Poetics on the Island   뭍 [mut]

Imaginative archive consisting of texts, images, conversations with audience. 


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"The past is never there waiting to be discovered for exactly what it is. History always constitutes the relation between a present and its past." (John Berger)


Jibja( 집자, 集字), mostly performed within traditional calligraphic circles of East Asia, refers to the practice of collecting, studying and compiling old writings into a new single text similar to a collage. It is the act of archiving history as well as re-contextualizing its meaning within present time and space. Therefore, a Jibja work presents a tribute to the orginal work as well as a reflection and manifestation of psychological, cultural and societal truths. In fact, scholars are able to gain a considerable amount of knowledge about ancient Korean art through Jibja works, especially when the original work is not available. Within the research process, several Jibja works are collected and compared to draw conclusions on the quality and status of the original work as well as the interpretation by the people who compiled the new works. 

Poetics on the Island was an imaginative archive inspired by the aforementioned Jibja tradition. It was realized as a conversational performance using collected stories to explore the role of imagination in the process writing history. What is considered true or false in history? Can we think about extended possibilities of history and truth by applying the idea of imagination?

The installation part consisted of 500 collected fantastical stories (myths, legends, tales) around the ocean and the mermaid from all over the world. Despite the enormous number of stories, overlapping plots and similar depictions of the water creatures found in many different countries, these stories are considered ahistorical documents and therefore not true to many people.

Visitors were invited to engage with me in conversations using images and text excerpts from these stories. In addition, we practiced performative utterances by reading out loud poems and words (see image above; performative utterances in the philosophy of language claims the performative power of words as they not only describe a given reality but change the reality they are describing). 

Activated by our conversations and the audience's interactions with the stories,  Poetics on the Island finally became a performative vessel with different, at times contesting, thoughts on how we comprehend 'history' and 'truth'. As we were reading stories about mermaids who tried to connect with humans who were so different to them, we as humans had gathered in the city of Seoul to connect with each other using their stories. 

The remain of Poetics on the Island was on view as a retaining and disappearing performative archive installation featuring the empty island and a stack of paper that hold the stories and experiences shared. Poetics on the Island took place at Corner Art Space, Seoul, Korea. 




Photo: Nara Shin (Corner Art Space)