Harper’s Bazaar (Malaysia) - - The Beauty -

Chae­won Kim to trans­form the com­mit­ment and prom­ise into a river made out of coffee stir­rers and plas­tic ob­jects coated with ther­mochromic paint. As we walked along the “river­bank” and ran our fin­gers over it, the colours changed grad­u­ally as well, mark­ing the in­tense con­nec­tion be­tween the woman and the man.

100 days – that was the young man’s prom­ise to the maiden. For 100 days, she waited for his re­turn. And for 100 days, she was re­minded ev­ery­day of the solemn fate that could fall upon him. In­stal­la­tion artist Oh You Kyeong grouped trans­par­ent plas­tic tubes into life-size bun­dles that mim­icked the curves of the python. The solemn rep­re­sen­ta­tion was a roomful af­fair – vis­i­tors had to walk around the curved path, the in­ten­sity of the woman’s long­ing and wait­ing am­pli­fied through the bright lights. The third floor of the Bluesquare Nemo Gallery marked the ex­hi­bi­tion fi­nale. Deep in­side one of the rooms, blue squid fish­ing light­ing il­lu­mi­nated the space, pos­ing as the back­ground for the fierce con­fronta­tion at sea. The young man did fi­nally de­cap­i­tate the python, but the blood of the mon­ster from the vi­cious fight stained the brave war­rior’s body, the ship, and the white flag. Over­come with ex­haus­tion, he passed out on the ship deck on the way home. The maiden, upon see­ing the young man’s seem­ingly life­less body, threw her­self in the throes of de­spair, and took her own life.

Our group stood face to face with this red-and-blue in­stal­la­tion by Ji­hyun Boo, wait­ing for our guide to take us through the tragic mis­un­der­stand­ing. A few sec­onds later, we were greeted with a loud splash, fol­lowed im­me­di­ately by the alarm­ing sound of glass shattering. “Was that sup­posed to hap­pen?” I quipped, while all five of us in the group looked quizzi­cally at each other.

Our guide re­marked on this op­por­tune mo­ment. Once a day here in this very space, a light bulb breaks off from the hang­ing lights above the wa­ter tank, sig­ni­fy­ing the bru­tal fight be­tween the young man and the python, as well as the stained, blood red sails that broke the woman’s heart. It seemed like the end, but all was not lost.


Trans­par­ent glass tubes, grouped to­gether to make the sil­hou­ette of the three-headed python


When the young man re­gained con­scious­ness, he buried the maiden’s body on a hill­side. The next sum­mer, a quaint tree grew and blos­somed atop her grave. The un­known flow­ers from that tree bloomed for 100 days. The vil­lagers named this mys­te­ri­ous flower, “crape myr­tle”, to hon­our the tire­less spirit of the maiden and her never-end­ing per­se­ver­ance in this love story.

The story may have ended there, and the ex­hi­bi­tion may have been an ex­pe­ri­ence that didn’t last more than a few hours, but it was Sul­wha­soo’s un­wa­ver­ing love for the true beauty of Korea that never ceased to take its en­deav­ours be­yond its ca­pac­ity. Min Ji Hee, an il­lus­tra­tion de­signer de­signed a colour­ing book that told A Tale of Crape Myr­tle in its own length, dom­i­nated by tra­di­tional mo­tifs such as waves and flow­ers.

It was an in­vi­ta­tion, once again, to ex­pe­ri­ence the poignant story of love and sac­ri­fice. Ex­cept, this time, it was in the con­fines of my own home, with my mem­ory of the Sul­wha Cul­tural Ex­hi­bi­tion, and my artis­tic in­ter­pre­ta­tion, that would bring me to the grand fi­nale.

Il­lu­mi­na­tive blue lights con­trasted with the blood red bulbs to high­light the har­row­ing fate of the young cou­ple

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