Nicolas de Oliveira and Nicola Oxley
“Commemoration is an active process, and often a contentious one. We remember individually, out of grief and need. We remember as a society, with a political agenda — we reach into the past for foundation myths of our tribe, our nation, and found them on glory, or found them on grievance, but we seldom found them on cold facts. Nations are built on wishful versions of their origins. […] The facts have less traction, less influence on what we are and what we do, than the self-built fictions.” — Hilary Mantel
We mark important past events with elaborate rituals, lay memorial stones to those who have passed, and erect monuments to celebrate great deeds in order to maintain their remembrance in the present. These monumental material acts of historical recollection memorialise the collective past through its endings. How shall we then celebrate our own lived time, the endurance of each moment, and all that continues to dwell in it?
The project Freedom Village (2017) by Korean artists MOON & JEON is framed by the ongoing conflict between North and South Korea; the tension is bolstered by the periodic transgressions and bellicose rhetoric of the Northern Kim “dynasty” over the decades since partition in the years following the second world war, when the country’s internal tensions were stoked by the support of the Soviet Union and the United States. Today’s Korean altercation — centered on the North’s mooted use of its nuclear capability — has added Chinese and Japanese strategic and geopolitical interests into the volatile mix in the Far East. The Korean War and its prolonged aftermath remains a deeply traumatic series of events in the region with an enormous toll of military and civilian casualties, followed by displacement and exile of the divided country’s inhabitants. The academic Edward Said wrote:
“Exile is strangely compelling to think about but terrible to experience. It is the unhealable rift forced between the human being and the native place, between the self and its true home: its essential sadness can never be surmounted. The achievements of exile are permanently undermined by the loss of something left behind forever.”
Daeseong-dong, commonly known as Freedom Village, is the Southern of two settlements in the demilitarised zone, a thin strip of land separating the two countries at the 38th parallel. Founded after the Korean war in the 1950s, Freedom Village is a hermetic, yet prosperous farming community whose lives are intensively subsidised and controlled by the state; strict curfews for the inhabitants continue in place, visitors are generally denied access, and the houses are kept in their original configurations. Flora and fauna have also flourished across the demilitarised zone, since it is largely empty of people. Indeed, in many ways, life remains arrested in time. Its Northern counterpart, Gijong-dong, or Peace Village, functions as a “Potemkin Village” composed of uninhabited shell-dwellings, from which loud daily broadcasts on the virtues of the Communist country are directed at their Southern neighbours.
It would be a bold undertaking to sidestep the pressures of current affairs which designate the Korean situation a particular conflict that exercises our collective consciousness today, but this is essentially what the artists intend. The news of the actual situation is constantly updated through the media networks that subject the facts and fictions to perpetual analysis. The contrasting narratives are therefore well established in the minds of the public. Instead of representing the actual place and adding to the present debate about the geopolitical interests converging on Korea, MOON & JEON stress the metaphoricalnature of their project. The work, especially devised for Frieze Projects and dispersed around the site, brings together a sequence of photographic stills, an arrangement of monitors displaying archival footage, and a large film screening which incorporates a soundtrack. It presents a constant slippage between fact and fiction, underlining the indeterminacy of this binary.
“Or one might say the fictive, the documentary and the cited come together over and over at seams or join together like the rows of teeth on opposing sides of a zipper.” 
The use of lens-based media is especially appropriate in this context. The theorist Esther Leslie, echoing Walter Benjamin, writes that “photography and film, because of their indexicality to the world, reflect it; but in reflecting it, they also construct it as a world of stretched-out temporality and fragmented space, a universe of ‘synthetic realities.’ The optical unconscious assembles an exploratory way of seeing, a microscopic incursion that slices up the intricate configurations of natural and social life.”
After all, history is a process that unfolds through representation; it is shown or told not once, but many times over, and changes with each telling. Here, the employment of a metaphor functions as a universalising tool in which all acts of partition are called up at once — Korea, India, Germany, Palestine, Cyprus, and the Sudan, to name but a few — but without erasing their differences. The role of the metaphor therefore is to give us a frame-within-a-frame sense of the subject, allowing the viewer or reader to perceive it alongside all related concerns, rendering it both specific and universal. Consequently, Freedom Village is at once an actual place, a supposed symbol for democracy, and a metaphor engaged in the artistic project of MOON & JEON.
