Please

Installation view, photo by Myoung-Rae ParkInstallation view, photo by Myoung-Rae Park

Photos courtesy of Samuso

Please, 2009. Site-specific installation, artificial grass and MP3 players, dimensions variable. Exhibited in Platform in Kimusa, curated by Samuso and presented at former Defense Security Command Headquarters (the site for the current MMCA), 3–25 September 2009.

Installation view, photo by Myoung-Rae Park

Photo courtesy of Samuso

Please turns an existing column of the former Defense Security Command Headquarters building into a listening pillar. The viewers are encouraged to actively feel the building by getting closer to the pillar, touching it, hugging and listening to it.

Please doubly complicates the distinction between the public and the private. First, a visitor to the public exhibition is provided with a potentially intimate experience of physically engaging with the site: the transformed pillar makes a very small volume of sound, only audible when one contacts one’s ear directly with the structure. The experience cannot be shared with others. Secondly, the nature of the sound from within, recorded voices reading various personal questions posted on the Internet, also disturbs the boundary between the public and the private.

Anguished, desperate and sometimes apparently absurd, the questions asking for help and consultation — from “Please tell me if I should keep loving this man” to “Please tell me what are the proper public etiquettes for speaking in tongues” — mostly don’t allow for easy answers. But it doesn’t seem to discourage people from posting their problems on the internet, thousands of them every day, as if they are making confessions or giving prayers.

In many cultures, massive, solid structures that create an unlikely sound have been objects of mystification and worship. They are often treated as sacred mediums, as if the sound they make were the voice of God. Please is meant to replicate a similar spiritual experience, except the ones who hear the voices are in the position of the wise, the powerful — not the other way around. But it wouldn’t be a position so unfamiliar to the place itself: where the previous resident, the Defense Security Command, was believed to listen vigilantly to every voice, private or public.

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From Platform in Kimusa (Seoul: Samuso, 2009), exhibition catalogue