Born in Jamsil in 1983, Jung Ji-hyun is an “apartment kid” born and raised in an apartment. Along with other apartment kids who came of age in the early 2000s, Jung witnessed the world of his youth destroyed by renovation projects as Seoul increasingly gentrified.
The shock of seeing his environment drastically change developed into an interest in apartments and redevelopment. Jung explained: “I watched from a distance as the house my family and I had lived in for years was demolished. The exterior went first, then the living room and kitchen, then the rooms. I felt like the living organism that had sheltered my family was turned inside out and [rendered] lifeless.” For his work “Demolition Site,” Jung painted one room building to be torn down in bright red. Then, as the building was knocked down, Jung photographed the moment the red was visible and the skeleton of the building was revealed. The red peeking out from the broken building results in a permanent yet instantaneous moment and instills a familiar yet strange sensation. Jung stated: “The process of finding the red room, which represents a trace of an individual’s life, recovers and redefines the city as a place of life and living.”
His 2015 project, “Reconstruction Site,” took place at the redevelopment site of the Gaepo Jugong Apartment Complex. His previous works emphasized the individual space as a room, but “Reconstruction Site” used the entire floor of each apartment complex. Jung believes that redevelopment “is a process when individuals become a group,” as each individual owned a house but with redevelopment discussions, the individuals are united as one. Likewise, the red rooms of a floor were each separate places but when the walls came down, they came together as one in red waves, eventually receding into the dust. Through his works, Jung chronicles the changes that this city undergoes and reveals the problems behind blind redevelopment.
The Incheon Gaejong-dong Lu1 City Redevelopment Project, which serves as the backdrop for “Demolition Site,” was scheduled to be finished by 2013, but is yet to be completed due to the economic recession. The ground where old buildings were demolished still stands deserted, and the invisible red rooms of Jung’s works linger outside the frame.
More Seoul eye
If writers reveal a part of themselves in their characters, perhaps that’s what photographers do when they take photos of others. Twenty-four years ago, the then-graduate student Koo Sung-soo started to photograph Seoulites. Years later it seems, he did more than that: He managed to unravel a part of himself and maybe, capture the ever-weary nature of humanity.
It’s never a pleasant task to serve as the hands and feet of a person in need, especially if he or she is a full-grown adult. In spite of this fact, artist Ji Yeo posted an ad on multiple plastic surgery community sites. She reached out to women who’d just had plastic surgery and, out of her own pocket, paid for their food and accommodations.
When Happy Together (1997), Wong Kar-wai’s film about a turbulent romance, was playing in Seoul theaters, photographer Kim Ok-sun was exhibiting her photo series “Happy Together” (2002) at an art gallery in Jongno. In 2002, the local papers had a lot to say about interracial marriages in Korea and Kim, who married her German husband in 1994, was there to observe it all.
There’s an artificial quality to Jung Yeon-doo’s work that you can’t quite figure out. Despite the ever-so-slightly awkward smiles and staged poses, the people in these photos aren’t hired models. These are real families that live in the same apartment complex.
Pyongyang is poverty-stricken and repressed, but here in Seoul, people are quite stylish and happy with an awesome selection of food to choose from. Stereotypical as it is, this is the most general image that many have of the North and South. Unlike the South Korean locals who make these claims without experiencing the North, German architect and photographer Dieter Leistner, who has been to both countries, argues that the conjured image is a cliché.