Photos by Razan Samara
This past weekend, K-pop superstars BTS landed in Hamilton for three sold-out stadium concerts. Nestled among the three multi-million dollar performances was Magic Shop: A Celebration of BTS and the Magic of Self-Love, a group art exhibition at the Factory Media Centre.
The exhibit was dedicated to BTS fan art and ran from Sept. 21 to Sept. 23. It featured media artwork created by local artists who love the boy band. The event also featured two workshops, one focusing on zine-making and the other on hybrid animation.
Hamilton 3D artist, Charlit Floriano, wanted to have an exhibit as soon as she heard that BTS was coming to play in the city. She became a fan a little over a year ago when a friend of hers sent her one of the band’s music videos. Instantly in love, Floriano became an avid consumer of the plethora of content that the group puts out.
BTS keeps its fans hooked with a constant stream of tweets and music. In the last year alone they have released three albums and countless music videos. The visually stunning videos have made art a key part of the BTS experience.
“I think the visuals do a really good of connecting everything. [I]t drew me in…[T]hat first video I watched, it was like the sets… the costumes, the makeup, all of it just blew me away as an artist,” Floriano explained.
The band’s aesthetics have inspired their army of fans to create their own art, Floriano among them. In the past she has made 3D models of the band members and for the exhibit she has created a virtual reality experience.
Floriano sees the creation of BTS fan art as narrative work. It serves as a way for fans to develop the band members’ characters as they are inspired by the real and idol personas that the group shares online.
She and the other artists that took part in the exhibition were also drawn to the themes present in the band’s music and style.
“[I]n the West the way that [the band] deal[s] with masculine beauty is really different… [I]t’s kind of more soft and feminine so it feels androgynous to us. And then the whole theme of loving yourself and just focusing more on… your career. It’s not so romance-driven but it’s also about friendship and owning yourself,” she said.
These themes are part of what has made BTS so special to so many people. It is the reason why they have enough support to sell out the FirstOntario Centre for three nights and fill Jackson Square’s roof with 10,000 fans waiting for merchandise and a chance to take a picture with holograms of band members. Their fans are beyond passionate and creative.
Unfortunately, Floriano reports there is stigma associated with being a BTS fan, perhaps because they are a pop group or because they cater to younger audiences. Floriano doesn’t want those who love BTS to feel as if that their love is invalid or misplaced.
“[I]t’s okay to like things because they’re pretty or because it makes you happy…I also want[ed] to give a venue to the people I knew who are really into them and who are artists too…[BTS] is something I like drawing and it can be art [placed] in a gallery,” explained Floriano.
The art exhibit and concerts served as a way for the Hamilton BTS army to come together. By meeting people who love BTS and art, Floriano hopes people have been inspired to make their own BTS-inspired pieces. She believes that fan art is a gateway to real art.