Such a refraction of positions recalls the technique of “mise-en-abîme,” which originated in heraldry and places images within images. In particular, it finds powerful application within avantgarde cinematography throughout the 20th century; by placing an image or narrative within another, the spectator is presented with an instance of infinite regress, rendering meaning unstable to the point at which it becomes liquefied and able to take on different forms. Meaning is then not enshrined in one fixed location, but becomes cumulative instead as it leaches between porous displays.
In the main film screening of Freedom Village, shot entirely in black and white and shown at a 4:3 aspect ratio— a nod to classic Modernist cinema — we find just such a use of mise-en-abîme. It interweaves footage of a darkened, subterranean laboratory crammed with vintage equipment and occupied by a single individual scientist or technician — with newsreel footage from the Korean War; this is then juxtaposed with official television clips of the village itself as it was constructed in the past, and in its present — slowly decaying — state.
The camera acts as a detached mechanical scanning device as it pans along the laboratory’s banks of monitoring equipment and hovers behind the protagonist as he administers electricity to a rough model punctuated by illuminated stacks or towers of miniature facsimiles of the houses found in the actual village. The filming technique is reminiscent of Bertold Brecht’s “Verfremdungseffekt”(alienation effect), which was employed by the playwright as a means of preventing the audience from identifying with the narrative and characters in the play, thereby challenging the spectators’ ability to see activities in a detached and critical manner.
The use of jumpcuts between footage of entirely different locations, times and provenances culminates in separate images being presented all-at-once, as floating depictions that minimize and adjust to the vintage screens and instruments shown in the film.
The screening is punctuated by a further, recurring tableau, which depicts an individual in a traditional Korean village continuously sweeping the square with semicircular strokes of the broom. Shown from a distance, and later as a close up, this arcane, timeless portrayal of patient labour serves to mark the metronomic passage of time in a place where time is of no consequence. Moreover, the repetitive brushing quite literally wipes away the memory of one picture and replaces it with the next.
“For many, the vast possibilities of digital imagery and global telematics signal the opening of a new historical regime of visuality and of aesthetic experience,” writes art historian Jonathan Crary, adding that technology “is becoming a new master paradigm which is increasingly determining the nature of art, knowledge, politics, morality and community.” Before the advent of telematics our ability to focus rested on single, verifiable events; today, however, we are exposed to a world of infinite and simultaneous images and other outputs. New technologies alter our relationship with the spatio-temporal continuum, and it is precisely this concern that lies at the heart of much of MOON & JEON’s visionary work, as demonstrated by previous projects and exhibitions. A world progressively dominated by technology might be assumed to be driven by crystalline reason, but its immense temporal and territorial challenges simultaneously also promote “‘visionary’ experiences [that] have always been the product of various technical procedures and material practices.” In other words, nothing is “apprehendable in some pure state but is always mediated or incorporated through practices of use, ritual, observation, and assimilation.”
It falls to the arts to reflect upon our experience today and to develop a subjectivity capable of continually renewing and extending its perceptual limits, in order to withstand the habitual and compulsive patterns within an emerging mass culture. In this way, MOON & JEON’s project presents an attempt at resisting linear readings of a momentous and inevitable historical event, instead rendering time itself present to scrutiny.
In the 1930s the philosopher Mikhail Bakhtin developed the concept of the “chronotope,” a term derived from Albert Einstein’s Theory of Relativity, which promoted the “intrinsic connectedness of temporal and spatial relationships.” It serves as a metaphor to express “the inseparability of space and time (time as the fourth dimension of space). Time, as it were, thickens, takes on flesh, becomes artistically visible; likewise, space becomes charged and responsive to the movements of time, plot and history. This intersection of axes and fusion of indicators characterizes the artistic chronotope.”
This oscillation between the scales of here and everywhere is matched by the shifting scales of time that can be said to typify the chronotope. Crucially, its points to the importance of relativity in our experience, since we are required to adopt positions external to those that typify our own beliefs and knowledge:
“If a work of art is only understood in relation to the local and particular, then it will be of narrow artistic or scholarly significance. An art historian or critic (or a viewer in general) must recognise not only his or her own chronotope, but also the unique chronotopes of the artist and object. Only then can one give an object a place in great time.”
