Monument 300-Chasing Watermarks

Site of the Waterworks Center in Cheorwon-gun, Gangwon-do
December 18, 2014
Cine Radio Bus DJ Minouk Lim & Sunghoon Han
Music Jang Young Gyu
Sound Engineering Younghoon Oh
Camera Soongyung Kwon
Photography Taekyong Jung
Curated by Samuso for DMZ Peace Project

Monument300 – Chasing Watermarks is an on-going project searching for the 300 people who perished from the site of Waterworks Center in Cheorwon. Located at Sayo-ri, Cheorwon-eup, Cheorwon-gun, Gangwon-do, the Waterworks Center was the first water supply facility constructed in Gangwon-do in 1936 during the Japanese colonial period. It was designated as the Registered Cultural Heritage No.160 in 2005. Remains of water reserve tanks and water towers still can be found on site. The sign standing at the entrance reads “After Korea became independent, the area was ruled by the communist North and witnessed the Korean War. And here, about 300 people accused of being pro-Japaneses and anti-communists were shot or drowned alive inside the water tanks.” When Minouk Lim faced this peculiar description represented only by the number 300, she became curious of what had actually happened. She began searching for the traces left behind by the people suggested by this number with sociologist Sunghoon Han (Research Professor, Institute for History and Space Studies at Yonsei University). Yet it was impossible to access any relevant references in any forms. Moreover, the Waterworks Center was auctioned off and became a private property few years ago. And it became involved in lawsuits and disputes which made it even more difficult for an individual to physically approach the premises. Perhaps the Monument300 – Chasing Watermarks project may be the last visit to the location. How did the people who only exist as a number on the signage in front of the site die and disappear away like flowing water? The project thus starts from imagining their traces and their names that have been forgotten by the community and that are soon to be concealed eternally after privatization of the land. It is a journey searching for the identity of the place where the conventional description of ‘tragic scene of history’ and the paradoxical definition of ‘security tourist site’ cross their paths.

The performance, which takes place on December 18, 2014, announces the embark of this journey. In the bus traveling from Seoul to Cheorwon’s Waterworks site, passengers will together listen to the Cine Radio, a sound collage of testimonies and music in various genres. Monument300 – Chasing Watermarks assumes the 300 who disappeared from the site did not died but only drifted downstream and survived in somewhere. And like a live radio show with audiences present at the studio, the Cine Radio shares conversations about their whereabouts. The sound source of the Cine Radio is a mixture of documentary and fictional factors, and the bus heading towards Cheorwon becomes the scene of a road movie.

When the bus finally arrives at Cheorwon Waterworks site, passengers will find a landscape hiding transparent objects that are monuments of some sort. They have to make each step with caution as if they are dodging “landmines.” They will have to use hand lanterns to find those hidden monuments. The monuments have to be discovered first to be preserved. Whoever finds one informs the artist of the number written on the object and participates in the “documentation of future information.” The objects were inspired by the transparent “digital watermarks.” For instance, paper money has a portrait drawn on it that is only visible when held in the light, and this image is a watermark. Watermark is hidden because it is transparent and reacts to light. Accordingly it also refers to the technology of inserting and managing classified information like copyrights while the information inserted into the watermark is stored in a form that cannot be easily reproduced. However, as there are yet no information that can be inserted into the watermarks hidden in the site of Waterworks Center, they become monuments that cannot commemorate, a fragile and transparent beings looking for the information to be found in the future and its documentations. Resembling wings soaked in water, the 300 “monumental landmines” are frail and transforms the place they reside into a sensitive one.

If more than 300 visitors discover the objects simultaneously and shine the light on them at the same time, the performance and the monuments will finally become whole. But if not done simultaneously, the monuments will remain as scattered truths and impossible markers that can never stand completely. The unseen will reveal its meaning and identity gradually through the eyes and the footsteps.