Dongducheon: A Walk To Remember, A Walk To Envision

Overview

-Heejin Kim, Curator of International Projects, Insa Art Space

Insa Art Space of the Arts Council Korea (IAS) presents “Dongducheon: A Walk to Remember, A Walk to Envision,” a two-year project for commissioning new art production to promote cultural discourse about the local community of Dongducheon in South Korea. This project is part of Museum as Hub, an international institutional network and partnership program initiated by the New Museum in 2006. Comprised of workshops, symposia, lectures, discussions, archives, and film screenings, the Dongducheon project presents twelve new works by four invited Korean artists: siren eun young jung, Sangdon Kim, Koh Seung Wook, and Rho Jae Oon in three exhibitions (December 1, 2007-February 24, 2008 and May 8-July 6, 2008 at the New Museum; and July 16-Augusut 24, 2008 at IAS).

Dongducheon is a small city of ninety-six square kilometers (37 square miles) with a population of 88,000. Located halfway between the capital city Seoul and the South Korean border with North Korea, the city has been allocated for the stationing of foreign military bases by the central government since the Japanese Colonial era (1905-1945). Nearly half of its territory is currently occupied by U.S. Army bases, and most of the rest is mountainous. Squeezed in between, the people of Dongducheon have had few options for their survival besides succumbing to the top-down policies made by mega-structural powers. The city has served—and has been structured and represented—as only a “military camp town.” The problem here is not just the fact that there have been a series of interventions, regulations, and controls inflicted upon the region by external invisible hands behind the scenes, but also that the interventions were so fundamental and persistent as to interfere with interpersonal and inter-communal recognition, communication, and relationships. In these times of a “new world order,” expansive global capitalism, corporate development, and competitive privatization, the city stands bare in front of us as a site of collective negation, manipulation, elimination, exception, oblivion, and invisibility.

With the help of art and artists as creative public agents, this project serves as a medium for reinterpretation, articulation, provocation, communication, and action in the region, and necessarily requires us to critically reexamine the limitations of our own attitudes as they contribute to the ongoing neglect and misunderstanding of the region. As the first attempt to locate Dongducheon within art production and cultural discourse, this project hopes to evoke diverse perspectives and discussions on other similar neighborhood regions, to support an awareness of autonomous local voices, and inspire the will to envision the future of Dongducheon.

As a community-oriented project unfolding over two years, the project and artists have undergone a constant evolution and adjustment of ideas, forms, and methodologies in accordance with the knowledge of and experience with the community. Among numerous social apparatuses framing the contextual understanding of the region, this project prioritizes the subject of local community. Consistent with their individual practices, each artist approached different communities in the region and developed different concepts and tools to address their most urgent issues. Various forms of interaction—including casual conversation over meals and walks, formal interviews, research, field trips, and participatory educational workshops—were developed and employed to inform final art works.

Based on image archives and a literary text, Koh Seung Wook’s single-channel video Driveling Mouth delves into the “naming” of undocumented or misrepresented subjects of the past and the difficulty of articulating issues related to these subjects in the present day. Strictly relying on talks and interviews, Sangdon Kim’s works Little Chicago, Foreign Apartment, and Hold your breath for four minutes—The Cemetery reveal local subjects’ points of encounter with external realities and their subsequent counteractions such as inventing co-opted new languages and memories. siren eun young jung takes the idea for her video The Narrow Sorrow from an architectonic reading of the bizarre dwellings of night club workers. By including the various sounds of everyday life, jung marks the spaces of unregistered invisible beings in contemporary Dongducheon, and offers her video as a medium of collective healing and redemption. Lastly, in his Web work Bite the Bullet!, Rho Jae Oon addresses issues of perception and recognition structured on a fundamental level by a simulacra of past and future in media. Rho examines the metaphoric, key images recurring in classic movies about the Korean War and presents them in a form of rapid image circulation and broad dissemination, which ultimately conditions even our future envisioning.

Additionally, two artist’s books have been produced in conjunction with the exhibition: Sangdon Kim’s i’ve seen that road before and Koh Seung Wook’s Legend. A Dongducheon project book compiling the entire lecture program with additional essays by international contributors is forthcoming by IAS.

Insa Art Space’s presentation for Museum as Hub is made possible, in part, by a grant from the Asian Cultural Council.

Related Programs

- Pre-Talks, August-October 2007, Dongducheon Project Team, various sites in Dongducheon and at IAS

- Workshop, Sangdon Kim’s Discoplan, October 24, 2007, outside of Camp Nimble, Dongducheon

- Artists’ Talk and Public Discussion, artists siren eun young jung and Sangdon Kim; Heejin Kim, curator, IAS; Francis Lee Daehoon, NGO Studies, Sungkonghoe University, Seoul; Haeyun Park, translator, Museum as Hub Fellow; Thursday, May 8, 2008, New Museum

- Public Forum, Friday, May 9, AiCenter, New York, organized by Nodutdol for Korean Community Development

- Lecture #1, Theodore Hughes, Korea Foundation Assistant Professor of Korean Studies, Columbia University, “Dongducheon: Everyday Life, Violence, and the State of Exception,” Saturday, May 10, New Museum

- Lecture #2, Hyun Sook Kim, Professor of Sociology and Associate Provost, Wheaton College, “Seeing ‘Neighborhoods’ Anew: Art Institutions’ Enactment of the Transnational,” Saturday, June 7, New Museum

- Informal Discussions, organized by Haeyun Park, Museum as Hub Fellow, dates and times available at newmuseum.org/events, Museum as Hub space, New Museum

- Symposium, July 16, Insa Art Space, Seoul

  • Museum as Hub partner dicussion: curators from IAS, Museo Tamayo Art Contemporáneo, the New Museum, Townhouse Gallery, and Van Abbemuseum.
  • Lecture # 3: Brian Holmes, cultural critic
  • Artists’ Talk and Public Discussion, artists siren eun young jung, Sangdon Kim, Koh Seung Wook, and Rho Jae Oon; Hwang Sejun, art critic; and Kang Hong-gu, co-director, Dongducheon People’s Coalition