Finding a road between representation and traces : Memory work of Oh Suk Kuhn
Jeon Jin Sung (Professor at Busan National Univeristy of Education, Historian)
Travelers find out their past that they could not own any longer whenever they arrive at a new city
- Italo Calvino 『 (Le) citta invisibili』 (1972)
Incheon, a port city located at the edge of metropolitan area is a home and base of Oh Suk Kuhn’s artistic work. Its chaotic and dreary landscapes are familiar but oddly at the same time, unfamiliar with Oh Suk Kuhn who has been performing omnidirectional activities with mature abilities. He explores fine layers of time at the corner of shadowed city which absorbed wrecked ships, abandoned houses and various industrial wastes as one part of a city. His’s view on the silhouette of the city neither a perspective of outsider who looks it as a design material, nor that of people living inside. It is not surrealistic, realistic, much less hyper realistic. Images of Incheon captured by the artist’s camera seem to show dull and mediocre daily life but you may feel bitterness whenever you encounter deeply furrowed traces of ensuing scenes of images. Incheon is a source of newly rising inspiration and a burial site that haunted by specter of past which one cannot shake off.
Abandoned waste tires in the street, floating oil on the polluted water, scrapes of machine, unattended nets and stuffs at a pier, haphazardly extended houses are surely an allegory of industrialized society which recycle things indefinitely omitting their unique vitality. But they also represent the allegory of fate where life and death, present and past clandestinely cross each other. That is, it is the artist's personal portrait of history. The city demands that artist face up to his destiny. Oh Suk Kuhn’s work is threading strands of memory between spaces of dominant artistic, political and historical representational system and traces that we want to ignore.
Oh Suk Kuhn’s representative work, <The Text Book(Chulsoo & Younghee)> invites us to unsavory past pushing existing conventional order of representation away. Chulsoo and Younghee are very familiar characters for the older generation in Korea but these familiar characters come as unfamiliar in the artist’ work. They appear in the closet, in front of a wall, on the roof, on top of the building, under the bridge, on a hill, at a dark corner of apartment building, at the scenes of protest, on the sea, even hanging upside down on the crane in the photos. Chulsoo and Younghee romp around in a polluted environment, steal stuffs from a neighborhood shop, peek at a yellow journal and enjoy forbidden pleasure in an obscure spot. They even have a pee together standing each other. Costumes, accessories and poses they wear are haphazard and random. Chulsoo and Younghee breaking away from fixed daily routine look humorous but gloomy and gruesome at the same time. Their double faced aspects drag us to our past, which we have tried to ignore but always threatened us. The sharpened past tries to reopen our wound. We have worn the masks of Chulsoo and Younghee to cover our bare face but now the mask itself is disclosing our naked face.
Theoretically, people have done creative imitation to escape from reality. We would be away from our reality when abject and base reality is reproduced to be something respectable through ‘mimesis’. Even mean and ugly reality could be acceptable and causes some emotions when it turns into a narrative. But images, photographs are not literature. They are different from a movie which is more tactile, conveying a story. Photos imitate or represent reality but do not tell a story. They only keep silent. They just chuckle. Time in a photo stands just still. The halted time furtively reveals the trace of subject that ignored by a story in return for halting a story. <The Text Book(Chulsoo & Younghee)> is theatrical capturing some traces. They are our wounded faces that we have covered under the mask of fake personas.
Reality has always been more than reality. Oh Suk Kuhn’s <From the Ses to Youth>(project from 2009 to 2012) is very simple and ordinary like a personal album. Unlike grand and sublime air of the poem from which the artist borrowed the title (Choi Nam Sun’s <From the Ses to youth>), Images from Oh Suk Kuhn’s <From the Sea to Youth> are so banal and ironically seem quite foreign. Our mediocre and regrettable past stare at us. One blurred face of young man is looking at us straight between trees. The stare causes strong feeling of loss. Here, thing we lost is not our past itself. Separating from past itself is not loss. We have already experienced it in the past. We have been oppressed, damaged and felt sorry. Oh Suk Kuhn’s work newly rediscovers his past that he had never own.
Far away from being lost, past still tightens the present. According to Sigmund Freud, we can maintain normal consciousness only when we cut out past which is ‘repeating compulsively’ in a various way. Grief work(trauerarbeit) is a way to say farewell to painful past. Through this work, past could be soundly integrated into one’s identity not disturbing the present any more. Grief work is a prototype of all memory work(Erinnerungsarbeit) striving for forward-looking relationships between past and the present not obsessing over the past. On the contrary, Oh Suk Kuhn's work digging the substance of the past in a repeatedly compulsive manner is willingly to become symptoms of the memory work. And by doing so, it tries to draw up inerasable pain in the past and dreams that never came true over the surface of water of present. The pain and shattered dreams are ongoing urgent issues to wrestle with rather than the subjects of grief. Freud named symptomatic manifestation of trauma as an 'acting out'(Agieren). Oh Suk Kuhn's work come in and out between unconscious acting out and artistic representation. They are not just symptoms. Rather, they are prescriptions on symptoms, suppressed memory and the memory of the suppression.
Oh Suk Kuhn’s memory work does not talk about him but confesses his past and the present as a form of symptoms and asks again. In doing so, his work pursues wider world around him. Then artistic representation meets historical representation. Oh Suk Kuhn is conscious of potential of visual images and uses them effectively. Human beings have used visual images as a repository and medium of their experiences for a long time. Visual images themselves are entitled to a historiography(According to historic theorist, Hayen White, 'historiophoty'). They realize specific historical interpretation reorganizing relationship between historical main agent and social and political reality aesthetically.
Oh Suk Kuhn's visual history is very specific and universal. <Chug> is a form of triptych which was often used as an alterpiece in a church in the west during the Middle ages. <Chug> shows a prostitute’s body filled with wrinkles and wounds in the center and puts shabby old buildings at each side of it. <Jagalmadang> is a joint photo collection closely exploring pebble yard in Daegu which started as a red-light district in Japanese colonial era but now progressively fall into dereliction. <Contested Memory> retraces symbolic scenes of Korea’s modern history recorded by nation from a rigged election on March 15(1960), scenes of all the before and after of April 19 revolution(1960), May 16 coup(1961) to May 18 Gwangju Democratic Movement(1980). <Command Register> and <Commanding Pulse> are parodying aggressive body language of army soldiers in Korea. Some images from <Contested Memory> show scenes of death-row convicts in the incidents of National Guidance of Alliance, Bodo-League, executioners, a wailing mother who embraces the dead body of a family. They were exhibited in the dungeon-like set created in Space Haebang. A joint project, <Halluci_Nation> is an oral history and photo search of victims of violence in Incheon including Wolmido bombing on civilians by the U. S. army and slaughter of the people in Ganghwado Island. All these visual works play not only a role of medium conveying facts but historical and political voices. These works narrow down the distance of time, space and politics to the least extent and let us see that other’s pain could be mine. We see our dead bodies in a pitiful way.
An oral history narrated by visual images shows deep experience rather than causality between facts unlike a representation by words. In the crack of extreme pain and horror, despair, guilt or shame, lust and surface are located historical facts. All these feelings and emotions were not forgotten even with the passage of time. Rather, they were rejected to be remembered in the first place because they could not be experienced from the very first moment. We might be the same in the sense that we are excluded from whole experience and memory by nature.
But Oh Suk Kuhn’s works are not always necessarily dark and heavy. <The Manners of Korea> is the most whimsical and humorous among his works. It is a parody that contains documentation mocking the illusion of national history and culture, still expressing his unique critical perspectives. <The Manners of Korea> visualizes the vacuum of history and collapse of dominant order of representation. The artist puts space and matters in the vacuum, which is another representational strategy to get out of representation. Oh Suk Kuhn explores ordinary stuffs and spaces in Incheon and Seoul in <Kyoungin Movement>. Here, his warm views spread the whole experience and possibility of memory in a banal life.
Oh Suk Kuhn's memory work is always conscious of space. Space is meaningful because it awakens the absence of memory not because it holds it. My past does not exist anywhere. Like a detailed copperplate print, traces only reveal their contours through representation as they dwell in loss itself.
The solo exhibition <Two Houses> held at Yeonjidong, Chongrogu, Seoul in 2012 included <From the Sea to Youth> project. Teenagers wearing school uniforms or gym suits in the photos seem mature compared to roguish Chulsoo and Younghee but they look rigid like fossils at the same time. And feeling of loneliness is doubled since they standstill in an empty house. Structure of the house in the pictures is too betwixt and between as it is a hanok house(traditional Korean style house) which 2 hanok houses were combined with their walls crumbled. The frame of a photo with father was burned and faded photographic portrait of a uniformed student looks like a picture of deceased. A glass plate is obliquely laid on the yard and the phrase, 'I am not afraid of anything' is written on it. This phrase is borrowed from Choi Nam Sun's poem and unlike adamant and vehement mood of the original poem, it sounds like void monologue or irony. Isn't it truly a symptomatic manifestation, a trace suggesting past? The Artist's intention is more clearly exposed on a broken glass at the corner of a room saying in a grumbling tone, "You won't remember, after all."
The solo exhibition <Two Houses> contains <From the Sea to Youth> and <Ashes and Dust>. The latter realizes the absence of memory by showing haphazardly extended, combined or spilt structures and buildings in Incheon Chung gu. Those structures of ambiguous identity are allegory of death as they only allow temporal life not letting memory resides. Ashes and Dust are the essence of the space as the title suggests.
<Two Houses> shows that ashes are heaped up on the tile floor of kitchen and strangely, glass jar is on top of it and a photographic portrait of an actress within a thick frame is next to it. Here, aesthetic representation Oh Suk Kuhn intends might be the glass jar neglecting the irreversible ashes of life and solely glittering in the scene.
