Euyoung Hong
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Fragmented Space
by Euyoung Hong

The Politics of Spatial Arrangement

The territory is made of decoded fragments of all kinds.[1]

In the Choson dynasty (1392-1910) in Korea, Confucianism was inaugurated as the national ideology.[2] Architecturally, almost every aspect of both domestic and social life was directly or indirectly affected by Confucianism during this period. The arrangement of interior space in the domestic house at that time is therefore seen as a crucial factor, prominently representing the concepts and rules of Confucianism. For instance, the traditional Korean house-what we usually call Han-ok-was strictly divided into several areas, depending on the occupier’s position in the hierarchy of family and society: An-chae for women and children in the inner area of the house, Sarang-chae for the male householder or for guests in front, and Haengrang-chae for servants close to the entrance door. The disposition of rooms and doors regulates not only the physical arrangement of the living space, but also its social and practical uses. However, Korean houses have been transformed enormously, influenced by modern Western culture since the 1950s. High-rise residential buildings in the popular parts of Seoul, constructed since early 2000, became a predominant part of the contemporary Korean scene, especially for the rich. The interior space of these houses places great emphasis on a high quality of living and well-being, including the most innovative technology, luxury building materials from all over the world, exceptional design by internationally well-known artists, high levels of security and safety, protection of privacy, right of view and maximum control of accessibility from the outside to the inside, rather than representing a certain traditional ideology, social order, or belief through the form of architecture, which had previously frequently appeared in the modern Korean house. This particular type of house has a tendency not only to secure the independence of private space between individuals or between different households within a building, but also spatially to widen the gap between rich and poor. This residential building stands like a medieval European castle, which functions offensively and defensively as a military object by protecting the people within the space and attacking enemies from the outside. The medieval castle was mostly built from earth and stone walls with a wooden drawbridge entrance and surrounded by a water-filled moat. The word castle is derived from the Latin word castellum, which means ‘fortified place’, is a symbol of authority and power.[3] Many houses in Korea actually use the word castle as their names. This contemporary form of castle, occupying not only Seoul but also other big cities, such as New York and Chicago, tends to separate itself from others via the strict control of accessibility and visibility as well as its autonomous system of living.

In contrast with the decisive aspect of ordering and hierarchization of space that I have described, the spatial arrangement in dwelling space also functions as a critical force, which not only provides a certain form of visibility and materiality, but also makes a space controversial and political, affected by the contradictory relationship between the constructive and the destructive. In the summer of 2009, I participated in the artist in residence programme at The National Art Studio, Changdong, run by The National Museum of Contemporary Art, Korea. This was an exceptional experience for me during the process of planning and producing one of my works, Haesung Villa, because it gave me a chance to rethink the notion of space, particularly in relation to dwelling and space and the dynamics of urbanization. A large studio, which had only one tiny window, was allocated to me. The view through the window was fixed, as a three-story house completely blocked my studio window. Every day I had to look at the house, whether I liked it or not, simply because it was there, always before my eyes. I did not pay attention to the house at first but, suddenly, I realized that I was observing it every day. It was particularly interesting for me that the occupier of the house expanded his or her space by removing the pre-existing frames and glass of the window and constructing a newly protruding structure in the window space, built from cheap steel and aluminium windows and sandwich panels, which are frequently found in the construction of temporary housing. In thinking of this abrupt appearance of new space, it can be said that we live today in an age of deviation, or what Deleuze and Guattari call ‘deterritorialization’. This newly constructed space in this particular house, which might not appear in its original construction planning, is seen as a transformative vector, by which a simple window was not only transformed into a complex three-dimensional form by destroying its original structure and relation; but also a certain type of spatial principle and practice is in effect within that space. This deterritorializing force is not only the necessity for the production of space, but also makes a space able to transcend its concrete specificity, spatial limit, or any sort of original totality, producing and actualizing new connections through the space between heterogeneous concepts, such as construction and destruction. This is what I call ‘fragmentization’.