Scale — a recurring motif in the work of MOON & JEON — is a thus a means of comparing, juxtaposing and fixing, and it is equally relevant as a spatial or temporal tool. We might read the current border dispute in Korea as a local and momentary episode, narrated by the personal accounts that abound in the media and on the internet, or we might study it as a function of the broad sweep of historical time. Accordingly, historiographer Fernand Braudel, who coined the concept “longue durée” (long duration), advocates an overlapping of different temporal cycles and approaches to history whose convergence might facilitate a deeper historical understanding. He asks:
“Is it possible somehow to convey simultaneously both that conspicuous history which holds our attention by its continual and dramatic changes — and that other, submerged, history, almost silent and always discreet, virtually unsuspected either by its observers or its participants, which is little touched by the obstinate erosion of time?”
The introduction of scale allows our perception to discriminate between different registers of magnitude. When applied as magnification it opens things to close scrutiny, whilst its opposite — miniaturisation invites the viewer to take in all things at once. One of the photographic images presented as part of Freedom Villageshows the flags of North and South Korea. The original picture chronicles the huge, newly erected standard of the South, supplanted by an even taller mast, bearing the unfeasibly large banner of the North. In MOON & JEON’s altered composition, the flags tower above a small conurbation, and the entire scene is contained within a vast stadium. The playful nature of the setting uses scale as an ironic device, gently ridiculing the fears and ambitions of both states. However, this image, which presents a condensed section of the demilitarized zone, also points to scale as a tool of control and surveillance, opening the space to inquiry. What is examined here is not the actual, but the universal since the model or miniature always stands in by representing an elsewhere; it functions, because it labours against dispersal, insisting on presenting the otherhere before our very eyes. Accordingly, the newly created image acts like a diorama, offering a panoramic view over the ossified scene. The glazed cabinets, showcases, vitrines, and glass domes of yesteryear preserve their contents under a vitreous skin, fragile as a the shell of a hen’s egg; they are bubbles — transparent magnification devices — each containing a minute, entirely hermetic universe of artificialia, naturalia, exotica or scientifica, arcane taxonomic emblems of vision itself. But the old conception of the model gives way to a new, and equally controlling iteration. According to the philosopher Peter Sloterdijk content and containment are closely linked in our technological age. He writes:
“…telecommunication has to reenact the all-encompassing. The body of humanity seeks to create a new immune constitution in an electronic medial skin. Because the old all-encompassing and contained structure, the heavenly […] firmament, is irretrievably lost, that which is no longer encompassed and no longer contained, the former contentum, must now create its own satisfaction on artificial continents under artificial skies and domes.”
But containment is not chiefly a spatial problem; progressively, it is dominated by temporal considerations. Old certainties are lost, and once firmly-held beliefs are traded for a new world order with little that is solid enough to hold on to or even destroy. Arguably, such a dissolution was presaged by theorist Zygmunt Bauman who advocates a new state of lightness and liquidity; he suggests that the moment for systemic revolutions had passed as there are no longer any solid buildings to tear down or occupy, a state that further extends to the loosening of the bonds between individual and collective relationships, between individually lived lives and collectivities. He contends that “solids cancel time; for liquids, on the contrary, it is mostly time that matters.” Power, he goes on to say, is now “extraterritorial,” and impervious to being slowed down by “the resistance of space.”
Respectively, the actual Freedom Village, a collection of unremarkable dwellings, is hardly a place of permanence. The space, though closely contested is of little consequence; rather, it represents an idea of place, or indeed the contestation of place by two opposing forces that have played out their gambit over the past six decades. The village itself is largely forgotten, though its symbolic value remains potent, etched into the psyche of a nation. It is precisely this concern with the hold of time — as the fourth dimension of space — that offers a leitmotif to MOON & JEON’s project. Their use of historical photographs and film footage from broadcasts of the time of partition is cleverly juxtaposed with present-day images whose provenance remains uncertain. Moreover, their transformation of the original images points towards a desire to return to the subject matter depicted therein and to subtly alter its interpretation. One still image of visiting investigative journalists posed in front of the village is digitally enhanced with a guitar casually added as a prop for one of the characters. The new photograph immediately marks the entire group out as pop musicians. In another example, a lively game of foot-volleyball is added to an otherwise sombre portrayal of the village. Elsewhere, the inhabitant has been erased from a domestic interior along with all the photographic portraits of his relatives, giving an impression of an abandoned dwelling. Shown alongside the originals, MOON & JEON’s photographs might appear as simple prankish interventions; however their purpose remains much more expansive since it is the very act of re-presentationthat is invoked; a digital age invites time-travel since the past, enshrined in images, can be endlessly retrieved. Perhaps the artists are also reminding us that each act of recollection also alters the content of what is recalled — time wears away the sharp edges of recollection, but it also lets uninvited ghosts into its workings.
