New Project for the DMZ Art Festival: “Entrenched Thought”

Here is a bit of background and the basic idea of the project:

In 1989 I arrived in South Africa for a year to work for a community development organization and news magazine. Mandela was still in jail and the Iron Curtain was still in place. I had no idea what I was in for. I had completed two years of a graduate degree in Cross-cultural Studies and both my inner and outer world were about to be turned upside-down.

You can guess the history; at about the same time as I witnessed the release of Mandela from prison, attending the euphoric Cape Town celebrations, the iron curtain started coming down. However the personal satisfaction that locals felt was something I couldn’t quite get my head around. I needed to find a connection between my inner and outer worlds.

Having studied and lived abroad, borders and cultural conflicts have attempted to define and frustrate my life. In this way, thinking and dialoguing about how to deal with cultural and political differences has left its mark on my interior life and my vision of the world. My work as an artist became a need to create some kind of poetic construct; some mechanism to find out how to bring the inside to the outside; to make it meaningful to people very different from myself.

This bit of biography is key to my practice. When taking solitary objects, turning them inside-out, consumer packages or personal ephemera, I have a compulsion to build bridges between personal worlds with larger questions. The project, “Entrenched Thought”, the idea of digging a trench along the DMZ, with the help of South Korean soldiers and locals and buttressing the structure with books, newspapers and mud, rather than sandbags, is just as much about “Disentrenching” thought, opening up dialogue and sharing private stories and views as it is about entrenched regional political and military tension. Its a project about digging.

The DMZ history with respect to digging is well known. In the 1970′s the South Koreans discovered that the North had built tunnels under the two-kilometre wide zone that were large enough for an invading force to go through. While the iron curtain has come down, and presently we are seeing revolutions in the Middle East, Korea remains divided. In light of this, for the 11th time since 1999, the DMZ Art Festival is held with the aim to “pursue the constructive endeavour of peace.”

Having researched local history I will be working side by side with people, building friendships and making the project into a participatory installation; part performance, part sculpture, which will involve the local community as they celebrate the DMZ Art Festival. The extensive photographic documentation that I will make of the project will allow me to offer prints to participants and supporters as a reminder of potential new ideas.

I will be posting drawings and more details about the project and how you can get involved.

A few points.
• You can send old books to be used in the construction of the project.
Here is the address for sending a package of books which will be held for the project when I arrive there. I will be working on the project from May 24 until about June 6:
Seokjang-ri Art Museum
875 Seokjang-ri, Beakhak,
Yeonchun, Kyounggi-do,
South Korea
• You can recommend titles of books that you think should be in the construction, but the best way to recommend would be sending a copy of it to be included.
• You will be able to contribute though billed as
“The world’s leading international funding platform” and similar to Kickstarter.
I am working on a short video to post there soon. I will update this link when ready.
• You can see about actually coming to Korea to work on the project with me and do some digging side-by-side.

21 Comments on “New Project for the DMZ Art Festival: “Entrenched Thought””

  1. marie says:

    What a beautiful project! Very inspiring!

  2. Tanya says:

    An artist with integrity and a poetic social consciousness! An inspired idea. Best of luck.

  3. Sounds an excellent initiative, Mark. wishing you all great success. Hope to see some photos uploaded.

  4. Sunny from S. Korea says:

    First of all, I’m very glad that some artist is thinking about Korean DMZ, no matter what the reasons are. Living in a land that is divided into two different ideologies gives me instability (I’m sure I’m not the only one) whether I tend to recognize it consciously and unconsciously or not. The instability became a part of Korean’s lives without realizing it.

    I hope your “Entrenched Thought” art piece can give Koreans relief from a worry, some peace and recognition that how much war is useless.

    As part of the project, books become more important message somehow, I think. Book has words, meanings, stories. If you put some more books related with meaningful message, that would be more powerful. Words has its own power.

    I love your project. Can’t wait to see your photographic documents.


    • Thanks so much for your kind words. I look forward to meeting you in Korea.

      Books can be either precious or they can be recycled. The same could be said about ideas.

      I hope my project will create some dialogue around that.

  5. Mark,

    It is a great project! I think it is a great idea and I am looking forward to seeing it coming true.
    I will send books, in Spanish and Catalan so somehow I will be present in the project too.

  6. Jordan says:

    What a project. Just the title is profound. Looking forward to the photographic documentation as it unfolds.

  7. Tahlib says:

    I shared the idea with a friend, and his immediate concern was about environmental impact. I must admit, I didn’t have an answer. Help me? On a more personal book-note, right now I’m planning to send books I’ve enjoyed but now want gone because of the authors politics. Is that a good idea or a bad one? I’ve not yet worked that out. Thanks for the project.

    • Thanks for asking Tahlib,

      No worries about environmental impact. The project is a temporary earthwork, and only 20 meters long. You dig a trench. You fill a trench. I am assuming that grass still grows in dirt. The project is in an outdoor exhibition space.

      I will post the address for sending books asap. I think that any books-the good, the bad and the ugly-suit the idea of building the wall of a trench. Its about dialoguing any kind of question surrounding how ideas can both liberate and hinder. Its open-ended. What does it really mean to have “entrenched thought” ?

  8. This sounds like a huge project

    To add to your book list can I suggest Jarhead, and All Quiet on the Western Front which both reflect the soldier’s experience. If you include Sun Tzu, then add Xenophon’s Anabasis (the march of the 10,000)

  9. Guy Armitage says:

    Sounds awesome, would love to be there to see it come all together!

    There’s a couple of books which should be in there somewhere, The Art of War, Animal Farm and 1984 to name a few!

    Keep us posted, and give us some dates when you’ll be there, might be around Japan, so could jump and take a few photos, if you’ll allow me!

  10. Tahlib says:

    Maybe you will have another Mandela experience and see the rising of the iron curtain while you are there. Wouldn’t that be an amazing twist on this story. This is an amazing project. I am grateful that you are doing it.

  11. Sarah says:

    This sounds really interesting and a very powerful concept for many reasons.

    ‘some mechanism to find out how to bring the inside to the outside; to make it meaningful to people very different from myself’ really reminds me of Kandinskys theories and ideas of communicating the inner. I think as a concept it is easier said than done. But it is something worth aiming for.

    The idea about working with local people, i think is fantastic idea. Leaving not only something physical but also an emotional connection, one that they have helped to build…

  12. This sounds intense. It’s very much a public art piece for the festival, but your audience will expand as all documented material is distributed later. I think you should take a truck-load of photos and create an installation of this trench for another public space abroad. Bring your experience and site-specific project back to the west if possible by creating another work of art.

    The world is so heavy at the moment and peace seems to be balancing on a tightrope; with mid-east revolutions chock-o-block and S. Korea in constant threat. Your concept/message is timely; it’s brave.

    The other element I love about it is there shouldn’t be too much complications in terms of materials. Some shovels. People. Old books. Mud.

    Let me know what I can do to support your vision… books in the mail; most def.

    • Thanks for the suggestion and encouragement. Getting my cameras cleaned. New tripod, back-up hard-drives. Someone is doing video.

      About bringing it back to the west, I’ve been thinking about other “borders” ideas for a long time. And future ideas for Korea, possibly in a future year.

      I wish I had unlimited time and resources, but very happy to going through with this project.

  13. Kianga Ellis says:

    I love this!

  14. tobeydeys says:

    Mark Philip – this is fascinating. In addition to the project itself, it’s thrilling to have the opportunity to work within that community.

    I’m going to be very interested in following your, and other artists’, involvement in this Art Festival.

  15. Feel free to post comments

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