Mirage
Song Sanghee , Woo Hyesoo (Curator, Samsung Museum Leeum)
2006

Woo: You are talking mostly about power such as the patriarchal system of Korean society and history, which still dominates our psyche. You seem to have always been questioning the fixed idea of such power, and trying to show it just as it is by looking into it, exposing it and even making scars on it. What messages do you intend to deliver through the Monument of King Gwanggaeto the Great at this exhibition?


The Monument of King Gwanggaeto the Great, Jian China

Song: Looking back, most the pictures that appeared on the covers of all history textbooks in primary, middle, and high schools were of the monument to King Gwanggaeto the Great. When I was little, I thought the monument looked like my thumb. By the way, this stone, which resembles my thumb, was such a great stone. It seemed to me that the starting point of everything of Korea was this very ‘stone’. Everybody seemed to be so determined, clamoring out ‘….We have to prove something!’ If there had not been this the monument to King Gwanggaeto the Great, we would have to create a fake monument, or a false image, or even fabricate something. It was as if it were the ‘eyes of surveillance’ and the ‘father of our souls’ at the same time. This is collective obsession due to the male line. At this very point arises the viewpoint to ‘separate’ myself: I need to discuss ‘eyes for surveillance,’ ‘father of our souls’ and ‘obsession’ in depth…
Thinking about the Goguryeo Kingdom about 1,800 years ago, the people would have had their own pattern of living on a vast plain, which looked like a vast sea. In such an area, did the concept of a national border exist? The concept of the modern nation did not fully coalesce until the twentieth century. We throw our concept of the modern nation onto ancient times, and the desire of people in modern society today was reflected into ancient times without the help of any medium… Such political intention is related to the system of power and control. This is still on-going, and can be proved by the monuments to King Gwanggaeto the Great erected here and there. Are these monuments national ideology and an aspect of phallicism? This is a common illusion. It is a huge illusion like a ghost wandering without dying. I wanted to show the illusion as it is with the use of vinyl and transparent tape.

Woo: The interpretations of the monuments to King Gwanggaeto the Great by countries with some relation thereto differ. Despite the huge differences in interpretation and positions, isn’t it true that these differences all arose from male-dominated hegemony and expansionism in all the countries concerned including Korea?

Song: Debates over the history of Goguryeo sparked by China’s Northeastern Project show us a mechanism under which the collective memory about the past is used for political purposes. This mechanism operates for political purposes to strengthen national identity and to maintain national power. Although debates are tense with some claiming that the history of Goguryeo is the history of China and others that the history of Goguryeo is the history of Korea, the logic for the underlying concepts reinforced by nationalism are all the same in the countries concerned. We should question them and deconstruct them. Most importantly, we should thoroughly inquire into what position I/woman, as a subject of consciousness, is situated in the group, that is, the collective identity of the so-called ‘nation’ and the consensus feeling of ‘we are the one’, which is so strongly emphasized in our society.
When all is said and done, the monument to King Gwanggaeto the Great is a living ghost of nationalism, and this very ‘nationalism’ is a desire for strong phallicism.

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 The Monument of King Gwanggaeto the   great Jian china