Gwangju Story, 1996
18 archival pigment prints
each: 60 × 62 cm
Courtesy of the artist
Originally presented in 2006 at Fever Variations, 6th Gwangju Biennale, this series of photographs documents the making of the movie A Petal (1996) by Sun-woo Jang. The movie follows the story of a fifteen-year-old girl, Petal, who deserts her dying mother amid a gunfire attack during the May 18 uprising.
Oh was invited by the director to create an image for the movie’s official poster. Most of the photographs that eventually became part of the series were taken during the shooting of the scenes of protests at Geumnam street, which re-enacted the largest protests of the Democratization Movement. More than 3,000 Gwangju citizens volunteered to restage these protests. Ironically—Oh recounts—police officers were sent to the location, in case the staged gathering happened to inspire another uprising. Hence, the photographs portray Gwangju citizens, professional actors, real policemen, and military soldiers.
In describing this project, Oh has said that the series is neither a depiction of the May 18 Movement nor a mere account of film- making. By registering the stoic expressions of its subjects, the series rather captures an unspoken social contract that comes out of the act of remembering and re-enacting the Democratization Movement.
Heinkuhn Oh (b. 1963, Seoul, Korea) majored in photography and film at Ohio University’s graduate school of art and started his career as a documentary photographer, capturing social landscapes of the time. In 1999, his solo exhibition Ajumma, Portraits of Middle-aged Women in Korea (Art Sonje Center, Seoul) helped identify Ajumma Syndrome in Korea. Since then, he has focused on documenting specific groups of people revealing common desires and anxieties that prevail in Korean society. His solo exhibitions include Middleman (Art Sonje Center, Seoul, 2012), Cosmetic Girls (Kukje Gallery, Seoul, 2008). In 2005, he participated in the Korean Pavilion of the 51st Venice Biennale. His work has been recently presented in group exhibitions such as The Square: Art and Society of Korea 1900- 2019 Part 3 (MMCA, Seoul, 2020) and Will you still love me tomorrow? (SeMA, Seoul, 2019).