CJ Cultural Foundation held a special screening of artist Suh Do Ho’s documentary "Hamnyeongjeon: The Emperor's Bedroom"

Artist Suh Do Ho says, "Hamnyeongjeon Project in 2012 is not over yet"


CJ Cultural Foundation (Chairman Lee Jay hyun) announced that it held a special screening of the documentary 'Hamnyeongjeon: The Emperor's Bedroom', which recorded the artistic view of artist Suh Do Ho and the process of producing 'Hamnyeongjeon Project' at CGV Yongsan I-Park Mall, in the evening on the 24th of May. With around 200 people including high school and university(graduate) students majoring in relevant fields, rising artists, teenagers from local children’s centers, and general audience who participated in the event, the screening of the documentary and 'conversation with the artist' took place for about 120 minutes.


Artist Suh Do Ho (57) graduated from Seoul National University, majoring in oriental painting, and the same university for its graduate school. He majored in painting and sculpture at Rhode Island School of Design and the graduate school of Yale University in the U.S.A. He is also called 'the artist of the house', as the 'house' series, which is the wish to associate the memories and nostalgia related to Korean-style house (Hanok) where he lived with his parents in his childhood with the house where he stayed while studying in the U.S.A. made into a work of installation art with his imagination as an artist, has caused a sensation.


He has been said to show universal topics of a generation that anyone can sympathize with through 'Korean things' created from his personal experience, and he received numerous awards including Korean Hermes Foundation Misulsang in 2003, the 19th SUN Award in 2004, the honor to be selected as Wall Street Journal Art Innovator of the Year in 2013, and Ho-Am Prize for the Arts in 2017, while constantly exhibiting his work in world's leading art museums and galleries, including New York Museum of Modern Art, and participating in various art projects.


The documentary 'Hamnyeongjeon: The Emperor's Bedroom' comprehensively covers the process of producing 'Hamnyeongjeon Project', a work of artist Suh Do Ho in 2012, from the planning to the exhibition and performance.


Artist Suh Do Ho, who was asked to produce a work and thereby participated in 'Deoksugung Project' jointly hosted by National Museum of Contemporary Art and Cultural Heritage Administration in 2012 explained the reason why he chose 'Hamnyeongjeon' over other buildings of Deoksugung, "I think this was also meant to be . . . Before the project was proposed, I was reading publications about Daehan Empire from foreigners’ point of view in 1900s, including the books about the treaties of United Kingdom and Japan in 1902," and he explained, "In this way, I became interested in the character of Emperor Gojong, and fascinated by the point that I could work in Hamnyeongjeon, a very private place of Emperor Gojong."


In fact, Hamnyeongjeon of Deoksugung is a place where Emperor Gojong have stayed from 1907 when he was forced to renounce the throne to 1919 when he passed away, and his traces still remain intact there.


Artist Suh disclosed his innermost feeling, saying "I immediately responded that I would participate in the desire to do the project, but I did not have a specific idea. I thought I would come up with something after cleaning from top to bottom." He has been trying to inspire warmth to the place, and to reproduce the environment which resembles it the most through historical investigation, by heartily cleaning the place which has remained as a vacant and desolate space where nobody has been living for over 100 years with hundreds of ordinary volunteers.


When he was worried that he could not come up with a specific idea even after he completely finished cleaning, the testimony a court lady of the time Samchukdang, which proved that ‘three Boryo[1]s were always laid’ in the bedroom of Emperor Gojong who lost two wives, was discovered to become the actual starting point of the project.


Artist Suh Do Ho's Hamnyeongjeon Project was the process of solving a train of questions which starts from the first question of 'why three Boryos?', and in order to invite Emperor Gojong to the place of the present time where the cleaning inspired the warmth, the performance collaboration with choreographer Jung Young Doo was pushed forward.


After about 70 minutes of the documentary screening, in 'conversation with the artist' in which artist Suh Do Ho, 학예연구사 of National Museum of Contemporary Art Kim In Hye, and choreographer Jung Young Doo participated, it was possible to listen to the behind-the-scenes story of the work and the thoughts of artist Suh Do ho about this project in depth.


First of all, artist Suh Do Ho said that there were many obstacles to climb starting from the process of historical investigation which is indispensable for reproducing the appearance of Hamnyeongjeon of the time. It was because there were not enough historical records. Artist Suh noted, "At first, I paid attention to the tragedy of Emperor Gojong as an individual, but I felt the situation that even a king's bedroom was not easy to reproduce because there was not enough data even though it was not in an antiquity but a modern period, turned out to be a tragedy of Daehan Empire as a country and the whole generation." Whenever a crisis happened, it could be overcome by cooperation with civilian experts in each field.


It was also interesting to hear that choreographer Jung Young Doo who played the role of Emperor Gojong in the performance asked first to stay overnight in Hamnyeongjeon to get a closer look at Emperor Gojong’s feelings. Unlike now, it was not easy to receive the permission of Cultural Heritage Administration because it was an innovative project during the period when the cases where exhibiting or performing directly at old places were rare. Artist Suh wrote a long letter directly to Cultural Heritage Administration to explain why the process was necessary. It is said that it was the moment when the two artists in totally different fields of installation art and choreography felt respect for each other.


Artist Suh Do Ho said, "Neither Hamnyeongjeon Project nor this documentary aims to describe Emperor Gojong as a hero. Nobody other than Emperor Gojong knows the reason why three Boryos were laid. Historical records inevitably have imperfection. The artist used his imagination for this imperfection, and through this process, the third narrative is born," and he gave an advice to the young artists who attended the screening, saying "We do not know the era of Daehan Empire well. We do not even know the fact that we do not know. It would be great to try to get to know, studying as hard as possible, and to use various interpretations and imaginations based on a piece of history that you discover in the process."


The answer to the question of an audience asking the artist about the meaning of this screening and the plan of additional screening is as follows: "This screening is meant to report the production process and results to the people who created and helped the project together, including Arumjigi Foundation and CJ Cultural Foundation. Of course, it also intends to be a window to communicate with more audience. I would like to have an additional documentary screening if I have the opportunity."


Lastly, he wrapped up the whole event with this comment: "While I was studying historical evidence about Boryo of Hamnyeongjeon, I learned that Chicago Field Museum houses Boryo that the imperial family of Emperor Gojong sent to Chicago World’s Fair. It is said that it also has other heritages of the time, but I ended up not visiting it in 2012. In the future, I hope to re-enact the performance of Hamnyeongjeon Project at this Chicago Field Museum. In this sense, I would like to say that this project is not over yet."


CJ Cultural Foundation said, "We expect that the moment when artist Suh Do Ho got the inspiration while pushing forward Hamnyeongjeon Project, and the story of the process of continuous study and collaboration would be a good insight for young artists. I hope that by meeting with artist Suh Do Ho, who embodies Korean traditional beauty and value in the most global and modern way, thereby fascinating the world, we hope that they could get the courage to challenge and dream of the global stage."


On the other hand, this special screening was held with the help of CJ Cultural Foundation which supports rising creators in the field of movie through STORY UP business and supported the production of the documentary about artist Suh Do Ho’s work of art by making use of its business capability. In 2016 and 2017 as well, CJ Cultural Foundation and artist Suh Do Ho have met young art students with the screening of the documentary 'Shooting Star: Looking for a House.'


[1] Boryo (보료): Thick mattress filled with cotton or animal fur