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Sparkling Cheomseongdae sends out a message of hope

Posted May. 12, 2020 07:48,   

Updated May. 12, 2020 07:48


The Seoul Hall of Urbanism and Architecture will exhibit “Hope in Seoul” from Friday through August 15 to send a message of hope and cheers up Seoulites. It will display installation artist Han Won-seok’s “New Life” at Seoul Maru of the exhibition center in central Seoul. “New Life” is a tower of headlights of scrapped cars in the shape of Cheomseongdae, an astronomical observatory.

The headlights will send a coded message of hope and support in morse code on Friday as they will be switched on. Piled upon each other, the headlights will be turned on and off to signal “hope” and “overcome.” The light show will be accompanied by the performance of Kim Jun-hui, the senior daehaegeum player of the National Gugak Center, who will play “2020 Jeongeupsa” at Seoul Maru. The musician will present a modern interpretation of Jeongeupsa, the only Baekje song left and the oldest Korean pop song. As the wife longs for a safe return of her husband in the song, Kim will play it in the hope that people will be able to overcome anxiety and loneliness caused by COVID-19 and things will go back to normal soon. The opening performance and footage of the installation will be uploaded on YouTube.

“I wanted to show the new life of Cheomseongdae,” said Han. “An observatory, which allowed people to observe stars, astronomical phenomena and the universe from the 6th century, has become a shining star itself that gives hope to other people.” Explaining the reason why he chose Cheomseongdae, the installation artist said, “Cheomseongdae, the 31st national treasure, was built by Queen Seondeok of Silla and is 1388 years old,” adding that it is a valuable cultural property that signifies the strength and history of Korea and holds scientific, cultural and political significance.

Han’s artwork “New Life,” which was created in 2006, consists of 1,374 headlights of scrapped cars. The artist built the structure with H beams and piled headlights up after scanning Cheomseongdae in 3D. The installation is 9.17 meters high and 5.17 meters wide. It was displayed on the Gwangtong Bridge in 2006 to celebrate the first anniversary of the restoration of Cheonggyecheon before being installed at the headquarters of Hana Bank in Seoul’s Jung District. It was later displayed at Suncheon Bay National Garden as Hana Financial Group donated it to the city of Suncheon.

“Just like a lighthouse is a beacon of hope that shows directions to ships sailing through dark storms, I hope ‘New Life’ will shine a light of hope on the lives of many people who feel despaired unable to see the end of this deep dark tunnel amid the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Han.

Min Kim kimmin@donga.com