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Empathic Audition

2017
Media: Single-channel video with sound, 7:40"

Empathic Audition (2017) revisits the historical letter written by Lee Woo Geun, a South Korean student soldier during the Korean War. The letter was written a day before he was killed by the North Korean troops. The letter, which was meant to be sent to his mother, was discovered on his corpse. Two actors read the letter as if they were the student soldier during the war. While the actors imagined the severe situation of the war, an EEG machine scanned their brainwaves, revealing how empathy works when feeling the pain of the other. When the actors felt pain, their brainwaves were highly activated.

In the video, the actors read the letter, and each sentence is followed by a short sequence of pictures of the Korean War being projected on smoke. I chose smoke due to their very nature of ephemerality in relation to the concept of memory. A memory is an event of the past, but the memory stays around one’s mind even though it is not out there anymore. Sometimes big social memories like wars stay in people’s minds from generation to another generation, and they affect human behaviors. Since two Koreas are still divided, the trauma of the war still exists.

The video allows the viewer to see how the actors feel the pain of the solider. And the viewer is also able to feel the pain through the actors’ faces and voices. Like our social memories flow from one generation to another generation, the feeling of the student solider in the past is delivered to the present due to our capability of mirror neurons.