense of having escaped from the vast dark undersea world,  to somewhere contained, immaculate, orderly, and very white.  They had moved from being bounced by cold waves to a cold rigid space. On the laptop she showed the video of herself at Jeju, descending gently into the sea.


John Lyall connected the bedroom to the beach via the window: : LEAP INTO THE UNKNOWN in almost transparent text on the glass, with a small embroidered penguin apparently lost, gazing through the window to the sea. Found seashore detritus was heaped on the bedside table. His erected tent angled between the bed and ceiling implied further dislocation. Park Byoung-Uk’s installation was a simple portable wardrobe displaying the different garments he had worn at various Nine Dragon Heads events. Each year he presents himself in a new ‘uniform’ for that occasion. Here they all were, tidily stored, mnemonics for wildly innovative art-making experiences in Sarajevo, the DMZ, Australia, New Zealand, Switzerland, and all over South Korea.  


Next door Harold de Bree’s radio gear nestled in the bedclothes,

muttering and blinking. Even here we were surrounded by ambient signals. He seemed to be telling us that no space is truly private. We are always

invaded by sound. Daniele de Maddalena had placed transparent film over her window and traced Busan buildings. This was layered in repeated versions of the same image. Her bathroom was decorated with numerous small photographs of activities in Busan, in the manner of happily nostalgic family snapshots.

Susanne Muller and Ali Bramwell made their lap-top presentations the focal point, a telling reminder to any itinerant artists or writer of their role and function during this tour. The visitors crammed into the corridor, with as many in the bedroom as would fit. The usual boundaries of hotel bedrooms as temporary private homes were transgressed. The pleasure of discovery was a large part of the charm of these bedroom works: the visitor has no idea what will be in  each room. The hotel staff also engaged with the project, happy to help move furniture, and eager to see the results of the day of strange activity In these little bedroom shows, a form of open home is enacted. There is no need for the viewer to wonder about appropriate, prescribed behaviour; the experience is a novelty to everyone present. 


The bedrooms became little galleries of inclusion, not exclusion: a public presentation for anyone who cared to look.  Indeed, these works may be seen as graphic counter to the alienation of many city galleries, underlining the irrelevance of the immaculate in timidating hushed white spaces to perpetual non-visitors. The bedroom works bear an inherent sense of the privilege of access to some one’s bedroom; but an egalitarianism that went with the fact that everyone was engaging with this event.


Performance : 24th. April


Red Cross Headquarters, Cheong-ju

It was a warm evening at the Red Cross Headquarters in Choeng-ju. The artists were provided with generous hospitality, and a car parking lot as venue. Paul Donker Duyvis performed a short piece, making explicit the work of the read Cross. Supported by two uniformed Red Cross, his hands on a should of each, he walked along an otherwise difficult elevated beam, landing safely and triumphantly. All kinds of achievements are possible, with the help of the Red Cross!

Iliko Zautashvili and Magda Guruli enacted ancient and formal Korean traditions:  a corporeal folktale. Toy bows and arrows added a playful element. 

Shin Yong Gu’s famously beautiful theatricity enthralled the audience. Grandly attired in a long gown with a stunning head-dress, he slowly and elegantly unwound thread from a giant ball. This prosaic act was elevated to grand drama, its simplicity and absurdity transported to the realm of the surreal.


Channa Boon swathed trees in white, darting amongst them, reminiscent of some kind of wintery forest nymph. Yoko Kajio and Daniele de Maddalena presented bewitching feminine characters,

Daniele’s the dancing, writhing squid woman, Yoko’s swathed in black garments, a mysterious tent dweller.

Yoko Kajio                                                                      Susanne  & PARK     

John Lyall, wearing a large heavy black coat, tossed glitter, and commanded attention by ringing a heavy bell. His piece presented as a curious ritual, ancient yet playful. He distributed pretty fairy wings and face masks to his fellow performers, who donned them and mingled with the crowd. The incongruity yet sheer fun of this became another dimension of his performance


Farewell Symposium : 25th. April . Seoul


Back in Seoul Insadong, at Han Gallery, the artists were given an opportunity to talk about their works during this, or previous, Nine Dragon Heads events

Ali Bramwell’s detailed account of Nine Dragon Heads at the DMZ in 2008 was tremendously moving. She showed images and told not just of the work made, but contextualized it in the domain of unknowing artists forced to struggle against the weight of constant surveillance, suspicion and potentially dangerous authority. That 2008 event was a sharp and sobering contrast to the carefree art-making that had just been completed in South Korea.

An outdoor exhibition, an indoor hotel room show, some performances, visits and hospitality by galleries and other organizations, a symposium: what a tour!

The international artists made numerous works, which they have continued at home through further work, exhibitions, publications and performances.

Nine Dragon Heads has done it again!


Written; Claudia Bell