JangwidongIndex: #1The Persimmon Trees Will Be Cut Down
The “Cul de sac ville” project imagines the future, coming from a place that is too familiar and easily overlooked. The work started in Samseondong (Area 5), which obtained the go-ahead for a housing development maintenance project” in 2018. I walked into a place which will disappear and began to categorize what I saw, numbering it like ‘forensic’ evidence. This “forensic attitude”, and recorded the visual culture in Jangwidong following Samseongdong. Each category of objects received a number between 1-20. These categories document specific classes of items or situations and make the image look objective. Such a system is a useful way to isolate and focus on the particular traces that are visible.1
The categories ‘buried (decomposed)’, ’blocked windows’, ‘artificial materials’, ‘trees’, ‘gates’, ‘railings’, and ‘roofs’ are expanding continuously. These are categories of ‘desperate images’, these are images that impose a feeling of destruction, death and decay. It also gives direction to our interpretation, opens the habits to narratives of the past, and the possibilities of the future. The same objects create different images depending on the situation. Even if you look at the same object, your image and imagination changes. Will it resonate with echoes of the past? It may soon become a past; we don’t know which direction its echo will resonate. The imagination always leads to a new future somewhere while separating the past and the present.
I made the walk from Wolgokdong to Jangwidong disinterested and purposeless, as I did in Samseondong, detecting hidden things like a detective. The walk continued to read and interpret space and to discover how space is used to recognize space in particular ways. While it is not the place where I was born and raised, in order to grasp the passing moments, I collect not only the substances that exist but also experience the mannerisms of the past and the present and question the curiosity of my gaze as an artist. While observing the built environment around me literally disappearing, I began to perceive things that are taken for granted in everyday life and continued my “investigative” walks, wondering about the meaning of ‘residence’, the confusion and the disorder of the visible and invisible. How to visualize the hidden, the habits that were too familiar to be visible.2
Jangwidong is next to Wolgokdong, in the northeast of Seongbukgu, which includes Dongdaemun to the south and Dobongsan to the north. The mountain in Wolgokdong resembles a halfmoon, where many pine trees and taverns stood during the Joseon Dynasty. The name of “Wolgok” comes from the cow merchants who bargained in the moonlight. At present, a brothel called Miari Texas is still open, as are many old inns among the alleys alongside shaman’s houses. According to a JoongAng Ilbo article ‘The Road to Jangwi’ in 1966 there were often found cows blown out and collapsed on the hill of Jangwi-dong.3 This hill is like the shadow of death, symbolized by a slaughterhouse which is not there anymore. There is a legend that even the bus would crash there when the weather gets mad.
Jangwidong used to be farmland before the 1950s. It was constructed between the late 1960s and the 1970s, when Western architecture was introduced. When this residential complex in the northeastern part of Seoul was developed, its rural character disappeared. There are no traces of pear trees or chestnut trees any more in Wolgokdong, which used to be called Pear and Chestnut-gol. The earth is now covered with high-rise buildings, roads and concrete, it cannot breathe and the noise and plumes of dust from the construction site awaken me in the morning. While the high-rise building was built, the two-story Western-style houses and restaurants, which had remained alone, disappeared – along with the noise. The empty ground could breathe for a while, but the fence is up again and a guide to the new high-rise buildings has been installed.
When I visited the hill of Janwidong there are many two-story Western-style houses that were the envy of the common people. In 2005, the reconstruction area of Jangwidong was designated as a “New Town” development area as the largest new town development area in Seoul, was 1.87 million square meters and over 550,000 pyeong, and at that time, where about 20,000 households and 80,000 people lived. As the economy deteriorated during the global financial crisis in 2007-2008, the development of six zones has now been changed “to remain”. The “Jangwi New Town” project is divided into 15 districts, and each is undergoing redevelopment.
According to Henri Lefevre “power’’ controls, fragments and pursues homogeneity to their needs. Space is used for a wide variety of activities and reasons, a variety of elements and materials of architecture, according to the demands of those who intervene, manage, monitor and control and pursue homogeneity.4 But this homogeneous space is fragmented into an apartment complex, a villa village, a housing complex, etc. that are disconnected with the surrounding city. Under the name of homogeneity, invisible relationships and conflicts with residents are easily concealed.
Around the Jangwidong Traditional Market, which was divided into half of the redevelopment, people are still shopping and chatting. The energy is clearly different from that of a new city planned in a short period by “experts”, such as city planners and bureaucrats. This energy is also flowing onward through time. A tenant I met at Jangwi Market said that people did not want the redevelopment, some tenants were also forcibly evicted. He said that the government enforced it. Another tenant said he would hold out until he gets more compensation. Jangwidong District 12 and 15, was originally not included in the redevelopment, but has now a new banner for residents cooperating with plans for redevelopment. Apparently, 75 percent of the landowners are pro-redevelopment. Jangwi-dong 10 area, which is about to be demolished, is covered with fences and is full of empty houses after previous residents were moved out. Things that are no longer of use, artifacts: hermitage signs, amulets, and traditional blankets which the previous resident shaman lived by, retain the form of worship related to the individual’s history, and the traces of folded time.
There are peculiar sculptures which are designated places at the intersections of the residential areas. This safety bollard, installed to prevent car entry, was created to protect each house from automobiles. It was made as needed with rough concrete (béton brut), paint buckets, red bricks, stones taken from somewhere, rocks, etc., made by pouring the leftover cement and leaving it. These objects are reminiscent of the surface and debris of brutalist architecture developed by Le Corbusier, using materials such as raw concrete, brick, and tiles as they are.
