MOON Kyungwon

When I get to feeling that I just want to drop everything I’m doing and quit, there’s a park at the end of my thoughts. That’s where I learn how to look at myself calmly and catch my breath. This is a very special time I spend in a state of mind where I feel as if a wind is washing over me as the subtly changing colors and fragrances of the seasons separate me from the unpleasant taste of reality. It also affords me the chance to be introspective. And then, quite suddenly, I feel a great sense of pride about everything. In this same vein, a park is a unique place in our everyday lives that gives back to us the forgotten meaning of life. Memories of time, passing ever so slowly, bring together all the worries and fatigue of a busy life that is unquestionably multi-layered. That’s when silence fills my heart.

Parks reflect both human civilization as a whole and the spirit of the times. They not only console our sad yearning for nature, but play a pivotal role in healing much of the damage wrought upon humanity. On top of putting life into perspective, parks are a world of enlightenment for people today who live in manufactured urban centers made up of artificial nature. In addition, parks have been built for political purposes, topographical reasons, and sometimes even as tributes to a person or people. Although parks beg questions about the present, they always seem to find their answers in the past as they provide insight into the future.

On a fundamental level, the word “park” includes the concept of “publicness.” Parks exist as a point of compromise by bridging the gap that exists between an ideal world and reality. They represent a horizontal space that serves as a haven to everyone. Parks reflect the meaning of “publicness” and provide a view of a utopian world formed by individuals. That being said, Promise Park offers quite a different meaning than other universal characteristics of a park. In fact, Promise Park was established on the ruins of an area replete with evidence of past errors and transgressions that have been repeated throughout history, hiding none of our past failures in any way. On the contrary, the park clearly reveals all of this and questions the world we pine for, while also giving us yet another perspective to view the world. Today, people come here to think about the lessons this rare piece of land provides. At the same time, this tract of land has redefined the meaning of publicness as a platform offering a new start. Furthermore, Promise Park explores a new type of coexistence, one bringing together human beings, nature, an urban center (technology), and a community. Essentially, the park represents the coexistence veiled in the process of a social structure that has collapsed and is now being reestablished. The pieces of history of ruins scattered here and there are gathered to make an imaginary park.

When we look into the elements and designs which parks have been based on historically, it’s evident that there’s a certain pattern that emerges. This pattern doesn’t simply imply a visual beauty or formativeness. Instead, it reflects the very ideal world we have come to expect, and follows learned rules that have evolved throughout human history. The common sense of aesthetics that is taken from the environment, society, and education is reflected in all public places, everywhere, with the pattern then maintained and multiplied. Seen from a historical/ emotional perspective, human history has been dotted with constant attempts and failures in establishing a utopia. Individuals, societies, countries ─ even the world as a whole ─ have made continuous attempts to achieve this goal, all of which have disappeared into a history of collapses and falls, and all the while leaving behind ruins as evidence of these efforts in every corner of our lives. Thus, ruins are nothing but the evidence and historical pattern of mistakes that human beings have made time and again over the centuries. Rather than serving as visual patterns, they are actually existential patterns that shed light on our desires and all that we’ve forgotten.

And yet we’re not accustomed to looking at ruins. For the most part they’re neglected or collectively hidden. Many parks that have been established on top of ruins to date have been created anew upon them only after any and all traces of the ruins have been erased; the pain and shame that are still connected with the present are merely covered with something else. This sense of aesthetics and the accompanying rules that we’ve learned about and made common sense of quietly hide these lessons from the ruins and instead offer up landscapes of our forgotten past. Promise Park, however, has not erased the memories and scars that are inherent in its ruins. On the contrary, the park reveals these very same things, thus deviating from the standardized political pattern of the usual park. Furthermore, the environmental and cultural conditions in the ruins of Promise Park break from a fixed place on their way to becoming an organic area where constant movement and production can be seen. In the end, Promise Park continues its function as a point where frequent political and social conflicts arise and come into harmony with one another, while also becoming a space to induce any number of unknown possibilities.

Promise Park is not an alternative model to other parks. Rather, the concept behind it is not about creating a physical park, but about generating a critical view of the embodied political and aesthetic pattern, making people think on a deeper level, and providing a meeting place, getting people to ask themselves common questions, and creating somewhere that inspires solidarity. This is not the final destination of the project but the point of departure, a platform that enables another form of solidarity while sharing a sense of awareness.

MOON Kyungwon

MOON received a M.F.A in Art from the Califormia institute of the Arts. She has focused on two projects, PROMISE PARKwith YCAM (Yamaguchi Center for Arts and Media), and News from Nowhere with JEON Joonho. Her solo exhibitions include PROMISE PARK at YCAM (2015, 2014), News from Nowhere at Migros Museum in Zurich (2015), The Ways of Folding Space and Flying at the Korean Pavilion of the Venice Biennale (2015), and News from Nowhere at SAIC in Chicago (2013). She has also been a part of several group shows,including Montreal Biennale (2016), Fukuoka Triennale (2014), Singapore Biennale (2013), Homework6 (2013), Gwangju Biennale (2012), and documenta13 (2012). She works at College of Art & Design, Ewha Womans University as a professor.