New Town

Installation with video, 360-video with ambisonic audio and directional audio

The various effects of the regeneration of Susaek-dong and Sangam-dong, Seoul, in sound

Onomatopoeia are especially common in Japanese and Korean. Whereas their use in Indo-European languages is often considered superficial and childish and limited to providing effect, it provides a rich source of vocabulary integral to the East Asian languages where their use is much more common and varied. There are also many onomatopoeia (or “ideophones”) in both languages to describe phenomena which do not produce sounds e.g. how things look or feel and emotions.

Being literally untranslatable at times, it could be considered as an example of sounds contributing to the notion of Otherness of East Asia in general. It also operates in a symbolic realm not entirely based on conventional semantics. The practice of making the inaudible audible developed over centuries provides a fruitful source for rethinking sound and its presence beyond language and the purely symbolic.


Part 1 consists of a video of interviews carried out in Suil Market and the surrounding area. Interviewees were asked to describe Susaek using ideophones.


Part 2 consists of 360 video recorded with spatial audio resulting in an analogous “360-degree” soundtrack. Through the use of the ambisonic format, it could be considered as 360-degree field recordings which can be navigated with a VR head-mounted display accompanied by 360 video.

The video begins on the roof of the Mediterranean Pine – a restaurant, cafe and community workshop running art and craft classes – situated between the futuristic Digital Media City to the south, and the antiquated Susaek to the north. Various locations in Susaek and Sangam can be viewed and heard including the following:

• a traditional market in decline;
• a red-light district;
• a former Japanese military house discovered during the redevelopment of Sangam-dong and relocated and preserved at great cost partly due to rising property prices amidst opposition from locals;
• the Japanese school which relocated across the road from the former Japanese military housing which provides a strange soundtrack including a Japanese school chime, teachers counting and giving instructions in Japanese over a megaphone and the sound of taiko (big drums);
• whole neighbourhoods almost deserted due to residents being relocated/evicted;
• entrances to empty apartment blocks sprayed with the word “vacant” in red;
• residents declaring their opposition to the development with make-shift red flags;
• piles of rubbish due to the ceasing of waste collection;
• the hum from the oldest existing electrical substation in Korea, rumoured to be moved underground to make way for a park in the near future;
• a former public bath being used before its demolition for various activities such as an exhibition of paintings by a local artist and a concert by Kim Chang-wan formerly of Sanulrim, often described as the Korean Beatles.


In the Part 3, a soundtrack based on the ideophones chosen by children and teenagers and various “soundmarks” which were discovered are played back over directional speakers against various surfaces.

Thanks to:
Lee Kyunghwan (the Mediterranean Pine)
Shingo Ota (camera operator for interviews in Part 1)
Kim Jinseul (interpreter/interviewer in Part 1)