installationacoustic foam, speakers, poster
The longest ongoing protest in the world is happening in Seoul, in front of the Japanese embassy since January 1992. There, every Wednesday, the so called comfort women assemble, women and girls forced into sexual slavery by the Imperial Japanese Army in occupied territories before and during World War II. Comfort women (jap. ianfu 慰安婦), is a euphemism for prostitute. They assemble to claim justice, an official excuse and financial compensations from the Japanese government.
When Uikyung Lee attended one of these protests in November 2018, he immediately perceived the extremely tense and politicized atmosphere of this place, due to the presence of police, the protesters and the striking non-reaction of anyone from the embassy, that simply ignored the demonstration. He did a field recording, trying to capture the typical sounds of this place, guided by his own listening. The embassy was located in the middle of the city, surrounded by skyscrapers of large companies. Therefore, the sounds were extremely everyday-like: footsteps, someone calling someone, protesters and passers-by talking, cars and so on. In this context, what seemed to be the most striking sonic element was the silence emitted by the Japanese embassy. An absence of a voice and listening, that transformed all the other sounds into expressions of a silent violence. A violence of not-listening and non-reaction.
A poster with notes, written during the recording is hanged next to the installation. The foam used in the installation is usually used to dampen the acoustics of recording studios. Speakers, playing back the field recording and a quiet single sine tone are inserted into the foam. The sine tone functions as a marker of both a dominant frequency within the recording as well as Uikyung Lees non-neutral position as a listener and performer. We tried to combine a material that actively absorbs sound and dampens sonic reflections, creating a more quiet gallery space with sounds that are embedded into a situation that is equally marked by a form of production of silence and a certain lack of (political) resonance.
In this place, where I am recording, three silences exist.
A silence of a speaker, who is present only as her name is inscribed into this place, a silence of a listener, who has closed their doors and windows and a silence of others, who neither speak nor listen, but continually produce sounds, which are streaming within and across the space, without border or direction.
The speaker doesn't really sound, but speaks with her history. The listener doesn't sound, but performs silence. The others do sound, but not intentionally, rather passive, they don’t listen.
Silence produces a form for us to recognize the unrecognized reality between what we hear and what we listen to. It opens our auditory sense, while narrowing down a subject of listening.
In this place, only silence is composed. This silence closes the open space, but opens our perception about the reality of its site and re-renders it as a field of discord.
What I'm doing with my recorder is a performance, in which I'm contemplating on the meaning of this disagreement, listening to the silence of the protagonists from this place as well as to my own.
These sentences are extracted from the memo, which was written by Ui-Kyung Lee, while he was doing a field recording on November 12, 2018 in front of the Japanese embassy in Seoul.