Oh Suk Kuhn’s photos try to transcend representation as they represent traces of death. Ventilating force created by the traces in the pictures overturns reality perverted by neat and tidy representation. Telltale traces reveal the falsehood of representation but there, new historical outlook is looming. Time Oh Suk Kuhn’s photos capture assumes ‘future perfect’ feature which was mentioned as ‘women’s time(le temps des femmes) by Bulgarian-French philosopher Julia Kristeva. Time of repeatability and perpetuity represented pregnancy and delivery is an uncompleted ‘future of long time ago’.
Oh Suk Kuhn has not experienced Incheon yet. Now he seeks to remember future there. He has done a lot of work. He joined <Astral Incheon> as a member of Hoijeon Art, a symbolic space for teamed up artists, <Cosmos Dabang>: an experimental art dabang where wacky and vagarious activities are happening with ordinary things, <Incheon International Vienna Sausige Flim Festival>: art work by spontaneous young artists collective based on visual language and original power, <Pure Love Land> : a space for subversive exhibition and rave party that go against hypocritical value of Korean society and <Neo Incheon> : asking locality, a sense of place, publicness of art and contemplating a role of young artists. All these activities are quite ambitious and maybe desperate trials to make Incheon a future perfect place of memory.
Oh Suk Kuun finds his uncompleted dream and experience that he could not remember whenever he tries a new work. As Italian writer Italo Calvino said in 『(Le) citta invisibili』 (1972), “Uncompleted future is just branches of past, dry branches.” If the dry branches of past are blocking our road to the present and future, we should reflect on a small trace given to us and look after it not advancing into the hopeful wide road, lopping off twigs. Amor Fati!
Emerging lights of modern city, Incheon, adjusted history and metaphysics
Kim Nam Soo (Art Critic)
#1. “Petersburg is a summation of boulevards graded to infinite level. Nothing exists beyond Petersburg.” ( from 《Petersburg》 by Andrei Belyi )
#2. “Let us imagine that role of strong light(luce) and fireflies(lucciole) is completely switched. Then a searchlight for propaganda making halo of a fascist dictator with dazzling light would appear on one side.” (from 《Survival of the Fireflies/Survivance des Lucioles》 by Georges Didi-Huberman)
Night has just come in a Oh Suk Kuhn’s photo. The night is the night of history. Night only comes after a dusk has gone. Defining ‘Incheon’ could be an interesting work. It is written ‘인천’ in Korean and ‘仁川’ in Chinese characters. A Chinese character is ideogram and according to dictionary, ‘仁’ means benevolent and academically ‘仁’ has a meaning of animistic energy of life between person to person. So I can feel the energy of life from Oh Suk Kuhn’s dusk photo. A dusk is a passage to a night but it may have a mood of fall that night has and vitality of new life at the same time.
Night comes spreading darkness so it turns into black slowly. As if a clockwork after post modern which criticized modern west would consume its given time, Nearby roads at the feet of civilization were invisible since they were in the dark losing their signposts. Western art circles are playing with words about time such as ‘contemporary’ or ‘ultra contemporary’ but it is just a deceptive tactics in a broad perspective. The metaphysics of time flowing at the base of christine philosophy of west including 《De civitate Dei》 by Aurelius Augustinus Hipponensis, 《Summa Theologica》 by Thomas Aquinas now lays bare its bottom. And a second hand of a clock of civilizations that built on the foundation is not working any longer.
Starting from 《The End of Philosophy》(1928)(by Martin Heidegger), <The End of Art>(1984)(by Arthur Danto) to 《The End of History and the Last Man》(1989)(by Francis Fukuyama), a dusk, in other words, ‘the end’ had announced its closure. But we who reside on the fringe could not take it as an end flatly. Even people were arguing pros and cons in the heart of western academic and artistic arenas, not taking the meaning of ‘the end’ as it was with the exception of Jacques Derrida. As a gesture of rejecting ‘the end’, Derrida honestly talked that ones who fell down a cliff of ‘the end’ return as a figure of specter saying “We must learn how to live. How to live?” from his book 《SPECTRES DE MARX》. Here, “how to live” has meant of coming back from a state ofdeath.
The chaotic situation after ‘the end’ would be represented as performing post internet art based on present digital or artificial intelligence technology or regressing into Neo-Cartesian line with the form of ‘Homo Deus’. New lights would not appear in the west as night came with darkness. To Borrow expression from Walter Benjamin’s <Theses on the Philosophy of History>, wreckages were strewn. The western civilization wanted to raise the dead, gather the wreckages and reunite with them while wreckages were being piled on top of each other. However, swept by the apocalyptic storm, the pile soared into the sky. It may look like a monument to people do not know the context.
This might be our reality. We may look up the monumental tower still revering it. Making preceding states a premise, I try to find the leads of reversion from Oh Suk Kuhn’s works. The artist has been delving into capturing scenes of Incheon which opened Korea’s door to the world in early 20th century. From ‘仁川’, ‘川’ means a stream. Surely, there is a picture that a stream of the city seems like flowing into the sea at dusk among Oh’s works. I guess that the artist prepares an entrance of time of new concept different from the time that came to “the end” at this photo.
Thing that looks like a stream in the photo also resembles a giant serpent going zigzag greatly. The movement of blue thing close to black is dim and subdued contrary to strong search lights from apartment complex in the distance. Dim and subdued may it seem, still it shines weak and subtle way. The wriggling serpent-like stream image shows inherent and slight lights to us. But the lights from apartment complex in the distance look as if to promise a salvation of civilized life, tempting us with dazzling halos. What decision should we make?
I said a picture that a stream of the city looks like flowing into the sea among Oh Suk Kuhn’s works. But it is not a flowing stream, in fact. Oh Suk Kuhn took this intriguing photo at Bukseong Port in Incheon. Bukseong Port is disconnected to the sea but it still has a mud flat. The port has lost the sea but merchants there carry seafood from other places and do their businesses producing seashore mood. Maybe the situation symbolizes the present state of Incheon, a international trade port in ancient times and open port in modern times.
Oh Suk Kuhn has been carrying out petition campaigns that Incheon inner harbor including ‘Sangsang platform’ presently managed by a government organization should be returned to its citizens. Incheon has been deprived its sea even there was an old popular song lyrics highlighting the identity of Incheon as a port city saying, “Even a Seven Up bottle is floating off the coast of Incheon~”. It is hard for People living in Incheon to do swimming in the sea or appreciate beautiful coastal landscapes. It seems that sea at Incheon is floating like a TV set in deformed and twisted time.
Oh’s projects of <Hurroo Hurroo> and <Contested Memory> that testify trampled history performed by a state are proofs of his consistent activities keeping records of oppressed history.
Lights can be stored with time. A daguerreotype, a fruit of modern technology, takes specific characters of lights from the sun different by the development of time layer by layer. <Boulevard du Temple>(1838) (To take this picture, the inventer and photographer, Louis-Jacques-Mandé Daguerre had an exposure for 10 minutes) has empty streets. One may feel like it is a boulevard in hell since there is no trace of human beings but only streets and buildings. But actually that is a result of combination of lights layer by layer from different time slots. Moving people disappeared in layers of lights while the picture was exposed relatively for a long time. Fixed things come clear and moving things come blurry with a long time exposure, which is one of the characteristics of the incipient stage of photography. Because of this feature, as being semi-permanent and immortal, people in <Boulevard du Temple> look like ‘transcend’ing human(Post Human). <Boulevard du Temple> is a kind of test of appearance and disappearance of people by using an archive of weak lights.
Here, we need to think of why hallucination of the “stream flown into the sea” in Bukseong Port looks real and it became a symbol of Incheon. Lights are there. Lights are wholly in the sky of Incheon in the state of archives of lights. Oh chose and arranged certain lights and colors of each light to work as a frequency of time. In the same sense, artist Paik Nam Jun once said, “I did not know colors are a frequency of time until I work with videos.”
It means colors in the state of lights play a role of a gate that meets certain times. This is quite unconventional idea, which was shared by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Paik Nam Jun and W. Heisenberg. It means if an artist tunes in a specific frequency using colors, the phases or history of the times can be materialized. At this perspective, the photo of Bukseong Port shows a scene that Incheon becomes symbolized in the archive of lights. It reveals a landscape dominated by strong search lights that is suggestive of fascistic dictatorship and surveillance from an apartment complex. But the waterway lying down flat flows gloriously but unhurriedly with its vitality kept. And the artist asked, “What if there is a light? a weak light?”
#3. “Oh, it would be enough that a crow is locked in the dark light, but the crow is locked in all the colors of the whole world! The crow is truly black but who really knows that blue and red are lights[光] that indwelt in colors[色]? If one tells a black thing[黑] is dark[闇]’, they neither know a crow nor a black thing. How so? Water can reflect since it is ‘black[玄]’ and ‘lacquer[漆]’ can be a mirror because it is black[黑]. For this reason, everything that has colors has lights, everything that has shape[形] have a form[態]. ( from 《Yeolha Ilgi : The Jehol Diary》 by Park Ji Won)
Western world takes black as dark. Black matters do not have lights. Just a few of artists such as Kazimir Malevich(Russia) and Mark Rothko(U.S.A) could feel an esthetic sense of religious ecstasy in the irony of black light, which corresponds to ‘Hyun[玄]’(black holding blue)in East Asia. ‘Hyun[玄]’ generally means ‘blueish black’, ‘black, mysterious and deep’ but it is close to deep indigo blue of wriggling(just like the shape of letter)serpent. A stream in Oh’s picture reveals blue light that never buried in search lights in the background of gentle indigo blue. There is an expression of “cheongchul-eolam靑出於藍”. It means that blue from indigo blue color looks more blue. Oh’s picture shows similar mood. A blue light with sign of vitality emerges suddenly from weak light of indigo blue.
