Samin Son TV
Samin Son is an unlikely soldier. In 2007 when Son, then a Fine Arts student at Massey University in Wellington, was drafted into South Korea’s compulsory two year military service he expected his opportunity for artistic expression - and his individuality to be severely compromised.
It is ironic then that this video work Samin Son TV comes directly from this experience. In Samin Son TV the artist composes a narrative from footage of his recent performances, including Toothpaste Action Series and Hammer Piece, which is accompanied by sound recordings.
Michel Foucault in his discussion of power systems describes the military as being a form of institutionalized control over the individual. It is part of a contemporary political system masquerading as equalitarian in its defense of democracy, which in fact maintains hierarchies through order, discipline and surveillance. In the military one is forced to conform.
“In the army I trained for the riot police, had faeces thrown at me and entered real life riot situations. To toughen me up for the experience, my senior officers would beat me. I had to clean the bathroom floor everyday using toothpaste.”
Samin Son seeks to challenge these power structures. In ritualizing army routines using elements of exercise and chanting he takes back control of his experience. He also challenges the military in his refusal to totally submit to them; while Son was supposed to be on cleaning duty he took the opportunity to paint himself on the surface of the mirror with toothpaste. These marks were like a form of tagging, a momentary reassertion of ipseity.
“These moments were my only opportunities, stolen as they were, to indulge in artistic expression. For a time, illicit toothpaste self-portraits were my only medium, often scrawled on a mirror.”
Further to its engagement with discussions of power relations and identity politics, Samin Son TV utilizes the device of flashback and memory that is inherent in film. His work attempts to recapture his military experience and in doing so take further ownership of it. This process also disseminates that experience to others, and perhaps in doing this lessens the burden of experience, and the dominion it has over him.