Park Chan-kyong Makes Peace with Korean History

Park Chan-kyong, Citizen’s Forest, 2016. From Farewell at Kukje Gallery, 2017.

Park Chan-kyong’s Citizens Forest is a 3-channel black and white video work that features ghostly characters from tragic events in Korea’s past such as the Korean War, the 1980 Gwangju Uprising, and the 2014 Sewol Ferry disaster. These characters come together in the forest to perform a gut, which is a sort of traditional shamanistic séance, to make peace with these past tragedies. Park feels that because South Korea so rapidly modernized to become the economic powerhouse that stands today, the collective conscience has not taken the time to grieve the horrible events as they happened in history. This gut hopes to lay rest those victims of Korean history.

The large-scale video work is show in a pitch-dark room allowing for the bright whites of the video work to illuminate the space. The screen is extra wide horizontally to mimic the Korean traditional landscape paintings. While the video is in black and white, the crisp visuals feature the lush forest and the figures move in slow motion across the screen in an almost graceful, flowy dance. Minimalistic sounds of the brush, wind, and traditional drums are clearly accentuated through the thundering, high quality sound system, highlighting the nuances and rhythm in the score. In this immersive space, it’s difficult to not feel the weight of grief and emotional resonance that come with revisiting this past trauma.