Daebudo Island (Daebudo), which got its name “Daebu” (large hill) because from a distance it looks like a big hill rather than an island, is still an island, despite that it has been connected to the Siwha tide embankment. The Shore of Daebudo, which is not far from the metropolitan area, attracts many tourists on the weekends with its pier and beautiful scenery. Hwanggeumsan Mountain (168m above sea level), which resembles an octopus stretching its legs in eight directions, is a mountain that can be observed from anywhere in Daebudo. Hwanggeumsan Mountain looking like a large hill in a golden glow from the distance is the only place from which you can look around the surrounding areas, from Sihwaho Lake to the western coast. The school song from Daebudo’s elementary, junior, and high school goes like this “the blue water of the west sea is our mind, Hwanggeumsan Mountain is our spirit” suggests, Hwanggeumsan Mountain has been Daebudo itself and regarded as a sacred symbol, implying that anyone who harms it will be misfortunate. “The Folk Tale of a Tree Ghost at Hwanggeumsan Mountain”, an old folklore about the mountain and demonstrates the manner in which people treat the mountain. To establish a lesson that can alert the villagers, it states that cutting a tree at Hwanggeumsan Mountain will take the life of that person’s child as punishment.
Due to excavating materials for the construction of Siwha tide embankment (12.4 km) that connects Oido Island, Siheung-si, and Daebu Bangameori, the height of Hwanggeumsan Mountain has been lowered to 145m. The foot of the symbolic Hwanggeumsan Mountain in Daebudo is cut by hills northward and southward, and the view of the lake at Siwhaho is obscured by a transmission tower installed on the top of the mountain. Local students of the area used to picnic at Hwanggeumsan Mountain, however it has been gradually forgotten among the people and now is a place of memory. Owing to the embankment that sacrificed the lands, much of the wetlands, where various marine lives would thrive, were removed and also the lives of the villagers shifted from the sea to the land where they are now farming grapes or operating tourism programs such as a fishery village stay program. Hwanggeumsan Mountain represents the current condition of Daebudo that is caught in a whirlpool of capitalism. Deep down in the Villagers’ minds, their proactive, straightforward, and closed mentality still remains. The Daebudo Island that has been gradually encroached upon by the capital is losing its unique identity and characteristics.
There are various marine life including gobies, octopuses, and clams in the wetland of Daebudo. However, numerous creatures in the wetlands have been dying due to the tide-embankment, which has affected the ecological environment for the people living in that area. . Fishing boats that have not been in use are anchored at the mud flats, merely functioning as a photo zone for tourists. And the fishing gears abandoned at the docksides and the sandy shores have become a serious environmental issue. The colorful neon signs spreading out from the entrance of Daebudo Bangameori to the shores are blocking the peaceful view of Hwanggeumsan Mountain and the beautiful wetlands.
The purpose of the Hwanggeumsan Project is to revitalize the community of Daebudo, which has been plagued due to unmethodical development, through artistic vibes, and to call attention to the forgotten mountain. After being chosen at the art competition of a regional revitalization support program organized by The Art Council of Korea with the aid of Bomnal Artists’ Cooperative Union and Gyeonggi Creation Center from 2014 to 2015, The Hwanggeumsan Project has been divided into two categories: Art Seongam and Agitat. The Art Seongam Program communicates with humans, nature, and ecology through various narratives related to the local area, whereas The Agitat Program is geared to create a community together with the local residents, including performance events and educational programs. In 2014, we limited the project locations to the reclaimed inland areas and Seongam village around the Gyeonggi Creation Center based on our research and an open forum with the residents. In particular, the tragic wounds from the Seongam reformatory (the former Gyeonggi Creation Center) are still observed and abandoned in the reclaimed inland areas and Seongam village around the Gyeonggi Creation Center. The Seongamdo inland area, reclaimed from the sea, was the site of the old salt fields where the students of the Seongam reformatory were exploited in harsh conditions. The Seongam reformatory was built as cannon fodder during the Pacific War in the period of Japanese colonialism. After Korea’s liberation, it was used as a facility catering to war orphans and homeless children and changed into the Provincial Vocational Training Institute. In 2009, the institute was newly born into the Gyeonggi Creation Center. Since 2009, the center has invited about fifty native and foreign artists a year, offering a three month to two year long residence program. The residence program has an ideal condition for artists to carry out community cooperative projects as a way to contribute to the local community, utilizing its excellent facilities. However, the duration of the residency has been considered to be too short for the artists to get used to the unique environment of Daebudo Island and to envision and execute their community projects, which requires sustainable management in conjunction with the local communities. Therefore, it has been decided that artists interested in community outreach programs can prolong the duration of their residency at the center to develop and carry out their projects either as an individual or as a group. Since 2015, we have carried out the Hwanggeumsan Project in Seongam Village and reed fields area within the inland, with the artists selected or invited through our project presentations and open calls.
