Jihyun Jung


There would be nothing more appropriate than waste when contemplating something that is not easily seized.
Brian Thill, Waste

There is no untouched garden of Eden lying at the edges of this never-ending globe. Instead, Human beings travelling far and wide have turned into the very monsters they chased off the maps.
Judith Schalansky, Atlas of Remote Islands

One day in April I walked down the damaged concrete stairs by the long seashore beyond high fault scarps. It was before sunrise, when the ground mixed with sand and pebbles looked dark. The name of the place was not found in a map, nor its signs, and even an old villager did not know what it was called. In fact, he said: “That place doesn’t have a name.” By the nameless beach, objects were scattered, such as round glass fragments worn away like pebbles, silver buttons, small pieces of rubber tire, plastic bag, bundles of thick ropes and green net, styrofoam, steel desk leg, or gambling cards. There was no sign of a man for a long time. On the gentle, smooth slope, with only sea wave traces, a black baseball cap was laid inside out, half-covered by wet sand, with a phrase “FEEL THE JOY” stretching out in six ways by the seams between six panels of fabric. There was no one to listen to this lively voice of secular desire. I believed the reason why I ended up at this nameless beach was not much different from those objects themselves. Standing there for a while looking down at the baseball cap, I followed back my footprints on the beach, left the island for the city, and put five smooth pebbles from the beach on my shelf, all different in sizes.

People walk in their own places. They have their own places to walk. Some of them discover the truth through the places they walk upon. Rachel Carson and Jules Michelet understand an ocean by walking on the border between land and ocean. Yet their oceans are not the same. What Carson sees in the ocean is a never-ending cycle of death and movement of life, while Michelet sees history. Loren Eiseley and Sukyung Heo walk the outside of present time in the desert, with nothing but sand and wind. Solmay Park walks in the old downtown, and Hankil Ryu walks upon the rough vibration of sound. For people like them, walking in a space is a kind of method. It is a method for neutralizing the power of strong matter and images that suppress us from enjoying random thoughts and discovering underlying reality. This is where fiction begins.

Where Jihyun Jung drove me was a waste transfer station at Songjeong-dong, Seongdong-gu. He once told me how fascinating the site was and somehow I immediately felt like visiting. Songjeong-dong was left blank like a lonely island in the map of Seoul, which is mostly crowded with landmarks and names. If some spot is left blank like this on a map, there must be a restricted area like a military camp or a forest with no way in. An area that is restricted or dominated by rules that cannot be expressed in an image. Songjeong-dong was crowded with the rhythmical sound of conveyor belts endlessly delivering waste and heavy vehicles that outrageously crush and shovel, while tiny birds occasionally chirped. A little off of that busy mess, all kinds of recyclable waste materials were sorted. Metal, aluminum, paper, and so on. Once glorious and colossal in the past, the rust frame of heavy trucks and excavator arms were piled up into a mountain. Walking across Songjeong-dong we talked about how the waste looked like it was washed up by sea waves, although the area was in the middle of the city. Objects seemed to be carried away by the waves of certain height and speed, settling in their own destined spot because each heap of objects had similar masses. We were curious what the wave could be but did not further the discussion. There was nothing particular to talk about and we both only could speculate it in our own distinctive and separate way. Jihyun Jung got a piece of scrap metal from a junk shop before leaving Songjeong-dong. It seemed like the front frame of a truck of which the shape already conceived some sculptural form.

After Songjeong-dong, we headed to Noeul Park at Nanjido. It was literally a waste tour. However, Noeul Park at dusk was perfectly beautiful. I could hardly recognize that it was a man-made mountain of waste beneath my feet. If it was a map that erased Songjeong-dong, it was the beauty that erased Nanjido. Before walking up Noeul Park, Jung handed me a huge, bumpy wire mesh at the studio and asked what I saw in it. Since only the artist would know what it was modeled after, I gave an answer without much enthusiasm. Actually, I was thinking that its unevenness looked peculiarly interesting, instead of ‘what it was’ in particular. Climbing Noeul Park we saw a number of public sculptures and Jung pointed one out saying his wire mesh was modeled after it. For the last few years Jihyun Jung has been searching for sculptures in strange spots in the city, for example the statue of Jeon Bong Jun, sitting awkwardly in front of Youngpoong Bookstore by the main street in Jongno. Jihyun Jung made sculptures that modeled a part or the entire structure of these. Jung was capturing the surface of the sculpture, but, to me, it appeared to be presenting the mystery of how some objects end up where they are. It already had a certain form, which configured the totality in between the place and object and restored the privileged thing involved by the sculpture. To me, the practice seemed to be eliminating the names of the thing that should not have names or restoring them to the state of a non-place. However, this is my interpretive view, not his. He engages with a thing by treating it sensitively and delicately, rather than discussing its politics. Jihyun Jung has been infatuated with climbing and seemed to be very skilled at shifting his position and moving around depending on the hold’s shape and where it was spiked on. Climbing is a sport that finds a way out.

Few days ago he sent me a 3D modeling image of land. Supposedly it was a landform somewhere in North Korea that was reported by the media. When I visited his studio later he had a sample of the landform made with a 3D printer. It did quite look like a piece of land made after a painting. That was about the peak of our discussion regarding the relation of unapproachable land and sculpture. Unapproachable land sounds ambiguous, and no new technology seems to be able to bring it right away into an image or matter. If unapproachable land signifies a fiction that has been expelled from a map, it should be only grasped through the impossibility of image and matter. Jihyun Jung walks on the border where all objects are washed away and lose their names, seeking reasonable objects that witness or facilitate forms of speculation of such fictions. That is where his sculpture begins. Bumpy and uneven in a square shape, the plastic panel standing in for a plot of land was laid out randomly with other living items on a chair.