South Korean installation artist Jae-Eun Choi has persuaded a team of internationally renowned artists and architects from Iceland, Germany, Japan, Korea, and Mumbai to join her in the building of an eight mile long raised walkway in the heart of the Korean Demilitarized Zone (DMZ). It would be called “Dreaming of Earth.”
The DMZ, a 160-mile-long, 2.5-mile-wide no-man’s land between North and South Korea, has over the last sixty years turned into one of Asia’s most important wildlife sanctuaries. However, the DMZ is filled with landmines; the U.S. Army alone has planted more than a million, most of which evade metal detectors. Landmine removal would be the first task in the creation of this monumental art project.
Jae-Eun Choi has always pushed the edge of what is possible. Spurning a career in fashion design after college, she studied flower arranging in Japan with the Ikebana master, film director Hiroshi Teshigahara. With the blessing of Isamu Noguchi, Choi filled his indoor Sogetsu Plaza with 13 tons of soil covered with grass seed. It sprouted during her exhibition into an undulating green carpet.
Choi has turned buildings into vases with a tree bursting from a corroding steel tower and a church crowned with a bamboo forest. She built a 90-foot-high art expo pavilion from 40,000 bottles she recycled herself. In 1995’s Venice Biennale, she constructed Japan’s pavilion from hundreds of stacked slabs of recycled plastic.
For three decades, Choi buried sheets of her hand-made bark paper on four continents, exhuming them to exhibit years later. Her new project, the elevated walking bridge meandering through the DMZ, will require the same patience. The wood used to build the walkway will be charred to repel rot and insects, and it will come from the countries who have most affected Korean history: the United States, Japan, Russia, and China. She is convinced that “Dreaming of Earth” will be built. “Right now, this must be our art.”