The Hwanggeumsan Project directed at healing this place of tragic memory is the project that needs to be done at this moment. I hope that the history of the region, records of life, and personal memories, imbued with the diverse perspectives of the artists working at Gyeonggi Creation Center, develop a project that fosters art and culture in Seongamdo Island. Furthermore, I would like to see that the Hwanggeumsan Project serves as a cornerstone upon which an eco-museum connecting islands on the Yellow Sea Coast could be established.
-Jeoung, Ki Heoun(Art Director)
The Japanese, during the period of Japan’s colonial rule over Korea, established reformatories in order to educate the Korean people to obey to their rule. These reform schools included the Mokpo school in Mokpo, Jeolla-do and Seongam School in Seongamdo Island, Ansan. Therein, the Koreans suffered from the poor facilities, a severe degree of human rights violations, exploitation of labor, and an isolation from the outside world under the name of “self-support.” Young boys, more than one could count, died of escape attempts and suffered from violence and malnutrition. Out of hunger, some died by mistaking poisonous mushrooms for edible herbal roots and tree bark. That place where so many young lives were sacrificed became today’s Gyeonggi Creation Center!
And I am an artist who eats, sleeps, and works in the site of the old Seongam reform school that still bears the young boys’ smell of blood. Even skipping one meal makes me dizzy, weeding half an hour in the art farm makes my legs crumble, and just being prevented from what I want to do makes me complain. Then I imagine how the young boys could endure that time period.
Seongam-dong is a land reclaimed from the sea by the young boys’ little hands that quarried stone to build a breakwater. Although this area is now home to diverse salt plants and beautiful reeds, it was once the site of a salt field, the very source of power with which a human trampled another and of the salt as valuable as gold produced by the numerous sacrificed children at the Seongam reform school in 1946. That is how I installed my work on the site of the old salt field. Even animals go hunting no more than they need. Then why do human beings, the lord of all creation, fret over storing food, land, and money which was invented for the sake of convenience after all. Perhaps, that is a mental illness. It has been only 70 years since the war ended. Let’s give us some more time.it was not enough time to overcome things anyway. The gone sea caused a fisherman to shed tears of blood, and the boat was abandoned. The fisherman must have gazed over the inland water without hope. The fisherman must have heaved a deep sigh, or rather wailed. There is nowhere in the country where the fisherman’s wailing did not reach! I set a boat afloat on that field of reeds that will take the people, who has been living as if they overcame or nothing happened. I floated a boat on that beds of reeds while imagining a coarse yet hopeful breath of a fisherman starting a day as well as a boat returning with a full load of fish. I float a fish-smelling boat fully loaded with the fishing net the fisherman newly repaired yesterday, where no war or Seongam reformatory or salt field exists, among the reeds.
The reed field on the inland water in front of Gyeonggi Creation Center used to be a salt field where the children detained at the Seongam reformatory were exploited, and was the place to which the children who attempted to escape could not return after falling into the sea. The work Fly, fireflies is a kinetic work designed to be seen mainly at night in remembrance of the children’s pain at the Seongam reformatory.
The ‘firefly’, commonly known as the ‘lightning bug’, has been designated as a natural monument. This insect can only inhabit a clean environment where contamination is minimal, and it spends about 250 days as larva under the water during its life span. When spring rain arrives, it moves out to the land and goes through a pupal stage for a month before growing into an adult insect. During its two week-long life span, it generates light while solely living off dew. As described above, the life of a firefly has sublime beauty and poignancy, just like the children at the old Seongam reformatory.
The work titled Fireflies installed at the entrance of the field of reeds on the inland water presents fireflies' lightning from sunset to midnight. In order to present the movements of 50 fireflies as naturally as possible, I used the turning force of a motor and the mobility of magnets so as to display the irregular movements of the fireflies. Also, I designed the work in a way that minimizes fatigue of the animals and plants inhabiting the area by operating it within a certain time frame.
Through the work Fireflies, twinkling among the pitch dark reeds, I would like to bring newly revitalized sensibilities to the field of reeds, consolidating the resentful spirits of the painful history with light.
This work reinterprets a phrase from the Tao Te Ching, “人法地, 地法天, 天法道, 道法自然 (A man emulates the earth, the earth emulates the sky, the sky emulates the Tao, and the Tao emulates itself, Chapter 25.)” Through the reflection of the water, it reveals that the relationship between 天上 (the heaven) and 天下 (the earth), which would seem to have the opposite meaning, are not indeed divided into two, but rather, they are indivisible. As our ancestors paid attention to the shadow of the moon reflected on the water while thinking, the surface of water becomes a place of contemplation when reflecting light. That surface becomes a boundary of the sky and the earth, and it is thus a borderline between this life and the afterlife.