According to the writer Pamela M. Lee chronophobia — an obsessional unease with time and its measure — is rooted in art and criticism of the 1960s as these forms wrestled with new technologies, yet without having “a clear perspective on the social and technological horizon yet to come.”The future was thus seen as a place of uncertainty, too far ahead to be addressed by anything but (science) fiction. As technology is installed in everyday life as a fact, a new, more flexible spatio-temporal order is ushered in. Chronophobia, is today displaced by chronophilia — the embracing of temporality. As such, the neologism chronophilia heralds a moment in which we engage with temporality as an unstable and mutable concept, rendering it a new kind of cultural practice.The total recall of technology links the past, the present and the future in a single continuum and replaces the solid doors of time with mere thresholds.
The laboratory space depicted in MOON & JEON’s film is emblematic of the “black box” in science and engineering — a device, system or object defined by its inputs and outputs without any knowledge of its internal workings. It is a depiction of the opaque nature of technology, and filled with “machines of reproduction rather than of production.”Its windowless, bunker-like appearance underscores the covertness of its location and the impenetrability of its workings — repetitive scientific experiments that produce no verifiable outcome. It is, ostensibly, a non-place, fed with inputs in the form of data and images of different times and places. These inputs are the raw material of collective remembrance, whose outputs remain as yet unknown.
Mantel writes that “when we remember… we don’t reproduce the past, we create it.” We are not mere watchers, witnessing the unraveling of time but its agents. For the writer W. G. Sebald, time already has its own signature and pattern and reminds us with familiar sensations as we move through its cycles. Austerlitz, the central character in his eponymous book appears to paraphrase the novelist:
“I feel almost physically the current of time slowing down in the gravitational field of oblivion. It seems to me then as if all moments of our life occupy the same space, as if future events already existed and were only waiting for us to find our way to them at last, just as when we have accepted an invitation we duly arrive at a certain house at a given time. And might it not be, […] that we also have appointments to keep in the past, in what has gone before, and is for the most part extinguished, I must go there in search of places and people who have some connection with us on the far side of time, so to speak?”
Perhaps it is the concern with those on Sebald’s “far side of time” that the artists have also incorporated the design of an underground cemetery in collaboration with a group of architects into the project, a necropolis to house the bodies of individuals from the thousands of families that were divided by the partition of the country following the Korean war in the 1950s. So it is that the family members who have had no physical contact with one another for decades are able to come together once again in death. But contrary to tradition — which deems places of burial to be sombre or lugubrious places of mourning, their futuristic design is much lighter and more inviting as it celebrates the joining together once more of divided generations.
The collaborative stance is at the heart of understanding MOON & JEON’s practice; for an artist duo cooperative authorship is part of the DNA of the oeuvre, so perhaps the choice to add further partners is an evident development, rather than an extraordinary decision. This is especially so as the artists do not intend art to be understood solely by the art community. Rather, in their estimation the freedom experienced by creation should be open to all. Their project News from Nowhere, for instance, with notable exhibitions at Documenta 13, Kassel, (2012), and the Migros Museum, Zurich, (2015), borrows the principle of an experimental space in which art encounters disciplines such as architecture, fashion, product design, and ecology, among others. It is arguable that these partnerships with other content providers does not restrict MOON & JEON’s creative endeavor, but instead serves to augment their sphere of operations. This stance echoes the curator Elena Filipovic’s assertion that “…it is an attempt to acknowledge the critical agency of operations and activities that are taken up by artists but which might not seem ‘artistic’ in the most traditional sense.”
