Citizen’s Forest draws on two works for which the artist has a particular fondness: The Lemures, an incomplete painting by Korean artist Oh Yoon (1946–1986), and Colossal Roots, a poem by Korean poet Kim Soo-Young (1921–1968).
The Lemures (1984) is a panoramic sketch depicting a procession of victims from major events in modern Korean history, including the Donghak Peasant Revolution, the Korean War, and the Gwangju Uprising. Colossal Roots (1974) is a delightfully intellectual text taking into account the multiple layers of unconditional acceptance of segmented “tradition” while subverting the Orientalist perspective. Citizen’s Forest serves as a contemporary platform conjuring the interests shared by these works with regard to historical trauma and ‘Asian Gothic’ imagination.
Formally derived from shan-shui (landscape) painting mounted on scrolls or from haunted houses in amusement parks, this work invites the audience to walk along a dark corridor while ghosts of the forest appear as video and sound. Without having the ghosts act out dramatic situations, the work testifies to a certain “ghostness” in the conventional actions performed by characters. The ghosts or citizens in Citizen’s Forest, be they a metaphorical allusion to history or tradition, act as if they are fully aware of the contemporary apathy to their existence.