Imaginary Playground. Performance Intervention.  2016. Incheon, S. Korea.

Imaginary Playground was an experiment in redefining the lived experience of an urban landscape. The work questions the existing mechanisms of public space and the imaginary structures, borders and rules that shape how communal landscapes are navigated, experienced, and shared.

The intervention took place in the Jung-gu area of Incheon, a city 36 km west of Seoul. An installation of black fabric was first draped overnight throughout an area several blocks large, drawing symbolic interruptions that appropriated the existing structures, created new paths and obstructions, and at times altered how people moved and related to one another. The performance began at sunrise as the city awoke and the first pedestrians walked the streets, becoming part of the performance themselves. ‘Imaginary pedestrian’ performers arrived one by one around this time, at separate locations throughout the landscape. At first behaving as ordinary passersby, they explored a relational dialogue with the space and actions that redefined and subverted the language of the ordinary. Play in this sense, is a liminal mode of the non-rational imagination—where truth and fiction lie in tension, and common belief structures are transgressed. Faced with uncertainty in the familiar, one assigns new meaning to external input, collaboratively shaping an alternate imaginary that brings hidden truths to light, if only for a brief moment in time.

The experiment challenged existing norms through a peaceful intervention that co-existed with the existing reality and whereby imaginary rules, boundaries and definitions could be called into question through the public’s choice to react, engage, or be indifferent. Care was taken not to block stores or cars on the street, and not to impose on people or prevent them from doing anything they would normally do. The public’s reaction was nevertheless strong—some were indifferent, others curious, while a large amount of people were very angry, and even frightened. About 2.5 hours in, after many complaints and two police reports, the piece came to an end.

Imaginary Playground was supported by Incheon Foundation for Arts & Culture. Incheon (KR)

Performers: Seo Young Joo, Chung Wan Ho, Lee Wang Soo, Shin Hye Nam, Lee Jin Won
Documentation: Seione Jieun Kim, Min Jun Gi (1984)
Production Assistants: Jee Jin Hyun, Kim Soo Hyun