Grand and strong lights of civilization filling the horizon are dyed with white glow. And a stream of blue light is crawling toward its sky, the sea while the sky of peculiar blue light is going downward. Lights go against each other putting pressure on one after another. But the horizon is still slowly blazing not knowing that its time has been finished.
But the premise that “Water can reflect since it is ‘black[玄]’ and ‘lacquer[漆]’ can be a mirror because it is black[黑]” is different from a civilized life after present “the end”( universal reality named “life” or life in an abstract state) since it involves with a state experienced as a specific reality of ‘living’. Now we need to follow that the wriggling stream could reflect a light as it is dark working as a water-mirror.
Oh Suk Kuhn may fly up in the sky of Incheon like a crow. His photo has a crow’s-eye view. Oh’s photo fully shows omnipresent perspectives except blind side of 7 degree at the back of head and establishment of a monad as a form of consciousness.
Among his work, there is a photo showing houses that in a state of weird cohabitation. ‘Demolition’ is written on several walls of the houses. These are two Japanese style houses(in the middle and to the right in the photo) in the 1930s and one Korean modern house with Japanese influence is on the left. These three houses are connected by plastic roof making Korean letter, ‘ㄷ’ shape. Strings were lopped on already torn down walls as a sign of “off limit”. Humorously, the strings look like connecting two different architectural styles. Over the houses loftily stood a pitch black house with slant roof of German expressionism style. No light comes from this black house at all. Instead, jagged branches of a tree are spreaded out in all directions as if an energy of life is fanning out. One can recognize the existence of a tree apart from the house but the black house itself is metaphorical and spreading branches look like sign of life. And a steep slope of electric wires are running over it.
How extraordinary photo it is. How historical fate of Incheon is declining in the picture? It implicitly expresses that fate of the city may turn into debris soon. Like Incheon’s nickname, ‘devildom’, identity of the dim and dark black house is just weird and insane as if it was ambivalently produced. It is such a brilliant work showing odd composition and compression and delirium and phantasm that develops the essence of a city. The artist does not put weight to ‘remains’ of tradition and modern city and does not incline to dominant logic of demolition and renovation either. Then what emerges at this point? Maybe isn’t it Oh Suk Kuhn himself as a crow flying over the city riddled with irony and paradox and joint of heterogeneity and complexity? And soaring of a crow, bird’s-eye view and a modern city that is deadlocked losing its legacies little by little on one side but still grappling with discussion of development at the other side are added. As a visionary, Oh Suk Kuhn is reflecting and thinking of this city of binary oppositions and the nebulous neutral zone.
Dusk is a passage to a night that western civilization met and just a universal and abstract position in reality called “life”. On the other hand, fulfillment as a specific reality of ‘living’ and intervene of non-western time of phantasmagoria emerge in this zone of dusk as well. Oh Suk Kuhn has the eye of camera leisurely soaring to fulfill and intervene.
#4. “Modern way of thinking is taking precaution of high speed not just running forwards. Stopping in the middle, knowing one’s own capacity and taking a look around and feel oneself. That is the modern way of thinking. ( From <Petersburg Chronicle> by Fyodor Dostoyevsky)
Dusk turns into purple as darkness falls. Space in Oh’s picture dyed with purple is evenly full in the background of vertical composition showing the gap between the poor and the rich as “rain from the sky does not discriminate anybody.” Like the movie scene from <Parasite> portraying that Kitaek’s family go downwards to their semi-basement flat with struck by heavy rain, houses and buildings in layers in Oh’s photo expose bare skin of a class society not filtering anything. Bare reality is being disclosed and at the same time, unknown potential of the bare skin is being hidden and purple tone in the picture is used as a master signifier to express that.
Purple tone is induced from black color and water. Goethe even would go into the deep water and turn his eyes above the water to experience the phenomenon. (from <Theory of Colours>) According to his thought and experience, part that hit by light occurs green and its complementary color, purple occurs unintendedly at a dim and shaded part. And the purple toned light(induced or unintendedly occurs) appears based on the horizontal line.
In Oh’s picture, factory buildings and equipment with long history but on the verge of destruction are contrasted with the strong lights from urban buildings and apartment complexes and the colors of the picture is purple toned. The lights that the artist unintendedly created diffuse entangled synchronicity. It is a reality and phantasm at the same time, past supported by a stronghold of modern city and future as a pile of wreckages that will be at our feet. If I say that alternation of time going crisscross and face of fundamental time are being into existence in the form of this special light, is it far fetching? Perhaps it is a phenomenological statement or review that requires religious background.
Through Oh Suk Kuhn’s work, I started to recognize Incheon as “Petersburg in Asia”. Dostoyevsky said that when dusk comes in the cold air of minus 20 degree, Petersburg harboring Neva River turns into a world of dream that has sunset colors. The phantasmagoria of water and light that causes malfunction of brain cell and convulsion on the temple is a cross section of modernization. Petersburg at latitude 60 degree north was envious of Paris at latitude 50 degree north and emulated it. When modernity of Paris walked its way of progress autonomously, Petersburg followed Paris’s suit with faltering steps. It tried to imitate Paris with mixture of its own touch. So a French traveler and writer, Astolphe Custine, acridly criticized that Petersburg was being fallen apart because of the “stupid imitation”. But Dostoyevsky raised a counterargument in <Petersburg Chronicle> saying that Petersburg seems chaotic since everything is mixed but that is a ‘throb of life’. Indiscriminate hybridity and duplication seem to be rampant so that everything looks fake lacking in any superior architectures. But that is not true. Wherever one goes in Petersburg, they can feel at the moment in time and they can see, listen and feel the ideals of ‘now’. From the perspective of life, chaos and hybridity are pounding heart beats.
Then Oh Suk Kuhn is entitled to place Incheon situated at latitude 40 degree north in the seat of Petersburg. Modernity of Incheon can take rank with Petersburg except that it is just deficient of Dostoyevsky.
#5.“To dance the taste of experienced fruit’s delight. Dance the orange.”
(Rainer Maria von Rilke, from <Duino Elegies> Translated by Jessie Lemont, 2020 Dover Publications, Inc.)
Let me go back to Oh Suk Kuhn’s picture again. Lights are rushing into the house through holes in the roof and ceiling. The lights interestingly, look rectangular type modules. Inside the house has different lights unlike black and blue outside. In other picture, layers under linoleum on the floor show tradition of Japanese colonial era or preceding periods. It seems that thresholds, walls, closets and ceilings collapse together overwhelmed by incessantly creased time and a voice of weak light is sending its signal to hit viewers’ frequency. Here is a voice as a historical scene and its testimony is heard. The same voice, auditory hallucination, comes from a trash heap, accidental light on the wall of a certain house, a construction site with an excavator without fail.
If I say, horizontal line catches landscapes that liveliness of Incheon expressed through lights, Oh Suk Kuhn’s photos would do the role faithfully. The horizontal lines are discovered anywhere. The line embraces infinity behind disappearing line and “a summation of boulevards graded to infinite level” (Rosalind Krauss, Didi-Huberman, Park Yong Sook). The color of dawn caught in the horizon is orange. This is why Rilke said, “Dance the Orange”. This light, as another choreography of ‘living’ is found in many detailed parts of Oh Suk Kuhn’s pictures. His pictures introduced a new crow’s-eye vision for Incheon, the devildom, and portray that photos can be created by dance and choregraphy-ish thing. That might be essence of Oh Suk Kuhn’s aesthetic perspectives reflected through photos.
Following Mirror -The moments rainbow colors are shone in wastewater-
Hyun Seewon (Co-director of Audio Visual Pavilion and an Independent Curator)
“As I recall my childhood days, Incheon was filled with the roaring sound from Kyoungin Highway and rusty and corroded grotesque machines in ports at dusk. Passive and timid, I was another typical ‘Chulsoo’ and remember the time and moments.”
-Oh Suk Kuhn-
A lot of ‘selves’/A lot of ‘Incheons’
Oh Suk Kuhn’s work is the process of asking questions about layers that cover him and to remember the layers not saying about himself. Here, the question of “Who is oneself?” becomes nerve-wracking problems in many aspects. And his works become portrait photography and photography of social landscapes at the same time. So Oh’s photography can be said as hard-pressed works with multi layers of images that have diverse and complex meaning. What is ‘Landscape photography that hold oneself’ like? It is a kind of photos of landscape holding the contents of oneself.
The selves named by the others and the symbols of subjects structured and trained within the system of society bounce back again in Oh’s works. From <Incheon>(2018~), <The Manners of Korea>(2012) to the project of <The Text Book(Chulsoo & Younghee)>(2006), the artist presents the grand images and words that anyone cannot easily tamper with and handles with the stereotypes frozen hard inside the images and words skillfully.
As I try to pronounce words such as ‘The Manners of Korea’, ‘Tee Text Book’ and ‘port city, Incheon’, I feel like they are too grand to become a title for just a single photo or a work. They seem to have to disappear at the moment of utterance. Somebody who has to become someone, custom that has to be familiarized, ways of greeting, expressing hospitality toward strangers and issues that more than two communities have to resolve are revealed as a specific case in all the many stereotypes. We have to internalize all the cases of stereotypes in a specific space and time as a member of a society.