In past years, my work dealt with the meaning of translation and the process of recontextualization. Through transplanting various forms of texts and images into a new environment, I intended to uncover the paradox, at times, observed in our usual way of understanding things. Originally, the English version of the work Heaven and Earth was created first. The work Heaven and Earth commissioned by a Chinese garden in Chinatown located in Vancouver, Canada is a site specific work, in which the sentence “EARTH, REFLECTS, THE, HEAVENS” is installed upside-down on a pond, flexibly reflecting itself on the water.
Unlike the work Heaven and Earth, where texts are formed horizontally by flexible movements, the work 天上天下 (Heaven and Earth) vertically standing becomes a border where the two worlds meet. And the vision, through which this work presents heaven and earth as one unity, is a process of consolidating the spirits of the Seongam reformatory in the history that might still be lingering at the border of the two worlds.
In the process, natural conditions, such as the tides, rain, wind, and so on, also adjust the screen - the water - while constantly changing the form of the reflection.
The metaphorical meaning of a bridge lies in connecting two separate worlds, whereas the bridge work in The Hwanggeumsan Project seeks to create a metonymic object that connects two worlds by means of calling attention to the historical tragedy of the Seongam juvenile reformatory through today’s art at the creation center. The children running away from the reformatory were stuck in the tideland and lost their lives in the rising tide. Perhaps what they most desperately needed, as they were gasping for air in the water rising up to their chins, may have been a bridge which could get them off the island. I would like to propose the creation of a Transcendence Bridge that will guide the young children, who were facing death in captivity, to the sky. For those who visit in the present, this bridge will be one that traces back to the historically charged salt field beyond the violently waving reed field and it will take their hands to carry them upward, transcending time and space.
By combining very common 3.6m long wooden materials, I built a simple yet smart 50m long bridge without using complicated tools, techniques, excessive labor force, or pricey materials.
The Transcendence Bridge is not for a body to cross. The reason behind building this ironical bridge that is only for beholding is to be connected to a human heart. When walking into the waving reeds and the flames of the sunset, the visitor’s mind goes into the land under their feet beyond time, into the moment when the children were dying. The flaming wind that shakes the reeds will comb their hair, and the soul that takes the hand lightly flies into the air to rescue their bodies from the mud. Physical space and psychological space echo and cross each other in this way.
Creation of the Hwanggeumsan Mountain Owl
I see the Seongam Village mud flat and the sea when I open the window every morning. When walking through the inland and village road where there used to be a salt pond, I feel my complicated mind becomes clear, refreshed. The mud flat in Daebudo Island (Daebudo), with its beautiful scenery and rich marine life, such as octopuses and clams, is a well-known tourist attraction.
In the mid-90’s, however, Daebudo became connected to the mainland, which resulted in changing a water route. As fishery sources greatly diminished, the fishermen living off the sea dried out as well. In addition, due to the construction of an embankment, Hwanggeumsan Mountain, the highest mountain in Daebudo, was harmed as well. Upon its connection with the mainland, a great number of people flowed into the island, and the native people’s way of living also changed. The villages, where people had been living for generations, underwent a dreadful time fighting over a reimbursement issue. While doing so, the communities gradually weakened. It must have been like the mind of a fisherman who lost his way in a storm on the night sea.
I remember that one day my teacher and I were walking by the reeds and talked about installing an impressive art work on the rooftop of the Gyeonggi Creation Center where artists live when we have some time. After a few years passed, we embarked on The Hwanggeumsan Project. I proposed to create the work The Hwanggeumsan Mountain Owl in pursuit of healing the tragic history and revitalizing the local communities.
It has been said that once upon a time, a pair of owls lived in a village. People believed the big eyes of the owls represented sages that guarded the village at night and opened the way. Although the people’s way of living changed and the village lost its function due to the convergence between the island and the mainland, we still continue our communal life with the sea. Was there not an owl that was living in Daebudo, the beautiful island of art? Was there not also a large lighthouse standing somewhere on that art island? LED lights are installed in the owl’s eyes. I hope that the first blink of the eyes signals the healing of the history of the art island, and the second blink represents the light of art that delivers us a new hope.
I hope that The Hwanggeumsan Mountain Owl, like a lighthouse in a sea at night, guides people through the way and overcomes the wind, becoming a symbol that represents the light of hope, across the mud flat and throughout the island.
This place that used to produce salt still has residues of a salt pond. Today, numerous kinds of salt plants and marine life co-exist in this area which has been left alone for a long time. I installed the salt-flower observatory here from which visitors can look down on the entire inland, functioning as the outpost for an artistic eco-park. Around the observatory is a terraced field in which to plant those salt plants which inhabit the local area. I constructed a water intake facility on this island where water is scarce so that it can always water the plants. Inside the facility, I placed a wooden salt box. The salt, by absorbing moisture, becomes bittern then falls down to a tree which is installed down below.