Dwelling space is therefore a part of space, which cannot simply be limited to either the x and y coordinates on a graph or an empty space for physical movement described using the traditional methods of geometry and physics. Also, it cannot merely be considered as a physical space, such as buildings and blocks of dwellings or the space that appeared in the Heideggerian idealism. Rather, it is a contested zone, composed of all different types of public and private, socio-cultural and political living spaces, in which complex human interactions take place and relations are both formed and re-formed. In Foucault’s famous description of Jeremy Bentham’s idea of the Panopticon, appearing in Discipline and Punishment, and first published in 1975, it emphasizes that a specific type of space becomes a socio-political apparatus or machine, whereby a certain rule of movement, visibility, and indeed power can be proposed and legitimized. Human behaviour is patterned and that patterned behaviour is constantly changed, interacting with specific conditions and changes in the surrounding environment. Spatial arrangement shapes the path of flow and the line of sight, so that, through its machinic and repetitive operation, a certain type of socio-spatial practice takes place. In other words, if someone enters a place, that means that he or she must be directly or indirectly affected by the law of that place. In this sense, dwelling space cannot be understood as a simple arrangement of an individual’s desire to occupy, possess and privatize a particular space. As we can see in Haesung Villa, a specific condition of space, such as the conditions of a studio, including its surroundings and its relation to an artist, becomes a stimulating power not only for the transformation from the space of reality to a sculptural work of art, or from an abstract idea to material language, but also the production of a new spatiality. Haesung Villa does not aim to establish the repetition of the same, or the representation of the space of reality, but the appearance of differential space. This differential space recognizes the shift of spatial condition as well as man’s socio-political capacity for action or re-action, which is directly related to threatening the concrete form of the homogeneous and hierarchical system of an existing space. The (re)arrangement of doors, walls and assignment of different names and functions for rooms in domestic houses is therefore an important factor for determining the connection and disconnection, or convergence and divergence of men’s vision and the path of flow. However, it cannot be reduced to the physical and formalistic perspective of arrangement itself. Spatial arrangement is regarded as the installation and application of a new network, which transforms a given space into differential space. In the process, an established socio-spatial practice can transcend its spatial limits and becomes a medium for producing a new spatiality. As Foucault has already shown, ‘In our era, space presents itself to us in the form of patterns of ordering’, [4] the concept of space is considered as a medium or independent variable for determining and transforming the form of aesthetic and socio-political relations among heterogeneous spaces and elements. Spatial arrangement is hence definitely involved in dealing with the problem of spatial practice, in the sense that it provides a certain spatial limit, through which a particular type of activity is regulated, or even resists further change or transformation. The spatial limit produced by the strategy of arrangement can be a new vocabulary of the political. In the panoptic arrangement, as Foucault describes, ’Visibility is a trap… invisibility is a guarantee of order’, the invisibility or absence of guardian in the central tower functions both actually and potentially as a network of mechanisms, through which a particular type of power relation can penetrate the social body.[5] The ability of architectural structure is therefore not only in partitioning physical space and social structure, but also in actualizing the ‘invisible penetration of power.’ This means that the politics of spatial arrangement or installation not only affects, but is formed by the interactive relationship between visibility and invisibility. In other words, if the visibility or physical arrangement of space presents a new mode of movement or flow, invisibility makes it actualized by reorganizing the existent structure and form of space. In this respect, invisibility plays an important role as a driving force for building and altering spatial arrangement. It has a certain tendency to invade or penetrate the given space and makes that space vulnerable as well as controversial. Becoming vulnerable is understood as the degeneration of established forms and relations. Being controversial is conceived as using revolutionary moment or action to escape from the form of common consent and to take a space to the possibility of shift.

The Machinic Installation of Urban Space

When dwelling space conflicts with rapid urbanization or urban redevelopment, it undergoes a complex political process of becoming fragmented, destabilized and fluid, blurring its established boundaries, and the boundaries between public and private space. Through the competitive and progressive development of urban space in the logic of capital, the marvellousness of visual and material landscape is constantly presented. Contemporary architecture and buildings, which constitute the exterior form of a city, not only potentially possess and exercise fascist violence, but also dictate, homogenize and hierarchize the conceptual and material flows of a period beyond aesthetic beauty and economic and scientific pragmatism. Humanity’s endless desire for expansion, occupation, development of space does not come from desire as a form of demand, which premises Lacanian lack; it is definitely related to productive force itself. This productive force reorganizes visualized spaces or territories and machinically generates a new space through the constant process of transformation and expansion, imposed by the conflict between and coalition of heterogeneous elements and forces. Spaces, especially produced in this process, separate the idea of dwelling from traditional notions, such as rootedness, occupation, protection. This fragmentizing process can be understood as a spatial strategy for the continuous production of principle through and beyond crises, rather than indicating either the disruptive nature of space in the process of urbanization under the logic of capital or the Derridean post-structuralist context of deconstructive characteristics of space.

