30 July 2012
Balancing (on) Peace
After 9/11 the US government reconfigured its global military strategy to tackle terrorism and global power shifts in Asia where China had risen as a new economic and military super power. To put pressure on China the US inevitably enhanced the capability and flexibility of American troops in neighbouring South Korea.
It is assumed that peace is assured by balancing the potentially destructive power between oppositions. So they build up weapons competitively to match the other. It may prevent hostility but the tension in the region increases. By keeping the balance the increased potential devastation remains only as potential. Peace, like a wirewalker, walks along a taut tension inbetween the gigantic structures. The higher they are the bigger the fatality or fall.
Balancing on a Stone
In 2004, a plan was announced to close down the US army bases scattered near the North and South Korean border and the capital Seoul, and to expand Camp Humphreys on the west coast directly facing China. Many people living in agricultural villages and lands in the nearby area were forced to move out to make way for new military facilities. In May 2006, 13,000 riot police and 3000 troops were deployed against 700 villagers and activists. In the clash 150 were injured and almost 350 arrested. Consequently, after a 3-year-long gruelling resistance, the protesters surrendered their livelihoods to the force. For the South Korean and US government it was a reasonable expense for keeping peace in the Asia-Pacific region.
One of the evacuees took a small stone from the land as a memento of his hometown as he left; later he asked the artist Solmoon to look after it. Solmoon conceived a performance piece 'Nostalgia' with the stone. He stands on the stone, which is only as big as his foot: because of the weight of his body, the small stone wobbles and in turn it shakes the balance of his body.
When the stone was embedded in the earth in its original environment, with the support of the soil, we could easily stand on it. It was a part of the earth to be gradually grounded to sands and support other stones and bodies. Now the land where the stone came from has become a military base covered with tarmac. Nothing will grow or settle again on that land but the potential violence that is believed to defend peace.
Currently on Jeju Island off the south coast of Korea a new naval base with the capacity to harbour US battleships is under construction regardless of a 5-year-long protest.
Solmoon is a performance artist, choreographer, actor and writer. He inherited Bong-san-tal-chum, a traditional Korean mask performance form originally from a region in North Korea. He incorporates the traditional forms in his own creative practices to find their legitimacy within the current social, political and cultural frame.