Traditionally, rocks have been an object of worship by Koreans. According to the sexual worship culture by region from the ‘Korean Creative Content Agency’ such as Seondol, Menhir and Seonbawi rock were objects of magical belief. Which were built with a special purpose to pray for fertility or abundance.5 They are large upright standing stones, made of natural rocks, erected as a monument or object of worship. Standing stones are generally 1 to 2 meters in height, generally natural, rarely carved. Most of them were erected at the village entrance or in the middle of open fields. The act of making such a sculpture is similar to the act of blocking bad energy by using towers or sculptures in each village, believing in the magical power of rocks. Built by humans, these objects sometimes symbolize a penis. Humans constantly post and mark signs in their space, leaving both symbolic and practical traces. 6 These bollards, which we encounter in everyday life and passed by without knowing, remind us of the ‘guardian of the village’ and certainly plays a role in care and maintenance of the residence.
The persimmons are falling and lying on the ground after heavy rain. The thud of falling persimmons seems louder than the noise from the construction site. Every time a persimmon falls, I get startled and look around. Now all the persimmon trees will be cut down. The natural space will be lost. Nature is waiting to be further destroyed.
During the show “Everyone’s House”, I presented an indexed video focusing on Jangwidong, chapter two of the “Cul De Sac ville” project. The videos, which are an extension of the “Index: Samseondong” video, is taken like forensic evidence images and ordered according to categories as seen by the artist in the area of Jangwidong at the end of its existence. This video focuses on the traces of Revival Houses built in the name of reconstruction after the war, revival, and the hope of the people. It traces Yeongdan housing (public housing) which can be said to be the earliest public housing in the 1970s. It also shows the “safety bollard series” of the artist’s index photo #4, local-vernacular-style-DIY, seen in the process of renovating an old house, production photos that artist intervened with and collage with various images of index #14 (texture).
The second video “ga-oe-ga-jeon” shows unnumbered images by artist with phrases mostly from Yisang’s poems. The poem “ga-oe-ga-joen (story of street outside street)” is dealing with the problem of ‘street’ outside ‘street’. Yisang pessimistically describes the various spaces of the inner city that were excluded by the colonial urbanization policy of the 1930s. Yisang describes how under the rule of technology of colonial power the human body turns pathological and the streets fill with disease.7 The poet observes the city with realistic attitude, being able to distinguish the real and the artifice of appearance. He describes the city as much as colonialism in the terminology of disease: “my rotting flows in the alley”, “fresh bridge”, “stifling trash that came out of sweeping my vast room”. These phrases question the artist’s own gaze on the time and this area. The sound of the two videos by Ian-John is connected thematically. This is the sound of playing various percussion such as bells, bronze bowls, hangari (jar), janggu and old cassette tape recorded in an old hanok and playing harmonica sanjo based on the sound of construction site on a rainy day with various sounds birds echo from the tree.
During the (previous) show, the artist organized a workshop ‘Tactile Imagination’ writing workshop, the artist applies automatism, a writing technique used by surrealists. The artist asked blindfolded participants to touch things she found discarded in the area and write a description of this experience on a piece of paper. She found that the material was revealed through touch, information about objects is directly translated into discontinuous sentences through the sense of touch. These sentences are cut and pasted into a poem which shows that the loss of our homes persists within us.
The house shelters our day-dreaming, the house protects the dreamer, and the house allows one to dream in peace. Bachelard, who considered the residential spaces experienced in everyday life such as houses, rooms, windows, and roofs, says that we are never real historians but “always near poets.” He suggests, “Everyone starts to imagine again.”8
A house is a nest for dreaming and a shelter of imagination. The house is intimate and vast like the universe at the same time. A house as container is a metaphor and portal to imagination. What we imagine at home is continuous. The house is not simply a (not a material) tool for living. We are hermits staying in the house, and we live when we meet ourselves, meet others at the same time, and establish relationships with the world.
In the city of Seoul today, where the living space is constantly in danger due to constant reconstruction and redevelopment, a house has only the function of a “machine” of uniform residence. In my home, which was the corner of my world, my first universe, the home of the past, a real cosmos in every sense of the word, we can no longer live. The fragmented past is re-lived in a new house through dreams, and the houses (spaces) that we have lost live in the house together with our unconsciousness.
1 see “forensic gaze”, video by Jooyoung Lee and Klega 2017-2019 https://culdesacville.home.blog/2019/06/28/forensic-gaze/
2 Cul De Sac Ville, Text by Jooyoung Lee and Klega 2019 https://culdesacville.home.blog/2019/07/24/쿨데삭빌-프로젝트/
4 Henri Lefebre, The Production of Space, translated by Young-ran Yang, Ecolibre p31
6 Henri Lefevre, Production of Space, Translate by Young-ran Yang, Ecolibre, p292
7 “Ga-oe-ga(street outside street)” and “In-oe-in (human being outside human being)”- the other side of the urbanization policy under Japanese colonial rule in Yisang’s poem the story of Ga-oe-ga(1936), Hyungcheol Shin 2015, Study of Humanities 50(0), p10
8 Gaston Bachelard, La Poétique de l’espace, translated by Kwak Kwang-soo, Minumsa 1990, p116-118