In the face of love, Korean artist, Jae-Eun Choi makes hatred melt like snow

The Nature Rules, an exhibition at the Hara Museum of Contemporary Art in Tokyo aims to transform a place of conflict to a place where life can flourish.

by Zohra Khan Published on : May 24, 2019

Korean artist, Jae-Eun Choi’s ongoing exhibition, The Nature Rules, gives form to the concepts behind the Dreaming of Earth Project (2014) by the artist herself, which shines light on the rich ecosystem that has emerged within the Korean De-militarized Zone (DMZ) – the strip of land dividing North and South Korea which was designated in 1953 when the Korean War ended in an armistice instead of a peace treaty.

  • Jae-Eun Choi, hatred melts like snow, 2019 (reference image) © Kim Taedong Image Credit: Courtesy of Jae-Eun Choi
  • Jae-Eun Choi, hatred melts like snow, 2019 Image Credit: Shigeo Muto

Born in the same year as the DMZ and in later years having received training in Ikebana (the traditional Japanese art of flower arrangement), the artist uses the medium of art to explore the matrix of life and nature, in an intuitive manner. In Dreaming of Earth Project, she had set out with 20 like-minded artists and architects to address the possibilities of turning the ‘no-go’ zone of the Korean Peninsula into a land of eternal peace for all living beings.

The project was spread across two phases. The first phase (2015-2017) involved creative interventions by the participants, while the second (2017-2018) proposed manuals for the project’s actual operation.

  • Shigeru Ban Architects, Bamboo Passage and Tower, 2015, pencil on paper Image Credit: Courtesy of Shigeru Ban Architects
  • Studio Other Spaces: Olafur Eliasson and Sebastian Behmann, Condensation pavilion Image Credit: Courtesy of Studio Other Spaces
  • Studio Mumbai, Tazia Image Credit: Courtesy of Studio Mumbai
  • Lee Bul, Study for DMZ Jung-ja Project 1, 2017, pencil, watercolor ink, acrylic paint on paper, 30.5 x 45.5 cm Image Credit: Courtesy of Lee Bul
  • Seung H-Sang, Bird’s Monastery Image Credit: Courtesy of Seung H-Sang
  • Tadashi Kawamata, Nest on the Cliff Image Credit: Courtesy of Tadashi Kawamata
  • Lee Ufan, Transparent Tea House drawing, 2019, ink on paper Image Credit: Courtesy of Lee Ufan

The exhibition, The Nature Rules, presents proposals from the first phase, which includes significant works by eminent creative minds, such as a floating garden by 2014 Pritzker laureate, Shigeru Ban. It is a 20km raised passage that connects DMZ from across four directions and creates an avenue to celebrate nature at its best. Proposed on and around the garden are various iterations of watch towers and Jung Ja (indigenous sky gardens for migrating birds). Together with Ban, Jae-Eun Choi and architect Seung H-Sang designed the towers while artists Lee Bul, Lee Ufan, Olafur Eliasson & Sebastian Behmann, Tadashi Kawamata and Bijoy Jain gave concepts for the Jung Ja, all of which are on view at the Hara Museum.

Proposals of a Seed Bank and a Knowledge Bank are also part of the exhibition. While the former preserves plant species that are facing extinction, the latter serves as a research repository to spread awareness and educate visitors about the verdant ecosystem.

A glimpse from the ongoing exhibition Image Credit: Shigeo Muto
The fences signify the hatred between the two parties that were once one nation but now stand at one another’s gunpoint. With scalding heat, I melted down the fences retrieved from the borderline. And used the metal to make stepping stone that people can walk on. – Jae-Eun Choi

In order to realise peace across the two Koreas, the project addresses a major concern - the area has millions of landmines buried within for which, unfortunately, no maps exist. Addressing the severity of it, Choi says that these sites do not decompose, and thus, remain there guarding the land of death. She proposes a collaboration between Artificial Intelligence and traditional techniques like extensive research and experiments to eliminate these fatal landscapes and recover the area as a haven for both man and nature to co-exist.

Choi’s endearing and extremely compassionate vision of DMZ to witness no more conflicts, sits at the heart of the fact that art holds the power to change the world.

  • A peek into the various works from the exhibition Image Credit: Shigeo Muto
  • A peek into the various works from the exhibition Image Credit: Shigeo Muto
  • A peek into the various works from the exhibition Image Credit: Shigeo Muto
  • A peek into the various works from the exhibition Image Credit: Shigeo Muto
  • A peek into the various works from the exhibition Image Credit: Shigeo Muto

The Nature Rules: Dreaming of Earth Project is on view till 28 July 2019, 11am – 5pm at the Hara Museum of Contemporary Art in Tokyo.


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About Author

Zohra Khan

Zohra Khan

A formal education in architecture combined with an avid interest in architecture journalism and design criticism led Khan to professionally venture into writing and research. She has worked in design communication for more than three years, generating content for mondo*arc india journal. When not writing, she kicks back by dabbling on social media for STIR.


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