The artist reflects and introspects on the textbook where Chulsoo and Younghee swagger about and another textbook dubbed as Japanese Postcard in early 20th century containing then Korean customs. And by doing so, Oh Suk Kuhn reorganizes the misinterpreted history. Oh has both the eyes of photographer and character of a converser who listens and expresses a story. From Oh’s photos, I found out his character of collector first. His photos are panoramic. When a space is deeply involved in the way of handing time(faded space and scattered things), it is important to keep an eye on the colors in photos. As if to disclose the violence hidden in childhood plays, and to look straight in to the ever changing chameleon colors of the sky at dusk, Oh’s works have the mixed backgrounds and feelings, which is hard to pin down. Colors of nature and those of factories and discarded wastes from old houses are mixed, coexisting in one scene. There lies the nub of issues in the this ‘mixed state’. Visual images beyond description in a word are mixed with experience/knowledge from Oh Suk Kuhn’s personal experiences.
Then What is possible here? What can we do? We can find time that we need to ponder and read from Oh’s photos. The artist strove to carry accumulated histories including the main characters of official textbook, Chulsoo and Younghee to the extreme, violate and re-read them. How much time and space do we need to do this ‘re-reading’? We are reminded that Oh’s works are hard to describe with several words because they are about the city, ‘Incheon’. As he has seen several time lines that went through the city, he did filtering all his experiences by using camera as he walked around the city. Multi layers of ‘mixed states’ could come alive in Oh’s works since they had been ‘geopolitical’ and talking of common senses beyond the geopolitics. Oh Suk Kuhn sees his native city which opened its door to foreign cultures for the first time in Korea’s history but still has the tinge of developing city from a stranger’s perspective. Oh’s photos contain Incheon’s history as a open port so they have multi layered time lines. In other words, Oh’s works are showing a lot of faces of Incheon filled with portraits of many ‘sevles’ with the form of landscape photography.
Regarding the history of emotion
What caught the audiences’ eyes first, ahead of reading into the remarks of discipline and education system or the contemplation on political reality, is the pungent tastes of emotion stuck in grain by grain at every corner of the photos. The feelings seep through the cracks between the backgrounds of the structure of photo he installed and other itty bitty objects. <The Text Book> project revealed the history of Korea as well. When rigid history is introduced to young individuals, it hurts the individuals and the wound they get becomes a passage to meet another stranger and foreign places. Behind Chulsoo and Younghee sitting together crouched or involved in some kind of weird things are the discolored wallpapers and detailed decorations of blanket chest. Oh’s 2019 <Incheon> project shows all those details in front. Diverse material solutions are shown in between details and spaces in front. Symbols of past such as Japanese style houses, earthen walls, poked out bamboo trees do not disappear. Time has passed but tracks of spaces are ubiquitously present. Oh Suk Kuhn collects all the unmanaged and discarded tracks of spaces. The scarlet colored silk blanket shown where Younghee is hiding, the black chest in the <The Text Book p.19>(2006) and stench of steel bars wafting at a pier at dusk in the <The Text Book p.269>(2008) constitute the details of the time and space where Oh had lived. This is his way of installing “the stage of memory and playback”. Oh’s <Incheon>(2018-) captures up close the process of moments when the smells of steel bars, people’s living and various ‘patterns’ turned into scars. The interesting expression of ‘the stage of memory and playback’ means that there is a handful of pungent and tingling memory and it comes to a person when they go to a specific place. If you ever visit this place by chance or on purpose, you may encounter this mixed memory of past. Presenting the 1980’s and 1990’s or further to the complex times and spaces of 1970’s and now 2012, (Some part of this writing was made in 2012 and added more words starting from 2019 and finished in 2020) Oh Suk Kuhn activates the device of “memories that the time remembers.” Calling for the entertainment of bygone era and retro tastes, Oh showcases his gift of collecting and structuring “vernacular” clothes and items handpicked from traditional marketplaces. The music he enjoys is out of tune from Korea’s music taste in 2020. When he puts ‘vernacular’ and ‘collection’ together, he obtains universality of collection not a production.
Why Oh does awkwardly produce something by installing things or taking photographs? Rather, he collects things. He achieves reality by collecting patterns and fragments from past and timeworn artifacts. Let us remind works from the second part of Oh’s individual exhibition of 2019, <Incheon> (Nov.15~29). Photos that spreaded out lengthways to the floor show inside and outside around Incheon. Thanks to this temporary nature like makeshift stage, we can witness time of reality and things not a camouflage of fake reality. You may feel dizzy seeing photos spreaded out lengthways because they hold some tension, feeling of commemoration and some part of ‘tightly’ restructured spaces.
Oh’s previous works also showed a stage. Taking the reality of a street as the major stage instead of perfectly decorated performance stages, he placed the performers who play Chulsoo and Younghee on the lever hanging in balance precariously between reality and fiction. Both kids of today and yesterday frequently visit Oh’s stage. We can see photo portraits of adolescents of today and those of early 20th century in Oh’s 2009 project <From the Sea to Youth>. The rawness of adolescents looking straight into camera viewfinder vividly strikes us. The tension and existence of the rawness are unique features of Oh’s work. He presents the complex feelings and memories as a plural system not tying or deleting the “puberty-like” sensitive feelings. Young and growing adolescents who are about to start managing history of feeling are making emotions of ‘plural system’ by fighting. They are fighting with themselves and outer world at the same time.
How were the faces that had the feelings like? It is worthwhile to check Oh’s previous works again. In an interview, Oh mentioned the boys from the novel 《Lord of the Flies》 by William Golding talking about his project Chulsoo and Younghee. Oh Suk Kuhn seemed to be doggedly begged to answer by one critical question after he became a grown up. It was about childhood and adolescence as a motif of immature and yet independent subjects of self defined completeness. Restoring and making a log of what he had seen, Oh spend his time of correction to see right through the reality where he sets his feet. In Oh’s camera, the images of the others stand not that far from his own. Rather than representing the subjects like Chulsoo and Younghee for easy understanding, Oh transforms them into hard-bitten stony-eyed faces using the devices like masks and costumes. Chulsoo and Younghee have the toneless faces wearing giant masks, but the face masks are not like ones smiling brightly to kids on a TV show. Although the performers have big faces, the facial expressions and muscles are now gone making them appear to be more like “faceless” subjects. As the official faces of Korean textbook have suddenly become faceless, Oh has successfully confuses us with impenetrable strangers, Chulsoo and Younghee. Without facial expressions, the obsessions and personal traumas do not volatilize as a moment’s anecdote but make into a fresh throwback with the background and atmosphere behind the Chulsoo and Younghee. The performers who acted the life during Chosun period in <The Manners of Korea>(2012~) remember the costumes and manners of the time and moments once again.
Chulsoo and Younghee have become far too close and familiar with the generation who grew up with the textbooks of the times, so it is next to impossible for them to dismiss Chul-soo and Young-hee as “Others” opposed to “Selves.” And there is another “mirror that follows” him. It is so close to Oh Suk Kuhn that it cannot be defined as others. That mirror is the space and time, named Incheon. The photographer neither outrightly reveal landmarks or sociological researches symbolizing Incheon in his work nor objectify and survey the residents in Incheon. Rather, he collects its fragments and absorbs them as liquid not forcing to solidify the unique atmosphere and crumbled forms at the corner of the city where he feels very natural and self assured. People who Oh meets everyday are native of Incheon. And he listens to the sound of Incheon everyday. The indelible imprint of Oh’s childhood and memories that strutting down streets of factories, colossal construction areas and absorbing peculiar cultural predisposition in the quay and the seashores in Incheon have become the strong driving force for him to further explore the cultural history of the modern times. Oh who has grown up with roaring sounds of rusty machines and sea waves, later had the multifaceted experiences in the cities of Britain, East Timor and Japan These experiences would also play a pivotal role for delving into regionality. In this regard, the sources of the images, whether taken out of his archive or newly shot, are interconnected with his whereabouts. Through this journey, he sees the city Incheon as one of the fastest growing cities of absorption, dissolution, and oblivion in the modern days and sings the city further in the past and the future.
Oh conducts the “memory work” by doing restructuring against the representation and structuring of previous images. Oh collects and converses about things that disappear or easily fall into oblivion with the mass media and social networks expanding talk about and dispersing so many topics.
When Oh visited several islands in the West Sea in <Seohae Project NINANANA>(2011~) he did not miss to capture the pungent realities of the atmosphere in Yeonpyeongdo, Beakryungdo, and Daechungdo. He took 108 photos with his mobile phone, recorded the near traumatic wounds, and asked questions to himself about his act of recording. Oh has jotted down “You won’t remember, after all” in red on the broken piece of a mirror picked up from a house wracked by the bombing in Yeonpyeongdo. Titled <Mirror of Yeonpyung>, the work is not the report or rebuke. It is more of counter question to himself about his recordings of Yeonpyeongdo in his photography. What he tries to remember is not a specific incident or a social issue but the methods and shards of the memories. There is another work regarding memory. Project <From the Sea to Youth>(2009~)(the artist borrowed this title from Choi Nam Sun’s poem <From the Sea to Youth>) shows multi layers of works by taking various photos from several projects. He took photos of students in school uniform of today, used adolescent photos of Oh Suk Kuun himself and his late father and collected the images of other Incheon residents who were once young students too. The elegy for people who were once a boy is Oh’s way of protesting to the times left alone in negligence. Those shards flown from the Incheon atmosphere are weaved together and finally to constitute “the now.”
What is the space-time of Incheon and modern days add up to Oh Suk Kuhn? Incheon is a cargo storehouse, more like the labyrinth of Treasure Island, or the carpet where the processes of curiosity, conflicts, and learning which begot him are all mixed together. The excerpts from Oh’s previous remarks such as “barbed wire along the seashore” and “one day I saw such beautiful colors but then it was the wastewater flowing from a factory nearby” show that his personal experiences testify the context of modern history he is about to restructure.
