in the room series
I thought of a room as a box from which a story vibrates, and I began to think about the constant occupants of rooms. in the room focused on captives (the tortured), an actress on stand-by for her secret lover, a dog, a radio host, a traveler in a city, and so forth—all as the room occupants (and vibrators of the hidden boxes). I knew that, in a breeding season, male humpback whales of one population sing the same song, but that each time this song is sung, it varies through imitation and improvisation. I thought of both whale song performances, and the stories told within them, as versions of variations. Plain phenomena are not more exciting than they are, but they are often recounted as otherwise through exaggeration, deletion, intonation and rhythm, texture of voice and the usage of time—emerging as fairy tales, myths, magic, lies, propaganda, history, or sometimes fact. Most of the songs from in the room will be published separately as album by dogr (David) called In Korean Wilds and Villages. In this form, I recognize that the authorship of these stories is conferred to another medium, another language, another culture, and another man.
in the room 1
Das Arts, Amsterdam.
This was a in a black box, and was a private performance in front of invited friends. I used the audio track of the torture scene and the raid scene from Battle of Algiers (1966, G. Pontecorvo) in the video screening chapter of the performance. Thus violence was implicated, but the performance was mostly about the structure itself without having any reference point other than an idea of two people occupying one room. The performance was divided into several chapters, each of which was visually demarcated by the following successive images: brain, window, floor plan, and a diagram of an ancient city.
in the room 2
Huis aan de Werf, Utrecht.
This performance featured elaborate light design. It was in the context of a theater festival. David was the only live performer in the performance. The video that ran throughout the performance was projected onto a slanted ramp-like screen that was built as part of the set, along with other objects, including a bucket-like container with a hanging camera strung from above. There was live music and action performed by David; and the performance told the story of an actress who had an affair with the president. I was inspired by the difference between PAL and NTSC video formats and the various modes of archiving stories, from historical methods, to rumors, to deletion. This performance becomes the predecessor for the video From the commanding heights…
in the room 3
David was invited to do a concert as part of Jan Werner's programming of the concert series at STEIM. I used in the room 1 as the basic structure of in the room 3. Dog Video was created and was shown in place of the video shown in in the room 1. There were two new elements at the end: 1. David teaching Byungjun a song that he did not know; 2. a ritual where two performers (David and I) become part of the stage in the cacophony of sounds. Byungjun replaced the performers at the end. A new song, "forgotten gesture, additional act" replaced the lullaby music used in the beginning of in the room 1. in the room 3, because of its relative simplicity in terms of execution, has been restaged several times afterwards, in 2008 at the Images Festival, Toronto, and in 2009 at the New Museum, New York, as part of Performa. The stage and the performance became more elaborate each time the piece was restaged. Byungjun's role became more important, especially due to the fact that he sang a Korean folk song from the 80’s at the end of the last version of the performance. In another form, after this last version of in the room 3, in the room series also became a commissioned radio art broadcast (on Bayerischer Rundfunk) and album collaboration on Intermedium Records, München, between dogr and me, called One from In the Room: dog I knew. Various live recordings from in the room 1 and in the room 3 outlined this album alongside some new elements.
in the room 4
I was invited by Gregg Smith to his residency, Very Real Time, in Cape Town. I led a workshop with 15-year-old students from various school. I asked them to tell horror stories of their own or urban myths that they knew. I worked with three seamstresses whom I directed to make garments loosely based on the students’ stories and my ideas. On the last day of the workshop, we performed and filmed the students’ stories. I made a private performance for about five people at the Rijksakademie based on this video. I created a video called This is the scene. I only showed this video publicly within the performance pushing against the air, part of in the room 5. This is the scene was later inserted into the video pushing against the air (video).
in the room 5
in the room 5 consists of three parts:
1. From the commanding heights… (video)
2. From the commanding heights… (book)
3. pushing against the air (performance)
pushing against the air (performance) was based on a conversation between three performers (David, Byungjun, and me). The conversation was edited into a script, and we rehearsed the whole performance numerous times; we performed three times in front of the public, once in De Appel, Amsterdam, and twice in Project Arts Centre, Dublin.
pushing against the air (performance) had the following text in the exhibition space: “It is officially considered a major error in radio broadcasting when there is even five seconds of silence on air.” This concert with talks and images is inspired by Byungjun’s radio show, World Music Journal, broadcast nationwide in Korea from 2004 to 2005.
From the commanding heights… was based on in the room 2. The ellipsis in the title stands for the rest of the text inspired by Paul Virilio's text from his book War and Cinema:
FROM THE COMMANDING HEIGHTS OF
THE EARLIEST NATURAL FORTIFICATION
TO THE ARCHITECTONIC INNOVATIONS
OF THE WATCH TOWER
THE DEVELOPMENT OF OBSERVATION BALLOONS
THERE HAS BEEN NO END
TO THE ENLARGEMENT
OF FIELD OF PERCEPTION
WHETHER I KNOW YOU
HOW YOU APPEAR
TO THE OBJECTIVE EYE
I stopped numbering in the room series.
Summer Days in Keijo—written in 1937 is the last video from the series.>
In Korean Wilds and Villages is an album by dogr. Most of the songs in the album originated from our collaboration on in the room series. The songs are, however, produced and edited again by David and Andi Toma; and the album was released by Sonig Records.
I wrote “On my breathing stars rise and set” as a parallel text to in the room series based on the book version of From the commanding heights… from in the room 5.
Drawing Video is derived from the three performances of pushing against the air. It comprises the same content of telling scary stories on three different dates.
pushing against the air (video) is from my camera's point of view in the performance, which is not the whole scene presented to the live audience. pushing against the air (video) is a fragment. I have shown Pushing against the air (video) once in the exhibition, Pieces from 'in the room', at Wilkinson Gallery in 2009.
I worked on various installation versions of in the room series at Witte de With, Rotterdam; Wilkinson Gallery, London; Haus der Kunst, München; Queens Museum of Art, New York, USA; and The Tanks at Tate Modern, London, UK.