The Game Which Is Not Over Yet, But Must Be Ended

Park Hoo-Gi

Photographs can be said to be the most suitable even for getting to the bottom of the truth, and to the contrary, distorting the fact, in terms of capturing the moment. Photographs have a wide ranging spectrum, depending on how the photographer approaches the object based on what idea. Capturing the object by taking photos cannot go beyond the intention of photographer both consciously or unconsciously. Obviously, not all people who look at the result which contains the intention of the photographer can figure out the intention of the photographer.
   Unlike the photograph for report, documentary photograph focuses more on the symbol rather than visible fact. Though it highlights a certain symbolism to call people's attention which the utterance of 'one photograph' may imply, indeed, the photographer is inclined to talk more about the 'reality' which is the background of the symbol, rather than such an unlimited symbol itself.
   We have familiarized ourselves with lots of taboos since we went through the colonial rule, war and division of the country. Those taboos which is represented by the Red Complex, are still controlling our body and consciousness in every aspect of our lives. The only difference is that the capital has replaced the swords and guns, and we are very comfortable with the narrow-minded ideologies and the insult to ourselves by worshipping the powerful.
   The world which is ruled by the gigantic capital called 'USA' is repeating the vicious cycle of war and death now. It is subjugating a lot of people to trap of death and scare under the pretext of War on Terror whose justification has been challenged.
   It seems to consider the war and confusion the only way to maximize the return on capital, and no country in the world, specifically the third world countries, are not free from the logic of capital. As the North Korea, which was mentioned 'the axis of evil, by George Bush, is more likely to fall a sacrifice to the War on Terror in the justification of problems with its nuclear weapon, we have involved in the bloodletting war for 6 decades since the division of the country imposed by foreigners.
   Now, the division of the country which has become so familiar to us that we are comfortable with it is one of the most important problems which can determine the destiny of people living in this land. Incessantly, many artists used their works to point to the problem of the subjugation of the country to the rule of capital and the permanent state of division.
   Particularly, the evil and abuses, the outcome which resulted from the globalization led by the US capitalism, have been sharply found fault with by young photographers recently. Roh Soon-Taek, Park Jin-Yeong(Area) are one of such photographers. Specifically, a set of works by Area Park is specially significant, considering that the theme of this exhibition titled 'The Games' reveals the reality of nation's division by using the clues and traces of national division and ideology.
   The emotionless face of Ethiopian defectors who are walking in the face of cruel sand storm intermittently came to my mind all the while I was writing this, a photo which was photographed by Sebastian Salgadore(61), a documentary photographer.
   The one black and white photograph which left a sufficient room for the appreciation of viewers reminded me of the difficult reality that they were confronted with, and made me feel that our reality is similar to theirs.
Though Area Park was not the photographer who surpassed Salgadore, he firmly captures the unfair reality through the photographs based on his own personality. Adopting the motive from the nation's division and symbols of ideology, his photographs is a clear rhetoric on the reality in which the territory of country is divided. However, the intention of the photographer does not dictate the standpoint of viewers. That is a important point.
   Many artists in Korea, including this writer, cannot but have deep concerns over and over again at the borderline of reality and aesthetics, but he seems to be bring harmony, transcending the stage of concern.
   The aesthetic tension in the problem of country's division and ideology which often sounds commonplace was preserved to ensure the balance of works. The images may look extremely blatant, but they are characterized by their significant meaning, too.

I met Area Park at Insa-dong in September for the first time. He handed me two volumes of books which printed the existing works and some photo papers on which the works to be put on display during the exhibition this time were printed. They had all colored images.
   The first photo among the ones he handed to me showed the face that I recognized. She was Ms. Hwang Pil-Soon, a female resident in Daechu-ri, Pyeongtaek, who was on the verge of being driven away from her house because of the expansion of US army base, which made me feel gloomy rather than pleasant. Gim, Ji-Tae, her son and the village headman, is now behind bars, and a few days ago, demolition gangs hired by the Police and National Defense forcibly destroyed the empty houses in the village, but she is still living in the house, refusing to leave.
   They offered millions pyongs of fertile land for the expansion of US army base, and were driving farmers away who have lived in the land throughout their lives. Old men are staring at the camera who seemed to have nothing to do with the division of this country, while the policemen of Korea Republic behind are glancing from below or top of the watchtower within the army base. This is the very reality of Korea and sums up the game which the capital and those with vested interests are enjoying.
   Maehyang-ri shooting range came in sight on the next photo. It looked desolate with the blind shell scattered in the now closed Nong Seom shooting range which seemed to reveal the emotional scar. We are living with the threat of war which only God knows when to break out. Area Park is highlighting the existence of US army which is one of the axis of threat of war by revealing the ongoing division of the country and its vestiges through the photo of Maehyang-ri shooting range.
   In fact, the US army which bombed Maehyang-ri shooting range are strongly demanding that the Jikdo which is in the open sea of Gunsan should be converted to a shooting range.
   Another photo shows a bullet-riddled model of soldier in a shooting range in the front line area. More specifically, the bullet-riddled model of soldier is dressed in the North Korean military uniform. This model is described as the target of bullet, and symbolizes most clearly the division of territory. The danger is looming ahead that we have to fight a proxy war on this land. This photo which symbolically represents such a dreadful reality makes us feel scared and sorrowful, transcending the irony.
   And another photo shows a closed school where the statue of Lee Seung-Bok stands with the book under his arm. It is as if Lee, Seung-Bok were still shouting "I hate the communist party", which proves that our society is not still free from the bridle of the narrow-minded ideology.
   There is another photo which shows the unification observation tower in Imjingang(river). In the photo, a man and a woman who seem to be lovers are taking commemorative photographs against the backdrop of the northern sky across the river. This photo represents the reality in which we are familiar to the division of country to the extent that the very site which symbolizes the division of country is casually used for the background of photos.
   What kind of defectors are the three north Koreans who are standing along the street of Myeong-dong? No one would discern them from others if they are not told that those three men defected the North Korea. The instant they are mentioned as North Korean defectors, we look on them from a biased viewpoint. They look as if they were separated somewhat ambiguously from the surrounding situation in the photo. They look static unlike the dynamically looking people around. Implicitly, this photo says that the loss of identification is the greatest stumbling block in overcoming the division of country.
   As the photographer himself titled the exhibition this time 'The Game' we may be involved in the reckless race, forced by the card game of which end is clear. Gigantic capital who has the entire world to at its mercy under the pretext of globalism is demanding that we make ourselves preoccupied with their game. They are giving away a share of their winnings to a minority of people who have the vested interests and compel them to wager unconditionally on their bets. Area Park is a photographer who boldly stands up to this unfair world. He may look reckless but I hope that he will not look back as his seemingly reckless challenge pioneers a new path!