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As Below, So Above (2023)

Medium: Single-channel video installation

On the eve of the ending of WWII, a surviving logistic soldier and a Buddhist Jodo Shinshu Hongwanji sect military missionary (淨土真宗本願寺派從軍佈教使) remained in the underground fortress of Hailar, a frontline military fortress on the border between Manchuria and the Soviet Union, covering 21 square kilometres through the mountains and the city, which had been unnoticed even by those living above ground. The soldier and monk killed time in the underworld, talking from a Buddhist scripture banned by their motherland to the question of whether the Soviet red army had left already. The underground was a maze, those who were living in the dark learned to endure the spectres, both in their minds and the tunnels, or else the deadly air from the other side would consume their souls. The exit from the underground was only the sound of the wind, and the soldier looked out from the tunnel ceiling, which was blown open by the Soviets, spotting no sign of the enemy. Perhaps the warmth in the darkness reinforced the fear of the unknown, a thought instilled across generations.

Now, seventy years later, with three years of physical confinement, people have been conditioned to lose their immunity to that invisible, pervasive, airborne fear. But instead of the long-desired freedom, the sudden re-opening of the country causes mental disorientation and discomfort, which is more virulent and contagious than the virus, seeping tranquillity into the heart and lungs. Fear becomes an embodied collective trauma, as people isolate themselves from the world, go on medical supply shopping sprees, flee to the countryside or self-quarantine at home. As the classic hermeticism suggests, As Below, So Above, the living lose corresponding spiritual balance once the harmony of different planes is disrupted.

The military missionary sits crouched at the entrance of the tunnel, leading deeper into the darkness, murmuring the forbidden verse that the dead and the living underground have always coexisted with all beings above, only that they have chosen not to perceive with the naked eye.

The project is commissioned by Asia Culture Center (Gwangju, South Korea).