Positioned along security fences that indicate the demilitarised zone between North and South Korea, the currently unfinished sculpture The Bridge (2017) by Calligraffiti artist eL Seed will remain so, and possibly even be destroyed, in light of the two nations discussing ceasing their conflict.
Commissioned by the South Korea’s Gyeonggi Museum of Modern Art , "I was approached by Gyeonggi in May 2017," says eL Seed. "They asked me to propose an installation that would celebrate the reunification between South and North Korea. I had carte blanche to do the piece in the DMZ." Though surprised by the commission given his heritage and typical usage of Arabic script, eL Seed adds that the museum team was undeterred. "They saw that my projects, even though using a specific language like Arabic, that my goal was always to bring people together," he explains. "It showed me the power and the universal beauty that exists in Arabic script. It doesn’t matter if you read it or not, it’s a poetry everyone can feel."
Forty-three aluminum Arabic calligraphy panels presented a Korean love poem by Kim Sowol. "Every project I do, I try to write a message that is relevant to the place where I’m creating the art piece," eL Seed says. "For me it was important to make sure I chose the right one. This Korean poet passed away before the 1953 separation in 1953, and the love poem he wrote, Unable to Forget, is about a person saying they're unable to forget, no matter what, and how can they forget? It was so relevant to the project and the situation in North and South Korea." Half of the work had already been installed on the South Korean side of a fence, and while the final half, due to be installed on the North Korean side of the fence, was approved by the North Korean government, they did not offer funding for the political work. The project has come to a full halt following the April meeting between Moon Jae-In and Kim Jong Un, South and North Korean presidents respectively, but the move has left the artist feeling positive.
The project aimed to function as a call for and celebration of reunification, and a celebration of unity, shared heritage, language, traditions, and mutual respect between North and South, as well as older and current generations. But the work resonates even more deeply. "There is a parallel to the Middle East – the sepration between people, the conflict between two countries and two peoples who historically were living together with no boundaries," he says. "It’s a symbol that shows if you fight for it, and hope, at some point people will come back together. We should maybe just believe in it, do it. We live in a pessimistic world, a lot of people don’t believe in the future, but there is a part of humanity that does that is still left and that’s what im trying to show through my work. If after 65 years Korean can, and no one would think they would come together, then same could happen in the Middle East. We should believe in it, and keep believing in uniting people."