Euyoung Hong
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Flower Pot Project, 2013
9 street flower pots, laurels
Installation view
Barriedale Studio 5
Goldsmiths College, London

In the process of urbanization, space does not function as a static urban setting for social practices; rather, it acts as a complex kind of zone, in and through which different forces and relations can encounter and conflict with each other. Consider public spaces, particularly streets between buildings, houses and roads. This space cannot be simplified as a neutral space, which does not belong to a particular person, but is shared with the anonymity of the urban population. From a historical perspective, the space of the street played an important role not only as a commercial place, for example as the setting for a traditional market, but also, in a larger sense, as a centre of a city's economy, politics and culture. In the Joseon dynasty in Korea, in the 16th and 17th centuries, most authorized shops were located in the capital city, Hanyang, whereas, in rural areas, there were only temporary markets that were held on particular days of the week. Government licensed city shops, called Shijeon, had been located in the main streets in the capital city since the early 15th century. A Shijeon was a centre of commerce, which had exclusive right to sell various items throughout the country, such as special items for sale to the palace, luxury goods for the upper class, and various household items for the lower class. In the Joseon period, it was, therefore, legitimate that Shijeon had the monopoly and was allowed to prohibit an unauthorized shop, called a Nanjeon, from selling monopolized items. In the 17th century, however, the number of Nanjeon has increased enormously throughout the capital city, not only because of the increase in production, which caused changes in the commerce system - centralized in Shijeon - but also because of the enactment of new commercial laws, which significantly weakened the prohibition on Nanjeon. In the 20th and 21st centuries, in South Korea, a contemporary version of Nanjeon has continued, under the name Nojeom (street shop). These illegal street shops are mostly located on major street corners in the capital city Seoul, where people gather easily. The majority of traders in Nojeom cannot afford to rent space. These people tend to occupy space illegally, by setting up a temporary stall in the street. In the process of the transition from an agricultural economic system to an industrialized one in South Korea, particularly in the post-war period of the 1970s and the 1980s, people from all over Korea converged in the centre of Seoul to find better jobs and earn more money. In this period, the number of Nojeom has increased dramatically. Until now, the Korean government has strictly prohibited these illegal street shops, owing to the obstruction of traffic and the safety of pedestrians and the ruin of the urban aesthetic. In this respect, it is clear that the role of the street environment functions as a critical element of the formation of the city, which is related not only to how people pass along roads in urban settings, but also to how a space can be used and produced.

By expounding the problem of the street shop and its relation to the use of space in South Korea, I constructed a new installation, Flower Pot Project. This installation concerns questions of the meaning and function of everyday objects, which can be a means of producing and transforming a space, particularly in the process of urbanization. The territory of an object cannot, therefore, be reduced simply to the space that is physically occupied by an object; rather, it includes the socio-political action of the object, which affects its relations with its surroundings. This work consists of 9 large street flower pots, in which 50cm height laurels are planted. In South Korea, large street flower pots - called Doro Whabun - are frequently used for various purposes in public spaces in the process of environmental development. A recent example is the installation of large flower pots on the streets in Sucho-gu, Seoul in 2012 as a part of the local authority's environmental renewal project. The aims of the flower pot project, preceded by Sucho-gu, are to crack down on illegal street stalls, by filling an empty space to prevent the erection of stalls in the street and at the same time to improve the aesthetic of the public space by, as it were, ‘greening’ the city. These flower pots are usually placed outside shops and residential buildings in two or three rows along the street, forming a new pattern of movement. The installation of flower pots serves as an essential mechanism for the formation of social interaction, because, on the one hand, it creates a particular pattern of flow and relations of people as they walk along the street and, on the other hand, the power of the local authority conflicts with different forces, which occupy and pass through the space. In the exhibition, 9 street flower pots are placed in a particular indoor space, replacing original furniture, such as chairs and tables. These pots are arranged in a straight line. These flower pots function as walls, which not only divide a space both socially and spatially, but also produce a particular form of space. In relation to urbanism, the erection of a wall, in particular position, and of a particular height, forms the very starting point or basic strategy of urbanization. These walls of flower pots can be understood as an upright architectural structure, which not only demarcates and protects a particular area of land, but also produces boundaries for the territories it occupies. At the same time, it separates one place from the other and is shared with neighbouring properties. From a different perspective, the installation of flower pots creates a temporary space, which can be changed or removed easily, depending on the condition of plants and the use of the space. The problem of the flower pot project, led by a local authority, is that the flower pots - which are not merely lifeless things - have frequently been denigrated as hideous objects of the streets, because the local authority overlooked the necessity of the continuous maintenance - for example, watering and planting - and fail to budget for this maintenance. Flower pots produce transitory places, resting spots or controlling spaces, not residential spaces. These spaces, produced by flower pots, present a particular aspect of urbanism in South Korea, including changing ideas of the urban aesthetic, the principle of the use of public space and the political dynamism of the production of space.
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