Early Arrival of Future is a title borrowed from the expression often used by North Korean defectors who have settled in South Korea to refer to their reunified status. It is a record of a project by Sojung Jun, who invited North Korean defector and pianist Kim Cheol- woong, and South Korean pianist Uhm Eun-kyung to create music together in collaboration. Upon receiving the invitation from the artist, the two pianists met regularly for four months to create the music Sinabro (little by little) together through communications and discussions with each other. Jun’s video records the two pianists performing the music together, and is accompanied by printed materials such as photographs that serve to document the processes used by the musicians in their collaboration—their various con- versation logs and the music sheets for Sinabro.
Sojung Jun has been presenting works that mobilize multifaceted senses based on visual media. It is common in many of her works that images, sounds, and text are processed and edited in various ways to complete a single video work to create a kind of synesthesia.
The video Early Arrival of Future also shares similar features with Jun’s other works. The music played by the two pianists transforms the visual-oriented exhibition space into a place of experience where complex senses are mobilized, sometimes affectionately, and sometimes passionately. At first, the angle of the video is set to make the audience feel as if they are sitting in the center of a concert hall. However, the appearance of the lighting above reveals that these are devices installed for filming, and not for a theatrical stage to greet the audience.
The main melodies of Sinabro come from the North Korean folk song “Yonggang Ginari” (Yonggang folk-song) and a South Korean nursery rhyme titled Mother and Sister. Sinabro is about ten minutes in duration and is divided into four sections. The first section expresses the aura of peace before the division of the two Koreas. The video begins by depicting a black-and-white screen, which serves to express the tension of the past by also looking at the two performers from a far distance. The second section is composed of short, intense melodies that express the ideological confrontation and division of the two Koreas. The video in this section articulates the atmosphere of confrontation by alternately shedding light on the performers’ moving hands and feet stepping on a pedal, alongside the hammer tapping the strings. The third section shows how the identity of each musician is established after the division, and two songs, respectively composed and performed in each country, are played consecutively. The focus on the faces of the two performers in this video serves as a metaphor for identities formed on different foundations. In the last section, the two songs become a new mutually converging song by using the traditional five-note system that penetrates throughout the two songs in common. The black-and-white video switches to color at this point, and it ends with an angle that changes cheerfully in accordance with the lighter music. It is interesting to note that the two grand pianos that are positioned to face each other are placed in a state of elaborate harmony as if they were one body from the beginning.
The three-meter-long frame that accompanies the video includes pictures taken during the four-month period of the collaboration, as well as editing excerpts from various conversations, alongside the music sheets. In fact, as the video in this work includes scenes of playing pianos, it is very restrained in terms of explanatory elements compared to the artist’s other works. The dialogues in these pictures, on the other hand, illustrate the collaboration of composing a song.
It shows the two musicians sharing spontaneous and improvised conception processes and discussing the developments of these ideas. Their conversations clearly illustrate the aesthetic differences held by the two artists who grew up and were educated in different cultures, yet evidently resulting in an agreement through practicing confrontation, conflict and coordination. Although the piano is a common denominator for the two musicians, they do show different approaches to the instrument, which is largely due to the differences in their cultural and educational backgrounds. The attitude of one person who leads the task and pursues sophistication within a familiar framework is clearly different from that of another who enjoys an unfamiliar feeling and reflects on standardised interpretations. From the scenes where they try to persuade each other, or struggle with self-doubt, we can see that the conversation between the two has gone beyond the process of mere completion of the given task.
Early Arrival of Future is a work that reveals Jun’s perception of “doing art,” rather than viewing art as the final result of someone’s creation. The video has a strong aural effect within a heightened dramatic atmosphere of the stage, which serves to draw the audience’s attention. The conversations between the two individuals, which are placed in the frame, also help to better understand the artist’s attitude toward the work and its conceptual framework. Their dialogue clearly depicts the artistic concerns and practice that have been consistently explored by Jun.
The division mentioned in Early Arrival of Future is an existing reality still seen in today’s Korean Peninsula. South Korea’s National Security Act, which was often politicized by national leaders for their political agenda, still remains, while over 30,000 North Korean defectors seek refuge in the South. Inter-Korea relations still remain within the outdated framework of the Cold War. The fact that the condition of division had the greatest influence on Korea’s modern history, and the fact that its reality remains unchanged even to this day, despite dynamic transformations continuing to take place in all other aspects of their societies, is a reason many Korean artists continue to deal with inter-Korean issues. The implications of the division handled by Jun is different from other related artworks, as she focuses on the different cultural identities developed by each of the two Koreas after the division, rather than the political and social context of the division itself; it is also a big component of the dimension she tries to present through her works.