YoungEun Kim
Selected Works
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Red Noise Visit

Single-channel video, stereo & binaural sound, excerpted news articles and essays, aluminum frame, headphones
12 min 6 sec Dimensions variable

This work spotlights two contrasting sounds that had existed during the modernization of Korea. The first of these sounds is the siren, remembered in particular contexts as the “noon siren” and the “curfew siren.” Sirens effectively synchronized daytime laborers’ daily routines and maintained control over their evenings across successive historical periods, from Japanese colonial rule to U.S. military control, and mid-century wartime up to the age of dictatorship. Over the course of 36 years, the curfew siren in particular gradually instilled within the nation a strict temporal discipline, dominating the space, time, and minds of individuals. In Osu-myeon, Imsil-gun, Jullabuk-do, Korea, stands the tallest red brick watchtower in existence, built during the Japanese occupation to surveil residents. After Korea’s independence, it began to function as a siren tower. The story within this work begins with the echoic memory of local residents, recalling the siren in tandem with the rigid visuality of the red brick tower and gradually expands to the story of the curfew siren.

The other sound was that of the radio. It produced sound that gathered listeners unseen, within the darkness that fell after each curfew siren. It was at times deliberate propaganda directed between the South and the North. It was also sometimes a regular broadcast signal that had unintentionally crossed past borders. In an age of strong anti-communist sentiment, it was illegal to listen to something like the radio, which operates amidst a field of blurred spatial boundaries. Therefore, listening to the radio was always a secret, individual experience. The story within this work is about the memory of a former spy during the ’60s, who would listen to the broadcasts from the South while in the North. At that time, the perceived sound of all radio signals was labeled by a press as “Red Noise.”

Two vexed sounds—two “red noises”—one oppressively striking down upon the flow of time, the other permeating across spatial borders. What traces did the siren leave on individual lives after acts of forced collective listening and temporal suppression? On the other hand, how did radio galvanize the rebellious imaginations of secluded listeners?

To get closer to these sounds of the past, which are realistically well out of reach, I researched news articles, interviews, and essays describing echoic memories of the siren and radio. I then arranged excerpted text from the sources above into video; the texts illustrate the memories of various speakers and distinct perspectives. Using electroacoustic techniques, and recorded voice and found objects, recomposed siren and radio sounds are juxtaposed with the video.

This work was commissioned by Arko Art Center in Seoul in 2018


*This video features binaural audio recordings. For the best listening experience, listen with headphones.

#1-4 Installation View at Visitor Welcome Center, Los Angeles (Photo by Ruben Diaz)

#5-7 Installation View at Arko Art Center, Seoul (Photo by Kyung Roh)

3 min Video Excerpt