Anyang, the 20 Seconds Different Paradise City


Bona Park, 2016


Paradise City is a song by the American rock band Guns N’ Roses. The song yearns for a utopian city symbolized as ‘home’ in the lyrics. The chorus repeats, “Take me down to the paradise city where the grass is green and the girls are pretty.” In the song, paradise city is a utopia in contrast to the present time where everyone pursues only money and power. The name of the city, Anyang, also refers to the Buddhist concept of “paradise,”, indicating a liberated and peaceful place. Paradise City (2016) departs from a question about whether it would be possible to find a utopia with a field of green grass ‘where the grass is green’ in the present Anyang.

In terms of its format, the video records four Anyang citizens playing Guns N’ Roses’ Paradise City in four locations in Anyang with their respective instruments. The locations are: the rooftop of an apartment building overlooking the newly developed section of the city; the main intersection of Hagwonga street, with its dense accumulation of private academies of all sorts; the artificial waterfall in Anyang Art Park; and Anyang Mail Center where all the postal items of the city are processed. Each of the four performers is a citizen of Anyang who is either learning or teaching music for pleasure or preparing to enter music schools.

The bass guitar player in the video is LEE Yoon-sang, a high school student that once wanted to become a professional guitarist but had to give up his dream because his parents objected. However, he learns how to play a bass guitar on weekends and practices the regularly at a shared practice room. On the first day of shooting, he played his bass guitar with calmness and concentration, sweating heavily on the hot rooftop from early morning without any complaint. He said he would give his honorarium to his parents and the filming crew complimented him. KWON Sodam, the keyboard player, is a student at Soongsil University Conservatory of Music. She had beautiful makeup on the day of shooting but had to wash it off because the camera director said her face was too glossy on camera. She ran to the shoo after her part-time job, but then everyone had to wait until the artificial waterfall started operating and quickly start shooting. Nevertheless, KWON was natural and confident enough to be distinguished without the beautiful makeup she removed.SHIM Missok, the drummer, said that she has been learning how to play drums for about two years now. Saying that Guns N’ Roses’ song was difficult, she practiced throughout the summer, making time between different schedules even on weekdays. She then played a lot better than anyone could expect. She was amused to say that her son serving his time in the military band would be quite surprised to see the video in which she would appear. Even her profile image on a messaging app is now a captured image from the video of her performance that was played in loop at the platform of Anyang Station. JUNG Myounghann, the guitar player, is preparing to apply to a university conservatory for the second time. Working part-time to earn money to pay for private music lessons, he attends a music academy near Beomgye subway station. He participated in the performance to receive an honorarium. Although he must have been very tired to wait for a shooting in the night, which was far more delayed because of administrative issues, he did not hesitate to complete his job. After finishing the shoot and returning back home, JUNG sent a moving text message to me. He said he was feeling too much tension, worried that his friends might see him because the shooting took place as they were going back home after the private academies closing. He said he would do better if there would be another time for him to perform. With the help of the four citizen performers, the shooting was done as planned, without any problem.

Anyang is a satellite city near Seoul, which has witnessed the history of Korea’s economic growth and expansion. As the city is still growing under the logic of economic development, there is a stark contrast between the newly developed areas and the relatively underdeveloped neighborhoods. As with similar cities throughout the country, Anyang has become a place that prefers bigger volume and higher velocity to small values and slower steps. In such a city, I couldn’t find paradise. I couldn’t see it in front of ACRO Tower, the tallest building of Anyang. At the former site of Green Hill Textile Mill in Bisan-dong, where nineteen female factory workers lost their lives in a fire, I couldn’t find it. The place I found the ‘liberation and peace’ of Anyang was in the Anyang citizens I met throughout the production of my work, especially the four citizens that performed for my work. They practice for their own enjoyment, concentrate on themselves, and make efforts for their dreams in the reality where everyone is “pushing for the fortune and fame” and not ashamed of expediency and despicability as Guns N’ Roses sings. In them, I think I saw a utopian vision of Anyang. From the people that willingly shared their time and helped the project of an artist that they haven’t seen before, I think I discovered the paradise city.

Paradise City is produced as two different versions. One is a four-channel video that shows four performers at the same time, which was presented at the subway platform of Anyang Station. The other is a single-channel version that combines four performers into one linear video. Despite the fact that all performers played their instruments along the same music, the resulting performances were all in different lengths. In addition, the single-channel version was eventually twenty seconds longer than the original song. In these twenty seconds, I saw the unique characteristics and distinctive qualities of Anyang citizens and could experience the city more intimately. In such a way, the city of Anyang became a paradise city, a liberated and peaceful land with a twenty-second difference.

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