Promise Park (2021), Moon Kyungwon’s new work, is an extension of the artist’s project series of the same title that explores the urban environment, relationships between human cognition, sociality, and technology, and the historiographic becoming of humanity. The “park” is an abstract space for assessing tumultuous episodes of Korea’s modern history and socioeconomic development, a transformation manifested in the textile factories that were the site of Japanese exploitation in the 1950s and the foundation of modern industries in Gwangju and South Jeolla in the 1960s that are now invisible in the city, palimpsests of an industrial past. This history has been erased by the development of large residential complexes and a historical park surrounding the region’s waterways and mountain paths. Tracing the transformation of the urban landscape across old maps of Gwangju, Moon teases out a pattern of invisible traces of time and weaves different stories into a cohesive narrative, rendering Promise Park—a public garden where viewers can experience shared temporality and space in its entirety—into a gathering site for communal empathy and solidarity.
Moon recognizes the gap between the visual production of an idealized world as constructed through human and scientific fantasy and the complex operations of social intelligence across lived reality. Since 2015, she has adapted Promise Park to different contexts as a pivotal model of inquiry. For the Biennale, the artist has collaborated with cognitive scientists, architects, regional cultural researchers, scholars of Chinese astrology, and other specialists to explore transformations of the built landscape, social practices, and neurocognition. Free to access in Gallery 1, Promise Park provides a platform for the social exchange of intergenerational perspectives while taking account of Gwangju’s traumatic past and ongoing solidarity alliances.