Documentation from the 2017 Jeju Biennale 


HD video, color. 21.52 min. and archive installation. Dimensions variable. 2017

There is a sacred mountain that is divided between what is today North Korea and China. An invisible borderline cuts across its crater lake at the peak and splits the mountain in two. The mountain goes by many names. Variables of ‘Ever-white Mountain’ it is known in North Korea and South Korea as Baekdusan whereas in China it is called Chángbáishān. In turn, the Manchus call it Golmin Šanggiyan Alin, while its Mongolian name is Ondor Tsagaan Aula.

The mountain is central to both Manchu and Korean cosmology and a multitude of cultural representations speak to the magnitude of its imaginary proportions. It refuses nation-state boundaries, yet it has been the source of fervent territorial disputes.

Through North Korean, South Korean, Manchu, Chinese and English narratives, Tale of One or Many Mountains testifies to some of the numerous stories and projections that surround the mountain. Following the rivers that emerge from it and that constitute a liquid border between China and North Korea, the film is further a meditation on the vast and contested borderlands of Northeast Asia and enduring cross-border activities.

At the same time, the mountain itself testifies to deep time. It precedes the naming of things and the erection of nation-state boundaries. Both encompassing and uncompromising, the mountain can be seen as a metaphor for the current state of affairs in the region. Although volcanic activity was recently measured at the mountain, it lies for the moment dormant, yet it is ever transforming

Video stills





Voices: Jane Jin Kaisen, Ma Sun Hee, Meng Xianxiao, Young Sun Oh

Audio recording of Manchu cosmology kindly lent by Rowena Li

Color correction: Guston Sondin-Kung

Research assistance: Shiqi Lin. Haeseo Kim, Hayeon Heather Kim

Translation: Jungweon Mok