As the youngest descendant of all dying things
This is the last line from Yuri An’s poem “I Will, I Was / For My Death” and an apt summation of A Forest Three Meters Squared. The poems and photographs in the book are heavy with worry. An anxiety is pervasive–and yet there is also hopeful desire and affirmative longing.
The photographs worry at the edges of the quotidian and find dark images beneath the surface. A dark dock stretches out into a lake, the light in the sky reaching down in a delta shape echoing and refuting the darkness of the dock. A dark frame with an circular image fragment at its center, below it a sunset with the circular fragment missing from its center. A tangle of dense greenery bursting forward. The mottled reflection of light on water, a dark band of shadow cutting across it. The red moon hangs in a dark sky partly obscured by tree branches. A plane screams across the sky leaving a dark contrail to trace its path inevitably bound to dissipate and disappear. All the images underscored with the tessellated jaggedness of a video grab–suggestion of a continuity interrupted.
The photographs sit at the book’s center. From one direction the poetry can be read in Korean. Flip the book over and from the opposite direction the poetry can be read in English. Either way, one ends at the photographs in the center. At the center is the visual image.
An asks in the book’s preface, “when all people shared the same language did they understand each other? Did they share the same dream?” Living in a strange place, away from home and distanced by language, An’s fears spring from opportunity and possibility as much as from strangeness. Complete homogeneity no more guarantees intimacy than does the foreign guarantee alienation. A shared language is not understanding. An image shared is not an idea conveyed. A memory shared is not forever; how does the tree share your secret?
From “Irreconcilable Time,” the first poem in the book:
For some time, I
have locked up time
instilled your memories in my room
Sealed traces, airtight
Living moments, captured, freshly picked
What you and I exchanged
I can’t say that I understand the poems (that is as likely my own failing as any issue with the translation) or that I have understood the book’s particulars. I do understand the longing and the fear. I have my own room in which I seal traces. The moments once living, once freshly picked, now captured. But, they’ll be gone soon enough.
A Forest Three Meters Squared
Written, photographed and designed by An (email)
Kyoung mee choi (sic)
Production: Gerrit Rietveld Academie