By Jin Young Song
SLANTED MEMORIAL, CREATING NATION’S MEMORY
;Memorial and Housing at DMZ(Demilitarized Zone) for Separated Families from Korean War
City and architecture is an embodiment of our culture and collective memory. Understanding the memorial practice as building an object or space for the purpose of keeping particular human deed or destinies, preservation of domestic architecture must be the most truthful memorial practice. However, why we see new constructions designed to remember the past are: first, for the society’s redemptory function, second, for the manipulation of public perception toward action or inaction(amnesia). Slanted Memorial suggests to build housing for separated families at DMZ to suggest a new form of memorial, under the critique of current memorial practice, and eventually ask public action beyond the current memorial’s mere stimulating and sensational expression.
After the Korean war of 1950-53, causing 1.2 million deaths and millions of separated families, both sides agreed to establish a buffer zone dividing the two sides. The war is not officially over and more than seventy thousand separated families from South Korea are still missing their families in North. For the last 60 years behind the DMZ, each side developed its own way for remembering the past, never converging to support a healthy memory for the reunification of Korea.
Their memory-works testifies myths in memorial practice. In North Korea, the memorial is considered as an instance of memory, enshrouded with inviolable sacredness. They work as political propaganda actively engaging and manipulating the current population. However, history proves we have selectively destructed and constructed it conditioned by society and regime. The stone never embodies memory and the site is amnesiac. The question is what we will overlay on it, to construct our current memory. In South Korea, memorials have been used as a redemptory tool. monuments at unknown highway stations represent our intentional amnesia disconnected from our daily life. They build objects to forget the past. Lastly, applying to both opposite sides, how do we give form to a memory that we do not remember. Admitting the incapacity to recall events we never experienced directly, how do we judge the meaning of an artist’s memory?
Therefore, first, memorial design must have a specific objective. Slanted Memorial suggests to overlay primitive memory-work: Separated families, the living and purest original form of memory into the amnesiac site: DMZ. Secondly, understanding the memorial as a mechanism of mnemonic device linking the object and the act of commemorating, the linkage between art value and commemorative value must be defined. Slanted Memorial does not attempt to memorialize the building to contain the memory. Instead it memorializes the living, separated families, in the original and uncorrupted form. The witnesses invited to this site from both North and South are the repository of the memory. Therefore, sensation becomes the key linkage between art and commemorative value. A sense of heaviness, slanted-ness and opening to east sun for reflection from both water and glass becomes the device to link their views of the housing and remembering the event.
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