Oh Suk Kuhn rigorously searches for unique architectures in Incheon in <Ashes and Dust>(2011~). He takes photos of unique architectures of the modern days in Jung-gu Incheon and explores the “overlapped” memories from the photo albums of the residents who lived different and overlapped times there. He records and recollects the abnormal cultural wounds and confusion lying low and quietly in several places by modifying those old photos. Oh does not dust off the objects. He simply moves things around with the dust. This project stimulates him to see deep bottom of what is defined as dust through which the dust comes alive again.
Oh’s project holds multi layered platforms for scenes in Incheon. Questions he asks and the background of life, various hobbies and colorful and rich aspects of the city encountered as he passes by are all present in his photos.
There are also a myriad of hidden leads about his life including old and new Korean popular songs Oh enjoys listening. Oh might be one of those artists who intertwines his personal life with his works without revealing his life explicitly. Exploring the personal background and sources, Oh refuses to compromise with the shards of memories left in negligence in a lonely fight and isolation to unravel the misunderstanding and see what is behind the oblivion. <The Manners of Korea>(2012) is the combination of research archives and performances. From this project, the artist tried to show how time in photography is structured by doing some experimentation. As a medium to connect us to the world, textbooks, postcards, and albums incessantly tell us which direction to see and what to remember. However, where the past memories and current traumas belong to is not the issue. What matters is that we share the common senses of the memories and they are constantly flowing to all of us.
A Little History
Oh Suk Kuhn takes photos of Incheon. He moves, listens and turn on music and meet people. Now I would like to talk about Oh’s photography in depth. I have watched his photos several times while quite a few seasons were changing. Always there was a space behind his photos. Even one displaying venue was used to be a ice selling store.(It was an exhibition held in winter of 2018) Oh said that the name of the venue is ‘Ongno’. (the name ‘Ongno’ is borrowed from writer, Park Tae Won’s modernology work <Ongnomanuh 擁老漫語>. Park’s interest was to describe daily life and custom of Korea in 1930’s) And ‘Incheon Archive cafe Binggo’ was next to Ongno. It was a cold and icy winter day and ‘Binggo’ means a space keeps ice in Korean. Incheon Archive cafe Binggo was a real ice store made in 1939. The place, so to speak, is a kind of memorial hall for history of Incheon. Oh Suk Kuhn’s camera contains space not just producing images. Does he watch a space to take photos? or take photos to watch a space?
The reason that space comes to eyes first and lingers for a long time in Oh’s photos lies in his way of arranging photos. He puts photos with a certain intention. It seems that the photos show themselves hesitantly from some peripheral parts little by little after they had been hiding for a long time. The way of laying out photos in ‘Ongno’ is very interesting. Photos are lying on the floor, some are scattered and others are placed starting from the floor climbing on the wall.
‘Being not being in action’ How shall this expression be understood? Have the photos just been there? Photos just as being there? When highly detailed things from the photos come out of space, the space in the photo is hiding behind a space rather than coming in front and shouting. These photos are never glitter and feel like rusty and damp. Oh has ‘intervened in emotion’ as he has seen and handled history. He focused on empty stages with cooled off emotions through ‘fragments’ of rough tracks that the space holds rather than paying attention to certain incidents themselves. Many front shots of his photos have caused strange and uncomfortable feelings because they have been filled with blatantly pungent or something that causes feelings of pity or voidness. Oh Suk Kuhn’s photography is unique. The stage he produced is empty but it handles nameless space with high value. It is Incheon but it could be somewhere else. I visited his exhibition hall at dusk and it was a cold day. He arranged the photos of Incheon where he had scrutinized for a long time in a stranger‘s perspective and saw it from its fragments. The venue was made by constructing a space in a space. Some pictures looked like leaning over something precariously. And there were photos that require viewers to step on a ladder to appreciate. The exhibition itself was a ‘temporary stage‘ installed by Oh Suk Kuhn.
Now I think of Walter Benjamin’s <A little history of photography>. Benjamin wrote this in 1930s but contents he talked about is inception of photography in 1850s. I would like to put the adjective, ‘little’ to a history of Incheon, one of the main subjects of Oh Suk Kuhn’s works. I think it is a kind of little history of web. He has been constantly throwing big and tight web to catch ‘little’ things and history. Starting from little fragments, Oh Suk Kuhn has been following his native town for a long time while Incheon has developed to a city of big story. As a volcano works sporadically, since Oh Suk Kuhn has been focusing on capturing ‘little’ history in a long period his inquiring mind toward Incheon could be maintained as well.
Now I would like to go back to Benjamin’s <A little history of photography> and ponder into it for a moment. There might be several ways to read Benjamin’s work. You can read the time when photography was found as ‘small’ time at the view point of 1931.(Benjamin did not like spectacular photos in 1930s) Or make a room for a handful of time in a grand linear history of photography with little fragmentary leads. The little history of photography is a uncharted territory that still needs to be explored like unexcavated mines. I would feel ‘hesitant’ mood in Oh’s Incheon photos and that reminded me of Benjamin’s writing. Walter Benjamin described a portrait photo of a philosopher who wears creased cloth. What he tried to talk was not the detail of crumpled jacket. Rather, he closely watched photographer’s attitude to ‘step aside’ from a camera. I would call this ‘an unknown skill’. Since I do not know what the dark subjects in front of me would do, I cannot but boggle a little bit stepping aside from a camera or photographer who holds it. Oh Suk Kuhn could watch Incheon, his native city and a forever foreign place to someone, for a long time because he knows how to step aside. Oh Suk Kuhn’s latest photos run lengthways. The vertical panorama gives Incheon a shape of body. The photos look like standing people are showing a kind of idea that ’The whole things cannot be shown’. These Photos of human proportions seem like tall people who do not have faces. Whoever the faceless people are, they watch and feel a city as long as they live. They smell the city as they grow and learn. Oh Suk Kuhn has devised his own way of searching whereabouts of the smell and colors of Incheon by collecting time, space and things of People there. Now I would have a time for deliberation for two words, ’Incheon’ and ’patterns’ giving a finishing touch of this writing that I have worked for a long time. First, What is ’Incheon’? (1) Incheon: Incheon stands for temporal characteristic in Oh Suk Kuhn’s works. History of Incheon Oh Suk Kuhn has seen is the mixture of year ’1979’ (the year Oh was born), the period he has been watching and the time that other people’ photos contain. Time draws odd graphs as it is combined with linear time and horizontal one(other people’s time). Second word is ’patterns’ (2) patterns: I focus on patterns in his photos. These Patterns are created by bricks, electric lines that run horizontal and vertical way. I try to imagine a great space of Incheon and patterns that Oh draws with photography. Time flows and eventually has gone but space come forward so I ponder where these lengthwise running photos of Incheon by Oh Suk Kuhn belong to.
Note : The original text was written in 2012 and the bold text was written in 2019.
‘INCHEON’ inside Incheon, From Songdo to Baedari
Min Woongi (Director of Space Beam)
The first part of Oh Suk Kuun's solo exhibition, <INCHEON> was held at Soam Hall in Incheon Urban History Museum located in the 'Central Park'(It was not named 'Chungang Gongwon'<Korean translation of ‘Central Park’>) within Songdo 'international' city. What is this Songdo international city? It is a planned city for global reach by developing Songdo, Chungra and Youngjong districts together as part of development project of Incheon Free Economic Zone(IFEZ) by Incheon metropolitan city government. The city government has developed IFEZ project, a capital accumulation plan, in order to gain "the city's competitiveness" based on the view of business owners. For this large-scale project, vast amount of tideland was reclaimed at the cost of life of fishermen who had been living there for a long time. And to make this plan work, Incheon city government carried out de-regulations to attract foreign investments, a key to the success of the project. And it spent astronomical amount of taxpayers' money on establishing housing, commercial, medical, educational, cultural facilities, tourist attractions, shopping centers in order to provide convenience and relevant environment. The Year 2009, the then mayor of Incheon held <2009 Global Fair & Festival Incheon> to glamorize the project implanting rosy pictures of future to the citizens of Incheon with huge amount of public money. Ahead of the event, the city authority had paid a lot of efforts on building interesting structures and spaces that give distinctive features on the image of Incheon and tried to attract attentions of people and beautify its project. Incheon Urban History Museum had started as Incheon Urban Development Hall with the establishment of ‘Tomorrow City’ and ‘Tribowl’. Permanent Exhibition Hall and Stereoscopic Image Hall are on the first floor. Incheon Miniature Hall showing a futuristic city that roads running in all directions and high-rise buildings and apartments is on the second floor and IFEZ Miniature Hall viewing IFEZ at one glance is on the third floor.
You may guess that an exhibition held at this place would be sophisticated and urban, suitable to the image of Songdo international city. But strange and unexpected vertical images that contradictory to the high tech and urban air of the city welcome visitors as you walk into the Multipurpose Room(Soam Hall). You may turn a blind eye to those raw images as they seem quite rough and incongruous with the polished and posh city. They are filled with obliterated, cracked, broken, decayed places and things that were neglected and discarded by their owners as their time had been due. Most of the images are showing the scenes secluded at the beneath of a glittering city and fragmentary things that a step before demolition for development.
But these are a factor that constitutes Incheon. To see it one step closer, they contain original situations that Incheon once had. People living in the city would hope to enjoy better housing and environments and expect to get profits from development. But they did not care for their past and history only to tear down them ruthlessly. All those images stand for places and things denied and removed for the wishes and desire of people.
