Miners' Orange (2009)

Young In Hong

The parade, Miner’s Orange (2009) was the main project I organised during my residency at Gohan. I don’t regard Miner’s Orange as my individual work, as it was realised in collaboration with the local community, the casino and curators, which reveals the fact that my position in this project was neither about supporting the political aim of economic redevelopment, nor furthering my personal agenda as an artist. The project was sponsored by the very same casino that brought about a lack of cultural development in the Gohan-Sabuk area. This compromised position is what the artists had to negotiate, choosing to engage with it from the inside rather than refuse to take part on principal grounds.

Minor’s Orange took the form of a protest without any slogan, theme or purpose. Being a protest without slogans meant that the parade represented a distance between the preconception of a certain action and the actual action itself. Distancing the actual event from pre-given conceptions was breaking with the signifying meanings normally associated with political actions. But the props used for the parade was made according to the shape of the pickets the ex-miners used for their frequent protests just after the coalmine closures. As a visual language, the idea of a parade was not entirely new to the local residents in the ex-mining towns. The relation of the participants to the artwork as such was performed through the act of ‘walking’ itself. Even though people did not understand what the parade meant, and also rarely had any experience of contemporary art, walking with pickets would have evoked the memory of the coalmine closures and the frequent demonstrations relating to this event, that took place around the middle of the 1990s in Gohan-Sabuk area. This would then be an example of working with memory specific subject matter in an art context.

Around five hundred people from the local community participating in a parade in such a small town, meant that most of the people in the area who would normally be spectators, were instead walking in the parade. It can be said that the participants were spectators at the same time and in the same space in which the art was produced, and that a public was produced at the same time as the art was performed. In this sense the project dissolved the separation between participants and spectators and the time between production and consumption. Miner’s Orange was a demonstration without being a protest against inequality; rather it represented equality itself by directly acting out a diffusion between art and the public, a dominant system and creative processes. The parade did not represent any static idea, but rather tried to open the possibility of making the invisible visible. Likewise, the intention behind my project was not to judge or form opinions about urban development, but to make the complexity of Gohan-Sabuk’s identity itself become visible.

A number of rows of local residents wearing orange garments with orange pickets walking from the former Sabuk Mining Office in the direction of Gohan produced an unusual aesthetic visibility. This visibility was further enhanced by the residents having a strong tendency of cohesion due to their shared history as a mining culture, also sharing the life patterns and experiences the recent establishment of the casino brought to the two towns. Miner’s Orange not only produced a unique visibility that stopped cars and passerbys, but also evoked memories of the coalmine closures through the translated sensibility of the orange color and energetic marching. Miner’s Orange also gave the experience to visitors from outside town of walking along with locals, seeing the town differently by walking a specifically historical route with them.