*For the intact appreciation of the work that includes binaural sounds in it, headphone listening is highly recommended.
Red Noise Visit
Single channel video, stereo & binaural sound
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 crossed unintentionally past borders. In an age of strong anti-communist sentiment, it was illegal to listen to something like the radio, which operates midst 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 60's, 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.
*The idea of juxtaposing two contrasting noises in this work—a siren and radio waves—was conceived from the thesis The Soundscape of Nation and the Imaginative Power of Red Noise (2011) written by Tae Hun Lim.
Editing and Sound Design
Eugene A. Kim
The Neon Sound, LA
South Pole Sound Lab, Seoul
Sound Effect and Mastering
Sang Ah Nahm
Eugene A. Kim
Song and Siren Melody
Lullaby by Nan-pa Hong
Eugene A. Kim
Commissioned and supported by
Arko Art Center, Seoul