Anyang At the dawn of the day: The city dreaming of a utopia
Installation with
HD single-channel video installation, color, 5,1 sound channel, 33’ 00
Two pencil drawings, 125×440(cm), 125×428(cm)
Movinghead spotlight with interface controller
Commissioned by The 4th Anyang Public Art Project (APAP) 2014

The name of the city Anyang (translated as the “Land of Bliss”) stands for a blissful place where everyone within lives in peace and joy. Inspired by the utopian ideal behind the name, the artist Song Sanghee raises the question, “If Anyang is indeed utopian as its name, what are the elements that create such a world?” In search for the answer, she embarked on an exploration, visiting 33 different places in the city. In the process, she discovered that Anyang is an ordinary city comprised of the usual urban establishments found in any other place, including post office, park, and traditional outdoor market, as well as of establishments particular to the city, such as the Animal and Plant Quarantine Agency, the Korea Seed & Variety Service, the National Radio Research Agency, and former Seoi-myeon Office.

Underneath the city’s ordinary appearance that is far from the ideal, the artist sensed the bottled up energy ripe for explosion, with its true nature masked by the thick layers of the common exterior. Here, the artist introduces a chilling thought: Perhaps, these establishments created to make our lives more comfortable, including governmental authorities, educational institutions, and recreational facilities, are, in reality, part of a dark system that categorizes, brainwashes, and sensors human society, destroying our private lives and taking control of everything based on a grand, sinister design.

In order to weave this fictional narrative set, Anyang at the Dawn of the Day: The City Dreaming of a Utopia, the artist quotes phrases from eight different books, including Perfect Society by Moon Yun-seong (1967), Brave New World by Aldous Huxley (1932), and 1984 by George Orwell (1949). The narrative is mostly composed of sentences directly quoted from the novels or paraphrased by the artist, and introduces her own writing as little as possible. Such an approach allowed the artist to limit her role to the editor and prevent herself from assuming the role of the creator. This also shows an attitude commonly found in female artists who, rather than making forceful intervention, choose to take a step back and observe. The video camera, too, remains still, only capturing subtle movements occurring in the space and helping the artist remain as an “observer,” instead of becoming the “director.” The artist chooses to wait “quietly with an anticipation, to capture something that is not obvious yet visible, like air or sound, as I look into the space absently for a while, hoping for something to happen, for someone to pass.”

The thirty minute video is installed with two black-and-white drawings, creating a sort of a triptych. A juxtaposition of metaphoric or metonymic images referring to various elements of the video, these drawings are lit by moving spotlights in sync with the video.

Along with Anyang at the Dawn of the Day: The City Dreaming of a Utopia, the artist also presents The Voice of Anyang in the archive room of the exhibition space. In order to tell stories of individuals who live within the confines of social mechanism (i.e. public authorities), the artist Song Sanghee sent a letter to the citizens of Anyang asking them to share their old letters. In response to her request, four people sent in more than 300 letters they had been treasuring for anywhere from10 up to 40 years. Based on excerpts from these letters, the artist created a new artwork. Intimate stories from the letters, which belong to a sphere in which public authorities are of little concern, are narrated by the artist and delivered to audiences at the exhibition space in the form of radio broadcasting. This encounter of the two narratives emerging from opposite spheres delivers a message from the artist, who attempts to reassess the present world as well as herself to right here in Anyang