In this respect, South Korean urbanization is an extreme example of the concept of dwelling and its particular process of construction and destruction of space. Korean urbanization has undergone rapid growth and change after the Korean War, ending in 1953, thoroughly led by the government from its housing plan to its supply and price control since the 1970s. This can be approached from two main points of view. First, housing policy has been considered as a political strategy for the rapid stabilization of new power. Second, it was also utilized as a tool for economic development and industrialization of the country. What we call the ‘miracle on the Han River’ can therefore be understood as an extreme case, resulting from the progressive economic and political purpose of rapid urbanization.[6] When rethinking the process of this marvellous cultural and economic outcome in South Korea, welfare policy and the quality of life, particularly for low-income families, have been de-prioritized in constructing dwelling space; rather, external development, including the increase of GDP, the construction of industrial infrastructure and the housing policy for the wealthy, were emphasized. This becomes evident when we look at many incidents caused by the problem of housing, such as a major violent protest in 1970 in Gwangju, in the outskirts of Seoul, against the government’s Gwangju large-scale relocation project and citizen apartment programme. South Korean urbanization has been initiated in earnest with the government-led Saemaeul Movement (the New Community Movement) in the early 1970s. In 2002, the Korean government instigated its New Town Policy and in 2010, it again announced a spectacular development in the Han River Renaissance Project, under the slogan Design Seoul. When we think of these continuous urban development projects and the tragic incidents that always accompanied them, such as the Youngsan incident in 2009, it gives us an opportunity to reconsider the relationship between dwelling and space, concerning the way in which space, which is constantly and competitively developed, invested, invaded, occupied and controlled by human beings-especially the meaning, significance, and function of space-cannot be simply reduced to a process of redevelopment; rather, it needs an extended perspective to reappraise the constructive and destructive relationship between space and everyday life under the large complex spatial mechanism of urbanization.

This particular radical tendency of urbanization in Korea is understood not as a simple redevelopment of a degenerated place or the construction and destruction of physical buildings; but it needs to be considered in terms of the politics of space, whereby a certain type of spatial arrangement can be determined and altered depending on the way in which different powers, for example, territorial power and capital power, or State power and that of the everyday, encounter, connect and conflict. Urbanization is therefore a matter of (re)distribution and strategy of a network of power in the given space. This is definitely related to the famous philosophical work on capitalism and schizophrenia of Deleuze and Guattari, in which they elaborate the concept of machine as a mode of production. It does not literally indicate a repetitive inhuman operation, or the dualistic opposition to the State, but the production of spatial difference or otherness through the means of repetition, resulting from the symbiotic relationship between interruption and continuity of different forces. Drawing on the Deleuze-Guattarian notion of machine, what I mean by the ‘machinic’ installation of urban space can be linked to the contradictory dynamism of urbanization, which is formed and operated by complex spatial arrangement and reconfiguration via the continuous ‘invention’ of flow and relation, mode of occupation and displacement, and the action and reaction of people within the visible and invisible atmosphere. Urban space produces a machine.

The Political Dynamism of Fragmented Space

"We no longer believe in a primordial totality that once existed, or in a final totality that awaits us at some future date. We no longer believe in the dull gray outlines of a dreary, colourless dialectic of evolution, aimed at forming a harmonious whole out of heterogeneous bits by rounding off their rough edges. We believe only in totalities that are peripheral. And if we discover such a totality alongside various separate parts, it is a whole of these particular parts but does not totalize them; it is a unity of all of these particular parts but does not unify them; rather, it is added to them as a new part fabricated separately…For the rigors of the law are only an apparent expression of the protest of the One, whereas their real object is the absolution of fragmented universes, in which the law never unites anything in a single Whole, but on the contrary measures and maps out the divergences, the dispersions, the exploding into fragments of something that is innocent precisely because its source is madness."[7]

My interest is therefore in rediscovering the concept of space-which is inextricably intertwined with the space of everyday life and its relation to particular issues and phenomena, raised in the process of urbanization-from a different perspective, particularly through the concept of ‘fragmented space’ and visualized outcomes of it. Precisely speaking, fragmented space concerns the way in which dwelling space or the space of everyday life is produced, moved and transformed in the politics of space. Fragmented space is not simply limited to a part physically and conceptually detached from an illusionary whole or to the traditional idea of the relationship between the part and the whole. Nor does it mean the disappearance of hierarchy in the space. Rather, fragmented space functions as a ‘constructive force’, which potentially includes the idea of the destructive. In other words, thinking of the process of production of my work, a fragmented space is not simply made by detaching it from a larger whole of actual buildings, nor is it definitely distinct from Gordon Matta-Clark’s direct and physical intervention of actual architectural buildings, that is, the sculpturalization of architecture or ‘de-architecturalization’; it is a completely new spatiality thoroughly produced in constant and revolutionary relation to the given or established space of reality. Fragmented space is, therefore, formed and operated on by two contradictory functional elements: the constructive and the destructive, whereby a ‘deviating space’ is produced through these co-existential and interactive spatial dynamics. It becomes evident in the urbanization of space under market-oriented forms of socio-economic development. The urbanization of space is constructive, on the one hand, and destructive, on the other hand. This can be understood in connection with the nature and formation of the (globalized) market, which is directly related to the logic of capital. Capital discovers the value of investment of a space and a space is produced through the process of the investment and accumulation of capital. Capital constantly flows, in order to seek a new space and connections for production whereby more profits can be achieved. A space where capital and investment are lost necessarily catches up with rival producers or spaces by destroying its old connections and organization for production and by developing its value and inventive methodology of technology, so that the space can survive in the endless process of competition between other spaces, in order to attract investment and capital into the space. A space produced in this urbanization, becomes competitive, precarious and ephemeral, because it only exists and shapes itself in the repetition of generation and degeneration. In the context of urbanization, dwelling space tends to be considered as nothing more than a means of the investment, distribution and flow of capital.