We might apply this conceptual distinction when examining the differences between curated exhibitions and installations. An exhibition is usually an inventory of separate artifacts displayed by the curator in a certain sequence. The visitor is provided with a map to identify the objects and to navigate them in the correct order. Contrariwise, installations do not warrant such signage, since there is only a single artistic space which requires no further elucidation. That said, MOON & JEON’s position is shared today by a growing number of artists whose work has significant curatorial and collaborative traits. As curators the artists cast themselves in the authoritative role of museum professionals, whilst the tendency to collaborate gives artists access to a broad spectrum of specialists. In either case artists continue to exert authorship, but in an expanded sense, perhaps as conductors of complex, multilayered events. Authorship is thus not a question of rootedness in a particular competence or territory, but of a positioning in-between spaces. The artist’s presence or performative action can be said to connect ideas, matter, and audience. The theorist Miwon Kwon writes:
“The site is now structured (inter)textually rather than spatially, and its model is not a map but an itinerary, a fragmentary sequence of events and actions through spaces… a nomadic narrative whose path is articulated by the passage of the artist.”
The articulation of spaces through different forms of material and chronological recording are central to the ideas of philosopher Michel de Certeau.He discerns the stasis of the spatial inventory, the map, from the movement entailed in the route or tour. The former allows for the entire territory to be taken in at a glance from a distance, whilst the latter is a whole sensory experience, in which the location is explored through an immersive encounter. It recalls Andrei Tarkovsky’s seminal film Stalker (1979) in which a guide leads two individuals — a writer and a scientist — on a quest through a post-apocalyptic wasteland described as “the zone.” The guide or stalker’s role is to lead the visitors to a secret room that supposedly fulfills desires. He is able to plot a labyrinthine path to the destination as he understands the zone; this apparently quite mundane territory is revealed as a sentient, living organism for whose navigation a map would be useless. Rather, it functions as an entity which requires the careful attention that only full sensory immersion can provide. The protagonists’ passage through it is granted not through rational engagement, but through a phenomenological approach. The territory in Tarkovsky’s film can be likened to the demilitarized zone dividing the Korean peninsula. The artists take on the role of the stalker and act as uncertain guides leading the audience on a journey. Their hesitancy is due to the fact that while the zone has its set internal rules, it is also constantly being produced through external facts and fictions.
Accordingly, MOON & JEON’s insistence on the audience’s creative complicity allows for multiple readings of the project. This is not simply an expression of devolved authorship, but also an admission that the contested nature of the subject means that it is always already determined despite any single interpretation that might be offered. The artists are aware that our technological age’s complex permutations of time and space presuppose an adjustment in the way we think about origins and ends, reality and simulation, truth and falsehood. All these are key concepts borne out of a once relatively stable material world. However, in a realm dominated by pure images human perception and understanding must be adjusted to these new demands, asserts philosopher Jean Baudrillard:
If it wishes to make an impact in the world, thought must be in the world’s image. Objective thought was entirely adequate for the image of a world we presumed to be determined. It is no longer so for a destabilized, uncertain world. We must, then, recover a kind of event-thought, which manages to make uncertainty a principle and impossible exchange a rule, knowing it is not exchangeable against either truth or reality. […] The order of things, the order of appearances can no longer be entrusted to some subject of knowledge or other.”
The argument about a stable truth may also be applied to the gradual vanishing of an ending. We know today that the “end of history,” as famously presaged by Francis Fukuyama in the late 20th century was but an ideological illusion. The lack of an ending deprives the event of the finality or purpose that gives it a meaning. According to Baudrillard “when something comes to an end, this means it really took place; whereas if there no longer is any end, we enter interminable history, interminable crisis; we enter upon series of interminable processes.”
It is as if Freedom Village allows the artists to present a vision of history trimmed of its linear narrative of beginning and termination in favour of a more fluid, reversible approach:
“In slowly taking measure of the endless present, one refuses teleological end games. Instead one rests with the immanence of being and the potential to act.”
Indeed, the critic Boris Groys maintains that “historically art has been related to the sphere of representation and therefore it has been conceived as the antagonist of what we call reality.” He goes on to question whether art is “becoming a compensatory space.” Perhaps this need for compensation arises because of the progressive stripping of all semblance of the real; it remains telling that in an age of hyperreality and temporal acceleration we continue to accord precedence of reality over simulation, and origin over interminability.
