A Rock without Conviction
PAIK Jongkwan, film director
“Came from very far.”
In Rock and Fairy, people in search of a rock suddenly emerge. For these people, a rock is an actual being with a significant meaning. Searching for gold or a meteorite is an act that stimulates and reinforces their conviction. Their affection and belief in a rock are far from being ordinary. This case just differs in subject and form which is not an uncommon observation in our daily lives and the history of humanity in general. For instance, in the last part of Rock and Fairy, there’s a scene in which a U.S. diplomatic mission delivers a Moon rock fragment collected from a moon exploration mission during a celebratory visit to South Korea. This scene symbolically represents the aforementioned idea. The fact that the lunar rock is able to function as a means of promoting friendship is because it is a representative ‘idol’; an object of religious or scientific study in many cultures and regions, including the U.S. and South Korea.
In Rock and Fairy, the artist not only manages to fragmentarily convey the concept of ‘belief’ in a certain subject but also continues to deliver more aspects. A scene in which people regard the rock as a fairy is interwoven with other scenes of an interview (with footage of a spinning pen) and an irrelevant comment such as the history of the Internet in Korea. And the residents of Michun-myun in Jinju put this belief into question which causes cracks in the belief system of the explorers. An elderly woman who lives in Michun-myun talks to the artist who went to the spot where the meteorite had fallen together with Mr. Odu, the researcher of the Korean Traditional Whale Culture Institute. She said, “Came from very far. Very far away, indeed. But what’s the point of actually seeing it?” Although the old lady mentions about “a being coming from very far,” she’s referring to the folks that came in search of traces of the meteorite. The use of consecutive adverbs resonates with not only the people who pursue this belief, but also the entire subject of this belief in Rock and Fairy. Moreover, these adverbs become a metaphor for the distance between the viewers and the characters of the video. The appearance of those who travelled from ‘very far’ is being pushed further away from the immersion of viewers right at the moment when a locutionary act by the lady takes place. Within this gap, the beginning of contemplation occurs.
“The Rock was Not Sure.”
The cracks in this belief multiply, not only because of the content, but also the format of the video. The artist presents individual cases by dividing them into several scenes and irregularly connecting them, combined with exaggerated narration that fills the in-between gaps. And yet, the subject of narration is quite ambiguous. Besides the voices of the interviewees, Rock and Fairy features the narration of the artist as well as of a voice actor and actress. But the identity of the mysterious voice actress is intriguing. The female narrator utters incomprehensible sounds like, “hae… hae… hae…” and asks questions to the interviewee from a director’s position like, “Why is your nickname Mono?”. She sometimes speaks from the third person omniscient point of view of the male narrator. “It was God when humans had seen the sun at first sight.” She even talks on behalf of the interviewees. “I will show them to my kids in the future.” At this point, figuring out the subject of narration becomes impossible and the viewers are put in a position where they are unable to be convinced.
“The rock wasn’t sure. He had to meet the fairy” is the first line in the opening scene of the video Rock and Fairy. Not only the viewers, but even the rock has found itself in a situation without conviction. Although the ones who look for ‘the rock’ and designate it as a fairy are the actual people appearing in the video, the content of the script makes it sound as if the people who look for the rock actually become the rock themselves. The being that desires to have a fairy can be translated as various objects and people in the video and hence, the viewers are positioned in a state where they’re unable to be convinced of that being. Rock and Fairy is ‘a movie’ that isn't convincing at all. There is no conviction. Here, the movie is replaced with the rock. The people with no conviction, those looking for a certain subject and calling it a fairy, exist both on and off screen.
“It is supposed to be dark.”
The male narrator speaks from the third person omniscient point of view of the artist and says that in order to find a subject darkness is necessary. “It is supposed to be dark.” Though it is a required condition when looking for a rock, it’s also a required environment when watching an actual movie. While the video deals with conviction in a very unconvincing way, tension is created with the occasional appearance of captivating, cinematic images. The fairy can also be found in barely visible silhouettes entering the darkness of night as well as in the images filmed after getting in the water in search for the meteorite and in the scattered light reflected by air bubbles and dust in the darkness of water.
The interviews, narrations and images in Rock and Fairy do not serve one clear narrative. Each element doesn’t go hand in hand with a certain ‘conviction’, yet each one of them radiates its own light. In an interview scene with the placer gold club members, a long shot of people collecting gold is followed by a vague close-up shot. This type of close-up shot functions as a being just like gold and not as sand that needs to be filtered. The editing of Rock and Fairy, in which the context is being extracted and replaced by a new one, endlessly tosses a question about belief at the viewers. Thus, Rock and Fairy proceeds with a plan that ruminates on the belief in a rock and adopts a stereoscopic perspective on the structure of that conviction. Simultaneously, it steps aside from the general expectations of the viewers that a movie is an artistic form in itself and moves forward, into darkness, pursuing the more fundamental (such as the creation of the universe).
Born in Suwon in 1982, Paik Jongkwan received his BFA in Psychology from Chung-Ang University and MFA in Film from The Graduate School of Communication and Arts at Yonsei University. For his master thesis, he analyzed the digital image of Chris Marker. He collects images and sounds in our daily life, working through the process of contemplation of their social context and - simultaneously - of the materiality of the film medium. He continues to produce experimental films based on research with in-depth study of images. His films are: Cyclical Night (2016), I-Image (2015), Unfold the Theater (2014), Willow Flower (2013), and Frequency Resonance (2012).