Rock Contemplating Nature
Used building fences from Seoul, Laserjet prints
210 x 60 x 400 cm
Installation view Seoul Museum of Art, Nanji residency exhibition
"...The form of course could remind the spectator of the Irworobongdo, the folding screen that was always set behind the king's royal throne during the Joseon Dynasty.
Like the folding screen of the kings, it is impossible to imagine the king's image without it, just as it is impossible to imagine the cityscape of Seoul without the image of these white building fences.
They are projection screens for images of the future and contain the promise of something new, something great and, in some cases, they are becoming just empty promises. Then they become symbols of loss and pain and are standing in a row like stones in a graveyard."
Rock Contemplating Nature
Urban renewal can be characterized as ignoring the past, since looking back contradicts its often hyper-capitalist approach. Such untiring progression and advancement displaces an equally urgent notion that time does not necessarily have to be read linearly and that the past is as much a part of our present as it is of our future. Memory enables us to recognize the present in the first place.
In my study of the urban development and history of Seoul, I noticed how the future is constantly spoken about, but how the details of the past are rather difficult to investigate. It seems as if the city doesn't want to reveal its history so willingly. It's like trying to bury history under a sheer mass of steel, glass and concrete, and to move as far above the ground as possible. So that from the wide view seen at the top of skyscrapers, the ground below becomes an abstract surface. The city is given a face that makes it look as if it has forgotten its own history.
We build our civilizations on the soil of our forefathers, using the same basic atomic building blocks since the Big Bang. The calcareous concrete for our skyscrapers and highways consists of the finely pulverized, petrified skeletons of living creatures from times long past, and we burn the stored solar energy of our ancestors buried deep beneath the earth.
The identity of a city changes over time, especially in a rapidly developing metropolis like Seoul. But the spirits of the former cityscapes and the memories of their inhabitants are as much a part of a city as the physical buildings that exist today. Their stories interweave in and around each other. As when a family member dies or disappears, their stories remain a part of the family and continue to live on.
Likewise, cracks and scars created by expansion efforts are part of the accompanying physical symptoms of a growing city, and its complex nature becomes visible and perceptible in precisely these details.
In the methods used in quick construction, the force of nature and the power of time are often ignored. Nature is being simulated, natural building materials such as wood and stone are being replaced by their own artificial depictions. Organic materials are substituted by printed photo foils or replicas made of plastic, so natural forms become reincarnated as applied ornaments.
But tamed nature always finds its way through simulation, through plan, through utopia - in the form of plants between floor slabs, as mold in the interior. Or as rust in smooth steel structures, when the concrete has been processed too abruptly and the resulting hairline cracks blast away entire pieces of cement as water enters. Or when whole high-rise housing complexes are finally shattered into a thousand pieces, flat on the ground, becoming part of a new geological layer upon which a new civilization will build its houses.