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Two years on: memorializing the sinking of 'Sewol' through art

All News 18:02 April 07, 2016

By Woo Jae-yeon

SEOUL, April 7 (Yonhap) -- Two years have passed since a ferry sank off the southwestern coast of the Korean Peninsula with more than 300 people -- mostly young students -- aboard.

For many South Koreans, the sinking of the Sewol ferry on April 16, 2014 and the national trauma from the ensuing aftermath amid botched rescue efforts still remain an open wound.

"April the Eternal Voyage," a memorial exhibit at the Gyeonggi Museum of Modern Art that opens on April 16, is aimed at offering consolation for those still haunted by it all.

Through the exhibition comprised of three parts -- "Accompany," "Remember" and "Record" -- 22 teams display art works that basically question how and what art can help heal the raw emotions that many people felt while witnessing one of the country's worst maritime disasters unfolding via live broadcast.

Artist Choi Jung-hwa's "Breathing Flower," a 10 meter-wide black lotus, will be installed in front of the mass memorial altar for the victims in Ansan, a city in Gyeonggi Province that is home to the high school students who were aboard the doomed ferry.

The petals of the flower will periodically open and close to symbolize the strong life force of the lotus which grows out of the mud and beautifully blossoms above the water's surface.

Park Eun-tae's acrylic painting "Waiting People" brings back painful and anxious memories by illustrating devastated families waiting day and night for their loved one's body to be retrieved and brought back to them on a port overlooking the vast, dark ocean.

"Face of Heaven," an installation by Cho Sook-jin, shows lights emanating from 304 holes that symbolize "endlessness, eternity, indestructibility and perfection." At the same time, they represent the 304 victims for whom the artist prays to be reborn as stars in their afterlife and to shed light on a dark side of society.

Documentary photography project "Children's Room" is designed to honor the memory of those who met a premature end. But also, it reminds viewers of the tragic loss that many still believe could have been minimized, if not averted, if the rescue team and crew had been better prepared or stayed more alert. Illustrations of each student by famous illustrator Park Jae-dong will be displayed with the photo series.

Through "Trivial Monument," artist Hong Soon-myung tries to resolve or relieve a sense of guilt and sorrow that he, as an adult, felt for the young students. He brought objects from the Paengmok port on the southern coast of Jindo Island, South Jeolla Province, which served as a staging ground for rescue operations, and displays them with an oil painting.

The memorial exhibit runs until June 26.


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