Connect, BTS – 2020 London Launch Event

Connect, BTS was surreal. Surreal in the same way experiencing a glimpse of the near future is surreal. I hope the art world continues to get weirder.


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I went to the Connect, BTS launch in London. Here’s what happened

Sometimes I get asked to talk to other people about the future. When I do I almost always quote Madeline Ashby:

If I had one piece of (…) advice for literally everyone, it would be to talk, loudly and frequently and in detail, about the future you want. You can’t manifest what you don’t share.”

This year, talk about the future you want.

Other times. I will say that in order to talk about the future, we have to speak in detail about the present.

Usually I’ll broadside them with things like China Is Building a Massive Network of Chemical Rainmakers with an area 3 times the size of Spain, There’s a musician who is committed to pretending to be a Rubber Alien who has 2 million followers on Instagram or, I talk about the Band BTS.

Regular reader’s here will have noticed I post Kpop songs in the music section of the week notes posts occasionally. I realised today, that I’ve never posted about BTS which makes me in remiss. For reasons that will become apparent later in the post.

When I mention BTS to an audience, it’s usually in an art adjacent or suit wearing business context. The name of the band will usually get a few nods. Some in the audience will be aware of them. Other people with kids – will definitely know of them, and the Rock dwellers of course won’t know what I’m talking about at all.

The Worlds Biggest Boy Band

BTS. I tell them. Are a 7 member group from South Korea.

BTS Press Image

They are currently the biggest boy band in the world.

How big? Well, they are only one of three bands to ever celebrate 3 Billboard No 1 albums inside of one year. Matched only by the Beatles and The Monkees. Thats how big.

They have over 30 million fans, known as A.R.M.Y or “Adorable Representative MC for Youth”. BTS originally, stood for “Bulletproof Boy Scouts” (BangTan Sonyeondan) which According to member J-Hope, signifies the group’s desire “to block out stereotypes, criticisms, and expectations that aim on adolescents like bullets”.

Since 2017 however, BTS has stood for Beyond The Scene, meaning that they and their fans should be “chasing dreams instead of settling for reality”

As an aside, I highly recommend checking out the whole BTS brand experience document. It’s..quite something. But I digress.

Also I like to add that they once had a concert shut down in the USA by the bomb squad for reasons that are too long and stupid to explain.

So far so good I hear you say. But this isn’t the reason I talk about BTS.

The reason I like to blind side people about BTS is because of the details.

BTS’s 2016 album Wings is a concept album based on Hermann Hesse’s Novel Demian.

The music video for the song Blood Sweat and Tears’s is incredible. Here’s some of my favourite stills from that video:

Blood Sweat and Tears Music Video
Jhope sitting in front of La Pieta altered to have an amazing polygonal Jesus.
Blood Sweat and Tears Music Video
Jin in front of The Fall of the Rebel Angels by Bruegel the Elder
Blood Sweat and Tears Music Video
The squad raising Chalise’s in a garden is some what on the nose symbolism
Blood Sweat and Tears Music Video
Jin moves to kiss the Angel and give in to temptation.

The whole album continues like this. Picking up themes from Demian. Good // Evil, Waring Angels, Icarus etc.

As you can see. BTS aren’t fucking about. It really IS a concept album. Integrated across music, lyrics, music videos to the packaging of the album. There aren’t many hills I would die on, but one of them for the last few years is that BTS are creating ART..

The music video for the song ‘Spring Day‘ (above), is based on the Ursula Le Guin short story The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas, You know the story about how a city’s constant state of serenity and splendor requires a single unfortunate child be kept in perpetual filth, darkness, and misery…

Their album Map of the Soul: Persona is based on the book Jung’s Map Of The Soul by Stein- one of the best introductions to the concepts of analytical psychology.

Its not just the music videos this time. The albums lyrics delve into Jungian concepts of the psyche, ego and the collective unconscious – with a particular focus on the idea of Persona.

Persona in Jungian thought is a reference to theatre. The masks that people wear when we go out into public. Or as Saint RuPaul of the Race says “Everybody is in drag. They put it on every day.”

The opening tack of the album also called Map of the Soul: Persona, RM Raps “My shadow, I wrote and called it hesitation It has never hesitated after becoming that It keeps appearing under the stage or the light”

I don’t think you would believe how many teens out there are reading introductions to Jung, or getting in to Hermann Hesse? The BTS A.R.M.Y bookclub were reading Siddhartha! Weird shit is happening in the world, and we aren’t even in the future, its the present!