But they did not die and appeared here at Songdo international city. They occupied the space staunchly for recognition witnessing present day of Incheon. Incheon Miniature Hall that might harbor the intention of covering those raw images is blinking its light next to them. Its vitality and flamboyance seem to be faded away and it might looks ignorant to the bare images of Incheon in Soam hall in a mock-indifferent manner.
The fact that conflicting two exhibitions are being held in a same building is quite odd, unintended it may seem. This museum had been originally made to cater to only one logic and desire for materialism and has done its given role. But now another, very different views on things and the city came here and made its statement silently. And once imposing space and images here under the protection of people in power now seem to be lethargic.
It may be safe to say that Incheon Miniature Hall became another ‘relic’ revealing thought and desire of bygone man of power very outspokenly. But can we say its life is truly expired? It is unlikely. The desire is still lingering in people’s mind who longing for another utopia denying the past in the city. The man of power who construed the void rosy future and people who dream it maybe are in complicity each other. And there is another party that sees it uncomfortably. Administrating body of the urban history museum which had to take over the Miniature Hall seems to be aware of the situation and problems.
Soam maeul, a small fishing village once was here. People could see this village from that land side at Songdo before. But it was demolished and filled with high-rise apartments complexes instead. Now only the name, ‘Soam’ was put on the Multipurpose Hall. And this Soam Hall invited an artist who would express different point of view. We see that there are buildings and structures in a city that have different birth and parties that have different standing and positions. And visual images created by each side co-exist ambiguously. Once patternized and uniformed city now shows split in the course of 10 years. The split is maybe the true face of Incheon and that might be the intention of the invited artist, Oh Suk Kuhn to show us.
Oh Suk Kuhn has tried to disclose and point out the control and management by ruling power, their ideological arguments and defense mechanisms and to perform artistic resistances against them. For his perspective, powers of state, capital and class purposely cause incidents, manipulate and twist them in order to strengthen their ruling, established order and interests and to reproduce them indefinitely. They are good at turning people’s attention to somewhere else baldly or they skillfully block and plausibly beautify things by using other images or languages. Most of people would be reduced to be another producer of their intentions if they were to be dazzled with the tactics or to conform to them. But the plan of ruling parties and power would not be accomplished easily and the process is not smooth because they have conflicts and antagonism within themselves. And the intention might be distorted or become compulsive in individuals. Oh Suk Kuhn keeps his eye on the power itself, the way it exerts its influences, the process and the result from it. With his omnidirectional interventions and interest, the artist watches through the beneath of power in a various spectrum. This is his way to respond to the opinion, mechanism and devices that cover or twist the truth. To do this, he has done various trials ranging from photography, sound, text, body language, holding festivals and events and involved in system and administrations related to art. By spanning spaces of life and established exhibition venues, blurring existing territories and boundaries and breaking down fixed notions and senses, Oh Suk Kuhn has sought to put another way of reconstruction.
For him, art is a matter of reality beyond representation of making things and display. It is difficult for an individual to be separated from a region, a city and a nation. Individuals are bound together by a common destiny. As an individual who has been having free and liberated life, Oh Suk Kuhn has always been conscious of his present base, Incheon aside from the fact that he was born and raised there. Incheon is a subject for concrete exploration to explain himself and his environment and a place for performing art.
Chronologically, Incheon has lived through the ordeals of history starting from Japanese colonial era, Liberation in 1945, the Korean War, separation of North and South, Cold war era, military dictatorship, industrialization, movements for democracy, to globalization. Geographically it is located in the West sea and a key point where exchanges with various civilizations happened. After it had opened its port, Incheon acted as a gateway for western culture to advance into Kyungsung(Seoul back in days) and later it worked as a satellite city of Seoul during the industrialization period.
Against this backdrop Incheon could not be free and proactive and it came under the influence of outside forces. Even it internalized the outside impacts all the more and planned and dreamed a future following them. Rather than peace, reconciliation, human rights, life, community value, Incheon was in pursuit of anticommunism, confrontation, liberal democracy, development, growth, efficiency. As a result Incheon went for exclusion, erasing pain and sacrifice in history, destroyed the natural assets under the name of development and removed or adorned modern cultural assets and traces of them for profits. Long-standing communities and residential areas have been turned into clean and convenient but impersonal apartment complexes. And expectation of future profit played a pivotal role here as well.
It is the epitome of self-denial and greed. Politicians try to turn people’s attention to somewhere far into the future using rosy blueprints and gift of gab. But artists including Oh Suk Kuhn who are enjoying simple and ordinary life with keen senses and tentacles would not view those phenomena as desirable. This city is far from normality to them. That’s why they call it ‘Astral Incheon’(meaning Incheon as devildom). Sensible thoughts, right judgements and discussions do not happen in Astral Incheon and only twisted thinking and desire are intricately entangled. Maybe only just a few people use this expression as a way of self mocking. But it is quite relevant and infallible considering the present situation in Incheon. This would cause a positive change to Incheon if parties concerned are to stop bickering one after another and discuss issues together.
To provoke the attention, the second part of Oh Suk Kuhn’s <INCHEON> showing a lean-to-one-side policy and desire for development is held at Incheon Culture Brewery, Baedari maeul, old city district in Incheon. Baedari maeul is far different from Songdo international city. Baedari might have been destroyed and torn apart to fulfill the desire of Songdo. But residents there stopped the trial and they are pursuing inhabitants-led life based on historical and cultural assets of Baedari not by the logic of money.
Incheon Culture Brewery had originally been a makgeolli(Korean rice wine) brewery for 70 years and it became ruined for some time. And then a private subject revived it after it lent and looked after the place. More images were added to the second part of the exhibition so its context and setting are different from the exhibition at Incheon Urban History Museum in Songdo. Images are silent signifier. They create a lot of new and different meanings depending on the locations and people who watch them. There might be more people here who feel sorry, sad and angry as they look at Oh Suk Kuhn’s photos. Surely, they would make their own meanings and networks different from Songdo international city.
None of us can reach
adulthood without being emotionally wounded
Ushiroshoji (Kyushu University Professor / Modern Asian Art History)
It was as if I had turned the pages of the
album of my childhood that can not be recognized even by myself. I find myself
of Showa 30’s (1955-1964) in the boy on the roof dressed up as superman though
it was Gekkou Kamen instead of superman in my case. All you need was wrapping
cloth around your neck to act like Gekkou Kamen at the time. The hairstyle of
the body is same as mine, and the somewhat gloomy and unsettling look is a
reflection of myself in the photography in my old photo album.
I found myself quite surprised to see the
boy “Chulsoo”, one of characters, was mirrored by my self of childhood when I
saw “The Text Book (Chulsoo & Younghee)” by Oh Sukkuhn for the first time.
The scenes surrounding the boy have a strong resemblance to my home town, the
regional industrial district of Japan in the Showa 30’s as well
The series of 23 works is the re-enactment
of the memorable scenes from childhood and the recollection of trauma carved
into the memories of his acquaintances. The children don a mask in the works,
and they are termed “Chulsoo and Younhee”. It could be said these two Korean
children are “Taro” and “Hanako” in Japan. They are the well-known characters
from textbook in Korea. Though these two Korean characters are the ones never
seen in the real life, they are, in a manner, the self-portrait of all Korean
children being around every corner in the nation. All of us grow to adult hood
with a feeling of being hurt no matter where we are and no matter what country
Korean textbook was colored by intensive
anticommunistic propaganda and patriotic nationalism in a reflection of the strained
relations with North Korea from the era of the government under a military
dictatorship in the 70’s by the president Park Jung Hee to the 90’s of the
president Chun Doo Hwan and Roh Tae Woo. Oh Sukkuhn, who had doubt about the
education that is symbolized by the textbook which is said to be the “Bible”
for children and heavily reflects that political nature, produced the intimate and
unique ”textbook” by accumulating a page of stealth personal history of Koreas
which is never contained the real textbook. This unique textbook can also be
the Korean contemporary history full with discrepancy and arduousness in the
course of the rapid economic expansion called “Miracle on the Han River” under
the dictatorship with an iron fist.
The bigger event during my childhood was
the Tokyo Olympic Games, and I was at the age of 10. After a quarter-century,
Oh Sukkuhn experienced the Seoul Olympic Games at the age of 9. “Chulsoo” And “Taro”,
the two boys from different impoverished countries in cross-strait relations,
must have grown up having lived through the era of chaos, inconsistency in
society and the similar development as a nation beyond time. The scars taken
into the tender heart take on the appearance as a universal narrative of
individuals and society beyond the specified individuals and society.
Rewriting the Textbook
Park Soojin(Curator of National Museum of Contemporary Art, Korea)
Oh Suk Kuhn’s work shown in this exhibition deals
with the reinterpretation of the textbook. The text book made by Oh are
consists of the cover pages and 23 photographs and are paginated with titles.
The figures in the photographs are ‘Chulsoo and Younghee’ who appeared in the
elementary school textbooks until the 1950s and the early 1990s. When ‘Chulsoo
and Younghee’ represented the innocent images of children in those textbooks. ‘Chulsoo
and Younghee’ in Oh’s suffer from identity confusion while being depicted
against dismal backgrounds.
