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Installation work in central Seoul becomes talk of town

“Rebirth” by installation artist Han Won-suk (Seoul Hall of Urbanism and Architecture)
“Rebirth” by installation artist Han Won-suk (Seoul Hall of Urbanism and Architecture)

A 9-meter-tall installation work that resembles Cheomseongdae -- Korea’s oldest astronomical observatory used during the Silla Kingdom in the seventh century that sits at Gyeongju, North Gyeongsang Province -- has been situated in the heart of Seoul.

The installation artwork named “Rebirth” was created by Han Won-suk, an installation artist and architect, in 2006. It had previously been displayed in the Cheonggye Stream area, Hana Bank’s headquarters in Seoul and the Suncheonman National Garden in Suncheon, South Jeolla Province.

Now, “Rebirth” stands tall at the small park called Seoul Maru right above the Seoul Hall of Urbanism and Architecture. The work is made of 1,374 headlamps from scrapped cars to stir up recognition about how abandoned things can have a rebirth in a beautiful way.

The sculpture was moved to the current site in early May as part of Han’s solo exhibition, “Re: relationship” at the Seoul Hall of Urbanism and Architecture in central Seoul, which was scheduled to kick off Wednesday. The exhibition, however, has been postponed to later than June 14 to prevent the further spread of COVID-19 in the Seoul metropolitan area, leaving the sculpture to stand alone.

“I thought ‘Rebirth’ could encourage people who are exhausted by the prolonged virus pandemic,” Han told The Korea Herald about the sculpture.
“The sculpture lights up at night, so it looks very splendid. The splendidness, however, comes from the 1,374 headlamps that were once abandoned. In terms of how it was made, I wanted to deliver a message through the sculpture that we can overcome this painful time,” he added. 

“Rebirth” by installation artist Han Won-suk (Seoul Hall of Urbanism and Architecture)
“Rebirth” by installation artist Han Won-suk (Seoul Hall of Urbanism and Architecture)

The sculpture, however, has become a topic of discussion, as some argue it spoils the cityscape of central Seoul. The park is usually left empty to allow Seoulites to better enjoy the sights of Deoksugung, an iconic palace in Seoul.

“Some people have a negative view on the installation work. We, however, have reached an agreement to set up ‘Rebirth’ after a thorough discussion. It can deliver a good message which fits in with the pandemic era,” an official from the Seoul Metropolitan Government who is part of the project told The Korea Herald.

“Although Seoul Maru is usually left empty as an open space, the site has always been flexibly used for artworks displays,” the official added.

According to the Seoul Hall of Urbanism and Architecture, “Rebirth” is scheduled to stay at the current site until August, which is subject to change depending on the schedule to reopen the exhibition hall.

By Park Yuna (yunapark@heraldcorp.com)
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