The past as the construction of a snapshot

Greg Hooper: Yeondoo Jung, MAAP Space

Yeondoo Jung, Documentary Nostalgia, video still, 2007

Yeondoo Jung, Documentary Nostalgia, video still, 2007

Two films from Korean artist Yeondoo Jung. Both take us through the construction of a naturalistic scene showing how the illusion is created with photorealistic backdrops and crafty props. Twilight Seoul is 8 minutes with Yeondoo and collaborator Luka Fineisen chatting away in the studio as they mound up blocks of wood, squashed cardboard boxes, bits of fluff, a woolly cap and a stuffed cuddly tiger. They stop the chat, a backdrop is pulled across, the lights go dim and the shadows deepen between the piles of junk. Fog rolls across the floor, a lonely bird cries out in the silence and, like a miracle, a jumble of absolute crap becomes Sacred Mountains in the Twilight.

The slowly fascinating documentary Nostalgia is an 84-minute single take of the construction of various scenes from Yeondoo’s memory. Opens on a bare room, floral wallpaper, classic perspective shot. Man in neat orange coveralls comes in and hangs a painting, goes back out, comes back in with a table, a rug, a vase and flowers. Sticks a couple of power points on the wall, plugs in a lamp, turns it on—even though it is a fake. Someone else comes in, turns off the lights, goes out, things start shaking, the whole scene starts to move and we see a bunch of guys in orange roll the room away on a trolley to reveal….

Yeondoo Jung, Documentary Nostalgia, video still, 2007

Yeondoo Jung, Documentary Nostalgia, video still, 2007

A studio set up like a classic street scene with shops and a bus stop. The orange guys lug in a carpet and roll out an instant bitumen road with white dashes down the middle. A minivan is pushed in and a man and a woman step out, go wait at the bus stop. Smart casuals. It starts to rain and a man holding a briefcase over his head for protection runs to the bus stop and…everything freezes into a photo—Urban Street in the Rain. This is the format—activity and construction of various set pieces that from time to time freeze into a photo op. The past as the construction of a snapshot.

The more or less continual transformation of scenes continues—now it is a rural scene with real bird on tree branch but fake bouncy eggs in the nest. Fake grass and a wooden fence. Lead in a cow who munches feed from a wooden trough and is not at all keen to shuffle off stage and leave that food behind when her time is up. Trees are carried on and there’s a sun-dappled forest, then even more trees for a thicker forest in moonlight. Finally a panoramic sunset backdrop is wheeled in and thick fog spills over the ground. A rocky peak pushes up through the fog and a mountaineer, rope coiled over his shoulder, clambers to the top and peers into the distance. He poses as the lonely Hero from Caspar David Friedrich’s “Wanderer above the Sea of Fog.” Story and recollection have meshed into memories held still for the perfect photo. Cut! And roll credits.

Yeondoo Jung, MAAP Space, Brisbane, 27 Sept-8 Nov; http://www.maap.org.au/projects/maap-space/

RealTime issue #117 Oct-Nov 2013 pg. web

© Greg Hooper; for permission to reproduce apply to realtime@realtimearts.net

6 November 2013