This is a lot to take in I know. This information rapidly transforms peoples surface level understanding of the band to something more complete – BTS as cultural phenomenon. They are creating ART. The medium is the Kpop industry.

This is all very different indeed from the kind of cultural fracking that is going in Hollywood that i’ve talked about on the podcast before.

Connect, BTS

Anyways, this morning I went to the launch of Connect, Bts, at the Serpentine Gallery. ?

Connect, BTS Event

A global project to connect five cities and twenty-two artists, a series of major art projects in five cities on four continents each of whom contributes their unique philosophy and imagination to it. This project aims to redefine the relationships between art and music,the material and immaterial, artists and their audiences, artists and artists, theory and practice. CONNECT, BTS may be described in terms of a collective curatorial practice by curators around the world who resonated with BTS’ philosophy.

Connect, BTS

Its 2020, and BTS are now patrons and players in the global contemporary art world.

What a time to be alive!

This is way better than all the other places that the art world could get its money form. Or rather from the kinds of people that put their money into the art world.

I must admit. Connect BTS, was surreal. Surreal in the same way experiencing a glimpse of the near future is surreal. Like last year when I heard the words ‘Algo Seance’ for the first time.

Anthony Gormley was there, being Gormley. Talking about a project in New York that involves 14km of metal rod coiled up like a drawing in space. He also talked about energy a lot…

Artist Tomás Saraceno talked about floating a hot air balloon (made from recycled plastic bags), from London to Korea. It’s supposed to take nine days apparently.

Yiyun Kang’ presented ‘Beyond The Scene’. A “re-imagining of BTS’ signature dance movements” that will be projection mapped onto the walls of the Dongdaemun Plaza in downtown Seoul.

Beyond The Scene

And for Serpentine, Jakob Kudsk Steensen presented: Catharsis – a digital simulation of a re-imagined old-growth forest.

Jakob Kudsk Steensen's Catharsis at Connect BTS
Jakob Kudsk Steensen – Catharsis

I spoke to him after and it is made in Unreal Engine using photogrammetry data from field work he undertook. It’s really cool. You can watch it live on the Serpentines twitch channel here. (it’s 2020 of course one of the worlds most influential art institutions has a channel)

Over in Berlin Gropius Bau will present “Rituals of Care” an ongoing exploration of themes with particular contemporary urgency, including land and the Anthropocene, violence and repair.

All the while, the benevolent benefactors were virtually present watching over the proceedings on a Telescreen. It was a connection and TV so high def it made it look like they were looking though a portal or something.

Connect, BTS Event Participants
BTS skyping in

A big part of the event was folks speaking about silos in the culture industry. The Art World and The Music World. Their ‘presumed audiences’, and the need to break out of this thinking. Korean Pavilion curator Daehyung Lee said the goal of the project was to unite people of “different cultural backgrounds, social classes, ethnicities genders and identities”, which by the way reflects the way BTS’s music had broken down borders.

Honestly … I had to write the whole thing up as it was super SUPER surreal. Ben Vickers called it “a sci-fi project” in the press briefing. He wasn’t lying. I was kinda shocked not to have seen Bigend milling around at the end tbh.

The whole affair had an think air of futurity around. Over coffee at the reception I had a great conversation with someone about Kpop and Korean geopolitical soft power.

Given BTS’s interests and philosophy, this move is awesome – I hope more and more weird elements step across boundaries and industries to plunder the empty shell that is the global art world.

BTS on screen at Connect BTS
Totally Normal Tuesday Morning

Thanks Ben for the invite!

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4 responses to “Connect, BTS – 2020 London Launch Event”

  1. […] me to write about more weird shit? Posts I’ve written this year like Craving Canon, the BTS post and how I set up my Bullet Journal have been surprising […]

  2. […] same ’embodiment of shared intentions and collective agency’ happening with entities like BTS, Beyonce, and megastar, and former human being Taylor Swift. I have thoughts on the new sorts of […]

  3. […] is probably my favourite solo release from BTS band leader RM. He’s approaching 30 and its really interesting to see a global Megastar age and mature as an […]

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