Three in the Morning
To anyone entering a Korean house – whether it’s a restaurant, temple or a private home – being greeted by scattered shoes is hardly a surprise. These shoes signal a threshold between exterior and interior space – a threshold its owners have crossed.
Thus, Sung’s arrangement in the entrance hall of the Busan Museum of Art has a familiar look about it. And yet, the shoes are worn out; they are worker’s heavy boots, decorated with the colorful paper flowers so often used in mourning ceremonies or in popular festivals like the Madang Nori, for example.
The decorations emerged from a collaboration between the artist and workers at Hanjin Heavy Industries Yeongdo shipyard in Busan. The oldest shipyard in Korea, it dates back to 1937. Massive layoffs led to month-long strikes in 2011. One particularly memorable example was Kim Jin-Suk’s 225-day occupation of a giant crane – yet another risky political performance by a single individual in Korea’s recent history.
Sung met with the workers, asked them to contribute their shoes, and organized the collective flower-making. Naturally, sitting together in a big group inspired all kinds of chat. Stories were revealed and shared; tales told that were sad, bitter or funny. Though not immediately accessible to the viewer, those stories are an integral part of the work. They convey a spirit.