At the end of Daeseon Embankment Wharf, which connects Daebudo Island and Seongamdo Island, is ‘Donghwan’s kalguksu’ restaurant. Since their noodles come with lots of clams in a very generous portion, local people often go there a lot and the customers always come again. Before the embankment was constructed, a lot of tent bars thrived around the wharf. However, the boat-way has been completely blocked and now only ‘Donghwan’s kalguksu’ is left there alone.
Over the dock where ‘Donghwan’s’ is located, there was a dead tree reminiscent of a large bone of a whale on the shore. Although I was not sure whether it had always been there or if it drifted back here one day, it was deeply imprinted in my mind for a long time. I moved this dead tree and installed it under the observatory. Salt absorbing moisture becomes bittern and falls down to the tree; the tree blossoms with salt flowers. As time passes, the tree is gradually turning into a salt flower tree. All these processes embody a remembrance of those innocent young children who were sacrificed during the period of the Seongam reformatory and of those students who died in the ‘Sewol ferry incident.’ I hope that the young souls who had to throw themselves into the sea and the Sewol ferry students who were victimized for unknown reasons could be reborn as the most beautiful salt flowers.
In observation of the current conditions of Daebudo Island (Daebudo), in which a traditional way of living is rapidly changing due to the indiscreet redevelopments of the area into a leisure and tourist attraction, I intend to rearrange the landscape of Daebudo as one of the remaining islands in the west sea.
Promenade is a French word, meaning a ‘walk’ or ‘trail.’ Besidethe simple meaning of ‘walking,’ this word evokes sensual as well as intellectual interactions, such as seeing, feeling, and thinking that one engages with, while taking a walk.
I can tell from my experience that nothing is better than taking a walk when it comes to learning about geological locations, characteristics, and the environment of a new place. The crab trap in a circular shape used in the project is one of the fishing tools I paid attention to when I first visited Daebudo. One day a fishing boat owner told me that out-of-use fishing traps are mostly thrown into the sea owing to their disposal cost. These fishing traps abandoned in the sea are a threat to the marine ecosystem and environment. It is the main cause of ocean contamination and “ghost fishing” in this area, devastating water resources. I wanted to unravel these materials I discovered, the people of Daebudo I met, and the episodes I collected from the people in the different context of a ‘walk.’ I would like to suggest another landscape that brings the stories related to the area to light, through which the visitors feel, experience, and see the scenery of the reed field and the natural ecology between the fishing traps. At the same time, they learn about the tragic history of Seongamdo and the Seongam reformatory, while slowly taking a walk by the Promenade leading to the reed trail.
The Narrative Map of Old Seongam is a part of The Hwanggeumsan Project which is an ARKO public art demonstration project. It was created based on The Guide Map of Daebudo’s Old Story made by Seon-chul Kim, the current president of the Marine Ecosystem Cultural Tour Guide Association, and was supported with his supervision, advice, and site visits. Multiple site visits to Daebudo Island (Daebudo) and discussions were held and advice from the local elderly residents who supported this project was included in the process. Although there were various historical themes around Daebudo, which underwent dramatic changes due to the Shihwa tide embankment and reclamation, they were still too broad to come up with a quality map. So I narrowed down the locations to Buldo Island, Tando Island, and Seongamdo Island (Seongamdo) where Gyeonggi Creation Center is located. The old appearance of the area, the tales orally handed down, and the name of the places, are realized as an image on the map. To help viewers understand the way in which people in Seongamdo used to live, I juxtaposed figures on the map in a simple way. I documented Seongamdo’s old geography and the people’s way of living which are being forgotten for tourists as well as the residents of the island to easily understand the local history and the name of the places. The work was produced in the form of a signboard and a catalog so that more people can have access to the story of Seongamdo.
Daebudo Island (Daebudo) is known for a splendid ocean-view, and visitors can behold its beautiful scenery while watching the sunset gradually coloring the sea in red beyond the horizon. Also, grapes have become one of the main products produced in Daebudo, playing an important role in the local economy. For these reasons visitors can always find vineyards and vinyl greenhouses there.
Using a vinyl greenhouse, which is the livelihood of the local farmers, I wanted to recreate this landscape of Daebudo as an art work-an installation piece that can still be shown after sunset. By installing landscapes that feature Daebudo’s locality in a vinyl greenhouse with lights, visitors can see the shadow of Daebudo’s sunset and vineyard views cast by the lights.At dusk, small fishing boats and seagulls are gently moving, and the shadows of Nueseom.Island, windmills, and people harvesting loads of grapes in a vineyard in Tando Port decorate the night sky of Daebudo in harmony.