Press Release 04. January 2016
Babel Is Not Past
On the subjective writing of history in works by Na Hyun (South Korea).
Na Hyun, who studied in Seoul and Oxford, often brings together historical events from differing cultures and countries in his works. In the process, he employs the means of drawing, film, interviews and diverse archive materials to highlight current social or ecological conflicts.
For his project Missing, made between 2006 and 2009, he researched the disappearance of French soldiers in the Korean War: official sources in France as well as South Korea had provided only insufficient and contradictory information about this for a long time.
A Song of Lorelei (2010–2013) connects the historical course of the Rhine near Düsseldorf with a gigantic project to regulate four rivers in South Korea.
Since 2012 Na Hyun has been making steady progress on his project The Babel Tower. It explores and visualises the extent to which the Teufelsberg in Berlin and the Nanjido in Seoul may be considered as contemporary versions of the building of the Tower of Babel. One of the hills is a green area in the city district of Grunewald, which was developed from rubble after the Second World War and is topped even today by the white domes of a former US-American aircraft surveillance post and listening station. The other was formed on an island in the Han River in Seoul and grew from 1978 to 1993 into one of the biggest garbage piles in the world. Today, the Nanjido has been renaturalised and revitalised with parks, certainly, but it still threatens to contaminate the surrounding waters.
Among other ways, Na Hyun presents the analogy between the two hills and the legendary tower in the form of a display of wooden drawers containing drawings and archive materials. He is currently supplementing this with plants found at the Teufelsberg, which was not originally their local habitat, as well as interviews with foreigners living in Kreuzberg, Berlin and Seoul, South Korea.
The themes of Hyun’s works emerge wherever violence is being done to mankind and nature. They plead for the diversity of varying existences and ways of seeing things. Their partly scientific, partly fictive research and presentation processes are based on a concept of history that does not regard historical insights as the incontrovertible truth but as constructed and led by interests: as a consequence, history can be opened to alternative viewpoints.