Fragmented space, which includes objects and spaces in our surroundings, undergoes decolourization. This decolourized space or object does not merely indicate an emptied space or a deficiency. Non-decolourized objects generally employed in other sculptures and installations tend, relatively speaking, to focus our attention on the object itself. By contrast, fragmented space produced through the process of decolourization fails to fasten our eyes upon the object in space or the object itself; rather, it highlights the ‘relational dynamics of space’, which includes the surrounding territory of the object. This relational dynamics of space does not aim at a totalitarianistic visualization of space by monumentalizing the sculpture through the presentation of monochromic surfaces in a literal sense; instead it presents and realises the encounter, conflict and connection between the heterogeneous elements and the forces acting on them. I view this concept of decolourization from two perspectives. First, decolourization proposes an open system of space, through which a new connection and conflict between different spaces can emerge by escaping from the pre-existing form and structure of space. Open space cannot be simplified in the traditional understanding of political thought: for instance, the libertarian tradition of anarchism, which is considered as ’an anti-dogmatic and unstructured cluster of related attitudes, which does not depend for its existence on any enduring organization.’[8] It is situated and functions in the tension between sovereign and institutional freedom. Second, this open space is contradictory, as despotic power potentially exists in order to visualize and materialize a new connection. This violent force can never be completely eliminated and will always be mobilized at a certain point. Through the process of decolourization, different objects and spaces begin to communicate with each other, escaping from a political rule in a certain regime of space.

Fragmented space proposes a contradictory dynamic system of space, whereby a principle of the connection, movement and change of space can be actualized through the tension between the constructive and the destructive. It reveals a spatial continuum, which is operated by combining homogenizing despotic movement of space with reactive revolutionary movement of space. Fragmented space aims to build potentially positive and productive dimensions of space by developing the space under capitalist urbanization, which is not only considered unstable, contradictory, sometimes negative, but is also easily recognized as a tool for economic growth and political stabilization. The driving force of fragmentization is produced and sustained when a conceptual and material point becomes divergent and decoded. It is the necessity for a revolutionary movement of dynamics of fragmented space, whereby new connections and arrangements of space can continuously emerge in the built environment. The regime of fragmented space exercises its power in order to discover how to disconnect pre-established orders and conventions and how to put heterogeneous things together through the condensed and displaced logic of space. From a new point of view, provided by this spatial continuum, the politics and function of the space of everyday life can be recovered and re-illuminated.

[1] Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari, A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia, translated and forwarded by Brain Massumi. Continuum, London, 2004, p.555.
[2] According to Deuchler, Confucianism was established not only as the national ideology of the Choson dynasty, but also as the dominant system of knowledge and values reforming socio-political and cultural spheres of Koyro (918-1392). It played the key role for the ritualization of everyday life by shaping and hierarchizing thoughts and behaviours through family structure, educational systems, political culture, and other social organizations. Martina Deuchler, The Confucian Transformation of Korea: A Study of Society and Ideology. Harvard University Press, Massachusetts, 1995, p.182.
[3] Christopher Gravett and David Nicolle, The Normans: Warrior Knights and Their Castles. Osprey Publishing, New York, 2006, p.114.
[4] Michel Foucault, ‘Of other spaces: utopias and heterotopias’. Diacritics 16.1, Spring, 1986, p.23.
[5] Michel Foucault, Discipline and Punishment: The Birth of Prison, translated by Alan Sheridan. Penguin Books, London, 1977, p.200.
[6] Pran Tiku described the miracle on the Han River thus: ‘Korea has been one of the fastest-growing economies that the world has ever witnessed. According to the Bank of Korea, in less than four decades, the country has transformed from a poor agrarian society into the tenth largest economy in the world… The remarkable achievements of the Korean economy are often called the ‘miracle on the Han River’, named after the river that runs through Seoul, the capital.’ Pran Tiku, Six Sizzling Markets: How to Profit from Investing in Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Korea and Mexico. John Wiley & Sons, New Jersey, 2008, p.205.
[7] Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari, Anti-Oedipus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia, translated by Robert Hurley, Mark Seen and Helen R. Lane, and preface by Michel Foucault. Continuum, London, 2004, p.45-46.
8] George Woodcock, Anarchism: A History of Libertarian Ideas and Movements. Broadview Press, Ontario, 2004, p.411.

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