Textbooks are important items for students. The
objective of formal school education in Korea lies in fact in producing ideal
members to carry out what society needs rather than helping an individual be
free. Memorizing facts and numerical results are more valued than the
subjective thoughts of a student, and thus students feel alienated and their
freedom is suppressed, but there prevails a social consciousness to ignore
those facts. In the respect that textbooks’ emphasis on the normal and what
they aspire repress the natural desires for it. Oh questions the credibility of
The historical background for this work is the
time when people thought the individual’s sacrifice was needed for rapid
economic growth in Korea. It was considered that social values were more
important than an individual’s existence. But the thoughts and conditions of
individuals cannot be separated from the influence of the culture of society
has on them, and Oh’s photographs reveal both in personal and yet direct way
the psychological state of an individual’s mind is not confined to particular
countries of particular generations, but it can be more emphasized within the
frame of a certain period in Korea.
‘Chulsoo and Younghee’ are established as
average persons. Those who play these roles are wearing the mask that resemble
those in children’s TV program and reenact a scene from the program. The
anonymity of the mask conceals the existence of an individual and the seriousness
is weakened, and the overall atmosphere becomes humorous. In his previous
portrait photograph entitled ’ Bare
Exposure’ Oh captured that other side of face by making one recall the
gloomy memories of the past while criticizing the conventionality of ‘seeing’.
Although the two works mentioned here are similar in the respect that both
works deal with recollection, when the portrait photograph approached the issue
from a personal dimension. Text booksfocuses on the relationship between society
and an individual. The masks used in Text
booksare identical with the
facial expression in the portrait photograph. The masks, which were made
considering the expression in agony and that in ecstasy as equal, assure
different expressions in accordance with what the situation is. A viewers Tends
to watch the scene with breathless attention and he or she is exposed to the
feeling of awkwardness in peeping at the private life of others and at the same
time she or he empathizes with them.
Oh computer scanned the slide film, darkened the
images and printed them on matte paper. The overall darkness and dampness of
the images emits the feelings of gloominess and desolateness and the delicate
emotions of the figures. The lowered head of Chulsoo and Younghee on the fence
wearing a red cape over a blue jacket emanates even the feelings of both
sadness and resoluteness as it makes strange contrast with ideals of Superman
and the narrow alley. Also, the sharp contrast between the ideal and the real
is delivered by contaminated river and the industrial park behind Chulsoo and
Younghee running with dragonfly catcher nets, that which often appeared in the
textbooks. The secretive experiences turn into shameful memories: the brutal
hostility to break a doll apart; stealing biscuits at a game room, trying on
women’s stockings when no one is looking.
In the years when I was curious about everything,
the world was obscure and fearful and no one taught me about the desires that
were arising within me. I thought my desires were shameful and vicious and felt
guilty about them. Like unconscious thoughts, old memories overlap unexpectedly
in reality. The mind wounded during those sentimental years does not stay in
the past, but in constantly being reproduced in the present.
Have ‘I’ existed? Haven’t been clinging to only ‘what
is seen’? Haven’t I interpreted myself as the world has interpreted me? Haven’t
I alienated myself as I have chosen to accept myself as others have
interpreted? At the moment when we realize the memories of pain are not an
individual’s but ours, can we be freed from those shadows? Then, do the
photographs of Oh possess the power of healing? What dose Oh want to tell us
through his photographs? Dose he wants to disclose the concealed ideals does
the want to emphasize the truth behind, or is he crying out because of what a
being lacks? In a withering autumn day, I still do not know which story I
should tell my child first as I am turning the pages of Oh Suk Kuhn’s textbook.
At the other side of
the Textbook and transferred love
Kim No Am (Exhibition Manager)
Chulsoo and Younghee
were once strutting our stages of growing consciousness. Chulsoo saw Younghee,
Younghee saw Chulsoo and we saw them. Intriguingly enough, through Oh Suk
Kuhn's photos now we realize that we are not the only ones who saw them. The
boy and the girl watched us as well.
We could feel that Oh
Suk Kuhn's <the Text book series> shows universal and aesthetic effects
created from unique realities and images of Korea which go through its past and
present connecting them at the same time. Chulsoo and Younghee remind me of
'persona' (or 'mask') by Carl Gustav Jung. Persona can be seen as an archetypal
and collective image of unconsciousness dwelling deep in the minds of people.
That is, Chulsoo and Younghee are existential symbols and types for us (I, you
and beyond us).
As archetypes, Chulsoo
and Younghee would substitute me and you and become reflected images of us and
finally render us to be a subject. Through their role playing, Trauma was
raised to a new status and became a transcendental condition, common to general
humans, to be reborn as a subject rather than morbid signs of specific
individuals. Chulsoo and Younghee are a collective trauma of ordinary Koreans
who have been through the middle and late part of 20th century. At the same
time they are a passage that reveals concealed thing at the other side of our
normal(?) consciousness. The narrow passage which lies in the darkness and
heads toward the subject is in sync with Oh Suk Kuhn's photos. It is overlapped
with existential position of photo images, 'lack of being', 'death' or the way
of expressing 'something is not present now', revealing desire(deficiency). How
one could express a pre-subject period which lacks subjects?
Our consciousness is
copied and expanded repetitiously through mutual mimicking of archetypal types
and images. Chulsoo and Younghee in the school textbook are summoning many
Chulsoo and Younghee in the real world. At the dawn of consciousness are
Chulsoo and Younghee a face developed by the 'archetypal wound' called 'Chulsoo
and Younghee' and a principle composed of individuals of 'I and You'.
The path kindly led by
Chulsoo and Younghee was a road of 'Saemaeul Movement' and our portrait of
economic achievement era. Chulsoo and Younghee are a 20th version of 'Gapdol
and Gapsoon'(another 'Jack and Jill' before 'Chulsoo and Younghee' generation).
Gapdol and Gapsoon had drained the cup of life to the bottom with broken heart,
while more ethical and enlightened than their predecessors, Chulsoo and
Younghee were busy with pioneering a mass education of Korean society which had
just entered the industrial era or the times of managed society.
It is grotesque to see
something which has been excluded raise its head wrigglingly. The bizarre and
erratic scenes compared to its colossal existence look funny but sad. In other
words, the psychodramatic emotions created by Chulsoo and Younghee in this exhibition
are tragic but comic at the same time because the dark play (which was shameful
so that they might want to hide) between the two is another face of 'lack of
The enlightening love
that Chulsoo and Younghee in the stated-designated textbook and all of us had
made was a kind of transferred love. The subject loved and aspired by the
Korean society has intended to pursue other subjects unconsciously. It is
something that never appears in a state-designated textbook. Oh Suk Kuhn's
Chulsoo and Younghee try to collect and reenact something Koreans ditched in
the normal formation period of consciousness. Suddenly, Jacques Lacan's uncanny
words come to mind.
"Love is giving
something that one does not have to someone who does not want it at all."
Hovering for a while,
we would die out by flame (A note on <Two Houses> by Oh Suk Kuhn )
Han Jae Sup (Art Critic)
Over there in the two
houses are there two fathers and two boys. No, it is actually one house
separated with red dotted line and 'two fathers and two boys' are in fact, one
person. One is a father when he was a boy and the other one is the artist
himself when he was a boy but not a father yet. <Two Houses> is a
combination of two series (one is <From the sea to a boy> and the other
is <Ash and Dirt>)of work. Near the red dotted line, a signboard in a
acrylic reading, "I don't have anything to be afraid of. " stands
Oh Suk Kuhn has been
consistently revealing the monstrous characters of schizophrenic
self-propagation which is permeated in symbols that Korean society has
supported. It is a work of showing grievous trauma put hard pressured by a
nation without judgement of value in its passage into modernization.
The severe trauma,
like fate of human beings which is seemingly settled in a subconsciousness and
oblivion but incessantly longing for something, is evidently wriggling
underneath of a symbol. Since all of us have the same desire, one is equal
another and many others. And the desires of many others are stemmed from one
root which again cruelly is covered except the value that a nation demands.
Oh Suk Kuhn tries to
call school uniform-clad boys who were disciplined as a prop to their nation in
the course of modernization and to remind memories that have been covered in
weirdly renovated buildings which had been off(or intentionally excluded)from
urban scenes. He calls the boys watching the pictures of a father and his
boyhood situated in the center of exhibit space like an ancestral tablet from
behind a tree secretly, in front of a statue giggling and in the auditorium
with a Taegeukgi in its center sternly into this <Two House> through a
broken mirror( which may remember all the faces of a family) from a bombed
island, pictures collected from the people in the island, a rite burning those
pictures( which is a chronicle of burning pictures forgotten from memory and
depraved from attention).
But the boys gathered
in the <Two Houses> never go back home. In the pictures of different time
slots, all of them are vacantly standing outside a house, posing and having a
facial expression in the same way. Behind the bushes of dusky park, at the far
end of a playground, alone in the classroom, the blank boys as if biting void
with their mouth piteously or scampishly end up perilously standing, imitating
the pose of a statue. They are being passed down. Who in the world made them
linger outside home, in obscure places of school and the city? No one knows.
From the time of commencement of modernization to its closure, they have paced
around ominously and they are doing the same thing even now.
The monster created
and abandoned by Frankenstein was hovering around the house and tried to enter
it but only to fail and seek to demolish the world. Like the monster, all those
boys educated by a nation feel nauseated by the fact that they cannot be
incorporated into the world without having the same desire of their fathers.
But they don't know what to do. The same dilemmas had been applied to their
fathers as well. All those children of Frankenstein are overlooking the hideous
houses like them from the hill. They may be thinking how wonderful it would be
if they can set on fire on the 'Two Houses' with gloomy and compassionate gaze.
<Two Houses> is
a Oh Suk Kuhn's autobiographic essay and a requiem for regeneration as an
artist. He has been persistently digging monster-like appearance of Korean
society. Now Oh is trying to break from 'being a boy', taking off weird masks
of <Chul Soo and Young Hee>'. By showing real objects and collected
pictures and revealing oppressed memories of his father's and his boyhoods, he
is making efforts to face the true substance (not a representation). The
acrylic signboard of 'I don't have anything to be afraid of' slantly standing
near red dotted line is a declaration of finishing age-old conflict with
father's world and now becoming a mature young man from a precocious boy. It is
a resolute monologue of an artist who is ready to face a challenge not a
conflict from a world.
