Sculpture Journal

How not to become a monument: Post-it politics and the statue of Kim Hwal-lan

Sculpture Journal (2022), 31, (1), 23–36.

Abstract

On the sunny afternoon of 30 May 2013, a large group of students from Ewha Womans University in Seoul, South Korea, began to cover up a bronze statue overlooking the campus lawn with a colourful mosaic of handwritten Post-it notes. Erected in 1958 to commemorate the pioneering career of Kim Hwal-lan (1899-1970) as university president, educator and feminist, the statue subsequently became a site of controversy when her associations with imperial Japan became the subject of national critique in the late 1990s. The students’ ‘Post-it protest’ thus exposed South Korea’s ongoing, troubled process of reconciling its colonial and post-colonial past. This article revisits the flash mob protest staged by the students to examine its artistic and political significance, and to trace the competing histories of erecting and defacing statues in the context of late twentieth-century South Korea. If the vandalization and toppling of monuments from their pedestals has been traditionally practised and recognized as a spectacular visualization of resistance, this performative campaign arguably suggests an alternative mode of engaging with contested monuments beyond the binary logic of preservation versus eradication, remembrance versus erasure, glorification versus condemnation.

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Author details

Leam, Sooyoung