BY Orit Gat in One Takes | 02 MAR 16

Ghost Town

A troupe of holographic protesters descends on Seoul's Gwanghwamun Square

BY Orit Gat in One Takes | 02 MAR 16

Holograms of protesters in front of Gyeongbok Palace, Seoul, South Korea, on 24 February, 2016. Courtesy: AP/Press Association Images; photograph: Lee Jin-man

They gather in front of the old royal palace on Gwanghwamun Square, a public plaza in central Seoul demarcated as a demonstration-free zone. They’re here to protest the South Korean President Park Geun-hye’s increasingly draconian measures against free speech, but they’re not breaking the rules because there’s no one to arrest: the chanting characters are projections marching across a transparent screen.

This is a hologram demonstration; it was organized by Amnesty International following a similar event that took place in Madrid last year. It’s a response to laws prohibiting the freedom of assembly, an attempt to simultaneously visualize the potential consequences of such bans and to resist them: the presence of demonstrators and their absence at once. The silhouettes of the 120 people who modelled for the projection are slightly larger than life-size. A few dozen people surround them – journalists, police officers, bystanders, organizers. They’re all there to watch. 

This is the image of disembodied resistance, the purple proxies pointing to some haunting future. The humanoid demonstrators have been called ‘ghosts’ in the media, but looking at them feels comfortably distant. Remote viewing is safer than real life assembly, but these apparitions seem flimsy – more apparition than manifestation; meant for eyes, not ears. 

It seems intentional: the holograms’ cyan tone transfers beautifully to the display of a computer screen. The frozen images travel past local politics, leaving behind them that always-spine-chilling realization: we live in very strange times.

Orit Gat is a writer and art critic. She is a contributing editor of The White Review and Art Papers.