So I want to tell Oh
Suk Kuhn who is the same age with me what Kim Hyen said to young poets. No, I
would rather listen to it with Oh.
I am others. So the
world should be changed.
Picture and words Oh Suk Kuhn’s individual exhibition 《Contested memory》 (12.30∼1.13 Space Haebang)
Han Jae Sup (Art Critic)
If picture is a record, words may be a memory. Pictures leave evidence but words cannot. Pictures cannot replace all record even if they leave evidence. And that words vanish in a flash do not necessarily mean they are all erased from all memories. Record and memory are contesting continuously. Before photography was invented, record consisted of letters and pictures. The literate would own record and pictures supplement the record with the support of the literate. Letters and pictures are all for restoration of some facts that disappeared in the fate of limited human beings and the in process of evolution of their civilizations. So only the people who would read and interpret pictures could participate in history. Soon People came to know that restored images had longer vitality than object for restoration so they established ‘imagination’. Imagination inevitably reconstitutes and mystifies the past and images in it could testify more truth than as facts do.
Then photography, that is, images made by machines arrived, taking reality of pictures and letters and held the crown of imagination. Photography became in charge of recording, reconstructing the past and testifying. Unlike the pictures surrounded by letters, however, record of photography could be made at its will free from shrine and its scriptures and commandments. That was the birth of montage.
As words, by nature, are arbitrary so are memories of the past made up arbitrarily. Here they come and go and hide behind the telephone pole. Even words make other words under the desk in the empty classroom. Often words by sages were to be said to light a fire, divide water and move a mountain. But there was no way to confirm whether those words were genuine sages’. Since words were rampant like cholera, they were recorded in written form. Then, they were not words anymore and became commandments. Still Not having been restrained by anything, words would make up the words of the past reflecting thought of the present and the passion of the future. Words were always a montage through and through.
Images and words cannot but become a rumor in the kingdom of imagination. Since they are created at their own will, they can be forged in infinite variety depending on the writer and the things that he or she would remember. Now that rumors can be created with help of images and words anytime and become a record, ‘who and how’ are important in making a rumor. Up to here, record drives memory into the edge.
Record is used to grant sacred rights to the judgement of king with the help of letters. On the other hand, memory is classified as impious words and used to drive shamans away. Record is considered a textbook for all the people in the kingdom and widely spreaded, but memory is only orally transmitted, growing with moss in the dark cave where search light is turned off. If record is budding its leaves under the daylight everyday, memory is like a great root left behind in the dark. Only some people who have ever tripped on a root of memory which had been dug up and cut dredge memory with expelled shamans.
Now, it is era of bright imagination that anybody can take part in history rightfully and the time of image freed from shrines and commandments, then why words covet the position of letters and memory curses record? Artists, a contemporary sage, are being born in these abandoned words and rumors of curse. They are searching for dark spaces which were being wiped out by bright light in the kingdom of image where the shrines of words collapsed. They are digging up erased memory by record in the dark place. A slick record conducts disturbance operation. Like a shaman, it is giving us a sign of its own codes, chants and spells. It looks like fireflies which only flicker summer nights and be gone. But they would come again next summer and on and on. And the searchlight of memory would find them to destroy with light.
Oh Suk Kuhn’s 《Contested Memory》 contrasts photos from National Archives of Korea with recorded document from oral history in one space. Photos from National Archives were censored and arranged by intelligent experts.(They were given a order from a nation.) That is, they are official photos recognized by nation. On the other hand, recorded words from oral history are outcomes of unofficial memories excluded by nation. They are stories of ordinary people who never drew attention even though they were being drown to the sea with heavy stone, who have been saved from drowning or who witnessed the scene.
Photos from National Archives uses incidents around 16th of May, 1961 as evidence of history. But strangely enough, photos of the day, May 16th are missing. The already well known picture of former president, Park Jung Hee(He is wearing s sunglasses in the picture)and his henchmen who rose coup together is not included in National Archives. We cannot find vivid photos showing confusion, tension and excitement after coup. Men in those pictures do not look at the same place.
The National Archives has pictures of press conference of resignation of prime minister, public shame scene applied to gangsters, morale-boosting concerts at the military. Both people who took these photos and who were taken all knew the usage of those cool and relaxed photos very well.
But words from oral history are very fierce. They are talking about chagrin and resentment about genocide happened around Incheon and Ganghwado after the Korean War. They are like dialects spewed by people who followed rumors, got killed because of the rumors, ran away from them and shut down memories for a life time because of rumors. Words thickly permeated with blood smell were being transmitted by people who had barely unsealed memory like wind severely shaking the bottom of shaman trees.
Oh Suk Kuhn says that basically the words which cannot be shown by pictures doubt the veracity of photo record not the letters written under the pictures. Oh is struggling at this point. He claims that his pictures are not a ‘pipe’, neither a record. He is a photographer for sure, but is saying his pictures are not a record. Ironically, he presents words as an evidence. Photos cannot show words and words cannot be described as a photo. But He tries to contain words into a photo. (In fact, he has been doing this job for a long time.)
<Chulsoo and Younghee-the textbook>, which made Oh’s name known to the world, was a calling the dead time(which is the fate of photo)out. He tried to honor the irreversible and lost time by the textbook using photos that only include a split second. We just had to watch the suffering of boys and girls who wandered around empty store houses or rooftops in the time. This became manifested vividly at <Adolescent> exhibited at Ilmin Museum of Art. As the meaningless gestures of bare-faced youths in the demolished space would disappear soon(Since the moment becomes volatile as soon as it is taken by photographers) and we know the time as well, so <Adolescent> came to us as a cut which runs deep.
<Ashes and Dust> shows that the houses where youths linger were nothing but all tangled scars. Many Koreans are wandering without proper place to live in the aftereffect of compressed modernization. High-rising apartment buildings are making scenes of desolate space which were patched on the fly. The unsightly buildings are great hosts for rumors where bright searchlights gave up shedding light. The building are the images of Korean.
These images of mind are adding fear by being faced with concrete historical facts in <Korean without a face>. It sounds like a speech urging to look at the monster that we had made. <Korean without a face> is a kind of follow-up work of <Custom of Korea>, a recreated postcard work ingrained with racial prejudice by the west during the era of imperialism.
Among works from 《Contested Memory》, <Korean without a face> which describes people who had gotten killed in the incidents of National Guidance of Alliance, Bodo-League is strikingly shocking because the faces of people who got shot to death and wailing people who embrace the dead body of family were removed and the photos were exhibited in the dark space. Since audience needs to watch these photos with flashlight beams, they feel like they were in the historic sights that those incidents had happened.
<A Night of *Bianansoo - Missing Boy> and <Democracy under the traffic lights> are a performance like reenactment welcoming abandoned dead bodies and missing ghosts during 5.18 Gwangju Democractic Uprising. (*Bianansoo means putting hands together to pray all night or making a wish by saying it aloud for the ghosts to hear) <Command Register>, single channel video footage, shows that a martial law army solider automatically wears a sword with military songs heard. It is a gruesome metaphor showing how nation could destroy an individual. Since 5.18 at Gwanju, decades have passed and many people say we have established democracy but we are still being trained to trample on other people. We are no different from the solider in the footage. <TV-Commanding pulse> confirms this idea. It may seem a little disparate work but TV scanning lines, color charts of mono tone and repetitive playing of uneven noises disclose secretive conspiracy that allows all manipulation of record and confusion of memory. We can see certain collusion and deal in the incident of a government designated textbook and selective displaying of document and pictures by National Archives. In its mode, <TV-Commanding Pulse> is at the extension of <Machine-Prototype>, a co-work with Kim Soo Hwan. <Machine-Prototype> also shows individual’s misery which already got used to the pressure of civilization by getting the individual face to face with fragmented himself like the mirror of a hydra.
The things that Oh Suk Kuhn wants to talk through《Contested Memory》are clear. No, it is right to say that he wants to talk about something that supports his world of works.(Since being clear means arrogance that can be only spewed by the literate)
I think the things support his world of works are pictures and words. Oh uses pictures but he does not believe them. So his pictures are reproduced and he does not believe official records of nation. That is why he traces words that are not recorded in the textbook and National Archives aiming a camera to words racked with pain.
The reason why his reproduced pictures may obtain integrity is because we all once were suffered from tangled roots of memory. The suffering cannot be cured in the world. It is a thing that can be told only to a crippled pharmacist and a deaf musician. Oh Suk Kuhn calls and records all the words which were abandoned and being drifted. He traces words buried in the sea, people who had dug their own tomb and got killed there because they were infected by rumors and their words. He is desperately chasing the alibi of history excluded from national record by using pictures and words. He faces truth dismissed as rumors and shows the vacuum of history. Antonym of rumor is a secret. In other words, the end of rumor might be a secret. Things that Oh Suk Kuhn shows us are the secret which history has been hiding. All those records made by nation are nothing but a dead shrine where skeletal old man is doing makeup enjoying masturbation.
Now everybody can tinker with images and record but Oh Suk Kuhn is further stepping into the dismal place with full of darkness. Silly sages of modern day like Oh are gathering in the place of rumors and where secret is being made. And they are making a watchtower of their own dialects and gestures. They are sending us a signal from the border where searchlight does not touch. The signal says that resist against extinction of darkness and not to let images disappear with one beam of light.