Planning for the Bracket

Planning for the Bracket

It was Roland Barthes I started to interest in Haiku. Frankly speaking, as a Korean, I’ve studied Japanese culture in a very critical way. It does not represent the entire Asian culture but a very specific part of the earth, which once tried to remove Korean culture during the invasion between 1910 and 1945, including killing loyal families in Korea, and changing the Korean name to Japanese style (Sōshi-kaimei), destroying traditional customs etc. Therefore, somewhat fairytale alike French and American understandings of Japanese culture are the first thing I should avoid to identify clear connections of theoretical background from what they claimed.

Most of the time, especially Roland Barthes follows Buddist and Taoism as the centre of Asian Culture, which is untrue for historical development in East Asian or Northeast Asian culture. First, in my understanding, it is not centralised as Christianity did in most European cultures. Korea has mixed, mostly based on theorists Confucianism, Buddism, and Taoism, which had destroyed in China during the Cultural Revolution from 1966 until Mao Zedong’s death in 1976. Confucianism has a strong influence in contemporary Korea because it was the main ideal theory of the Joseon Dynasty dynasty, the last dynasty of Korea until the Japanese forceful occupation. It is behavioural philosophy between people, which promotes virtue between King and his subject, Parent and children, Husband and wife:

  • Rén (仁, benevolence, humaneness);
  •  (义; 義, righteousness, justice);
  •  (礼; 禮, propriety, rites);
  • Zhì (智, wisdom, knowledge);
  • Xìn (信, sincerity, faithfulness).

In those ideas, Korean in Joseon expressed them through frugality, tranquillity, and loyalty. A true gentleman, a man of honour, does not waste, does not have a temper, and does not change their mind to the king. Due to the literature being an aristocratic art, traditional poem, sijo, expresses and practices those frugality, tranquillity, and loyalty. For instance, when a new king Yi Pang’won (T’aejong) (1367-1422) asked Chong Mongju (1337-92) to change his mind to the new king with a poem:

What about living this way?
What about living that way?
What about arrowroot vines intertwining on Mansusan?
we, too, could spend a hundred years in joy.

Chong Mongju replied:

Though my body die and die again,
though it die a hundred deaths,
my skeleton turn to dust, my soul exist or not,
could the heart change
that’s red-blooded in undivided loyalty to its lord?

On the other hand, Japanese culture got less influenced by Confucianism than Buddhism, which focuses more on individuality and life in the current moment. The main aim of it is to harmonise peaceful life without anguish, fear, and pain through the moment of Enlightenment. Most importantly, Buddism (the main religion in the Goryeo dynasty 918-1392) is stronger with a religious tinge and Confucianism is a more moral philosophical colour in Joseon (1392-1897). In a way, those are two different but share the same value of betweenness in the soil of Korea.

A project I am currently working on, a space belong to, focuses on betweenness. Between the world and humans, and the relationship between the moment of realisation and everydayness. The realisation connotes the Buddist enlightenment that “awake from the routine” and realisation of where I am standing in-between space and time. The moment of “ah, I’m here, alive”. It challenges ‘poetic moving image’ or rather a collection of ‘realisation image’ following the idea of Deleuze’s diagrammatic creation, a space of controlled chaos. It aims to present a collection of everyday life, moments of realisation of the moment.

One of the feedback I got from C was the rule in this moving image, which create the pattern of the ‘moments’. Although I strictly follow:

1. Poem text 5 sec 
(slightly short, which might not be enough time to read until the 3rd line)

2. 30-40 sec video
(not necessarily a direct visual connection to the poem but developing together) 

3. 10 sec black frame

and trying to put it as an awkward moment as possible, short enough that shows the following video is part of the whole but long enough to question if the entire video is finished. Those ‘awkward moments’ are a kind of contemplation or reflection time to viewers to see images in their minds than only through their eyes. Watch and Feel.

The biggest challenge I face is putting a bracket between those poems. For instance, I plan to take around 1 hour video for ‘a Space ▣ Belong to’, 50 min of poems and 10 min of breaking down. Using the opportunity to trip to Korea, I need to collect pieces of clips under the very strict rule. I am still not sure what type of rule I should put it. The problem is that that bracket is the moment of breaking down the patterns again within the video. As C suggested, the Oulipian way would be one possibility. Such as a strict time frame or chosen colour, or randomised time? Another example I found is Jouet’s “metro poem,” which is one of his practice styles that think while the metro runs and write it down when the metro is waiting at each station. For me, this is strictly time and thinking time-based practice. Is it possible to make it in “space”? Generating between space than between time?


O’Rourke, K. (ed.) (2002) The Book of Korean Shijo. Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Asia Center : Distributed by Harvard University Press (Harvard East Asian monographs, 215).