Already forty years ago Susan Sontag argued that “today everything exists to end in a photograph,” an assertion we might today expand to include the moving image, and which underlines lens-based media’s mythologizing of mortality. Our photophilia will eventually turn everything into an image, as our desire to memorialize ushers the subject towards extinction. This is because in a digital age the purpose of an image is not to represent, since what is depicted may no longer be traceable to an origin.
Finally, we return to MOON & JEON’s assertion that their work serves as a metaphor of place, and makes no attempt at accurate representation. Freedom Village is found at the crossroads of all such places, defined not by geographical position but by the belief of all who encounter it.
“The Aleph,” we are told by the narrator of author Jorge Luis Borges’s eponymous tale, is “the place where, without admixture or confusion, all the places of the world, seen from every angle, coexist.” He goes on to say that “Truth will not penetrate a recalcitrant understanding. If all the places of the world are within the Aleph, there too will be all stars, all lamps, all sources of light.”
 Edward Said, Reflections on Exile and other Essays, CA/MA: Harvard University Press, 2001, p.173.
 W. G. Sebald, quoted in Carol Jacobs, Sebald’s Vision, New York: Columbia University Press, 2015, p.167.
 Esther Leslie, in The Optic of Walter Benjamin Vol.3, Alec Coles (ed.), London: Black Dog Publishing, p.62.
 The 4:3 aspect ratio was the standard format for film throughout much of the 20th century and persists today in television broadcasting. This so-called Academy ratio has been entirely superseded in cinema and is gradually being phased out in favour of more horizontally stretched formats such as 16:9 for home viewing.
Jonathan Crary, “Olafur Eliasson: Visionary Events,” in Olafur Eliasson, Kunsthalle Basel (ed.), exhibition catalogue, Basel: Kunsthalle Basel; Berlin/Muttenz: Schwabe & Co. AG, 1997, pp.60-66.
 Mikhail Bakhtin, The Dialogic Imagination: Four Essays by M.M., Caryl Emerson & Michael Holquist (trans.), University of Texas Press, 1981.
 Paul Smith and Carolyn Wilde (eds.),A Companion to Art Theory, London: Blackwell Publishing, 2002, P.298.
Fernand Braudel, in Richard E. Lee, Fernand Braudel, the Longue Durée, and World-Systems Analysis, Albany : State University of New York Press, 2012, p.1.
 Peter Sloterdijk, Spheres, Volume 1: Bubbles, Wieland Hoban (trans.), New York: Semiotext(e), 2011, p.25.
 Zygmunt Bauman, Liquid Modernity, Cambridge: Polity Press, 2000, p.2.
 Ibid., p.11.
 Pamela M. Lee, Chronophobia: on Time in the Art of the 1960s, CA/MA: The MIT Press, 2004, p.xii.
 Fredric Jameson, “Culture,” in Postmodernism: or the Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism, Durham: Duke University Press, 1991, pp.36-37.
 Hilary Mantel, “Why I became a historical Novelist,” Guardian, 3 June 2017. https://www.theguardian.com/books/2017/jun/03/hilary-mantel-why-i-became-a-historical-novelist
 W. G. Sebald,Austerlitz, Anthea Bell (trans.), London: Penguin, 2013, pp.257-8.
 Elena Filipovic, The Artists as Curator: an Anthology, Mousse Publishing/Koenig Books, 2017, p.13.
 Miwon Kwon, One Place after Another, CA/MA: The MIT Press, 2002, p.29.
 Michel de Certeau, The Practice of Everyday Life, Steven Rendall (trans.), Berkeley: University of California Press, 1984.
 Jean Baudrillard, Passwords, Chris Turner (trans.), London/New York: Verso, 2003, pp.86-87.
 Ibid., p.55.
 Pamela M. Lee, op.cit., p.308.
 Boris Groys, “The Contingency of the Unpredictable,” in A Brief History of the Future, Sonia Fernandez-Pan (ed.), Institute of Culture of the City Council of Barcelona, p.167.
 Susan Sontag, On Photography, Farrar Straus & Giroux, 1977.
 Jorge Luis Borges, The Aleph, in Jorge Luis Borges: Collected Fictions, Andrew Hurley (trans.), New York/London: Penguin, 1999, p.281.