Record: 2012.09.28.

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1.The Question

This project focuses on a specific set of data that was available on on the 28th of September in 2012. It was a random day when I encountered the possibility of collecting a strange set of data about Korean War items sold through system. The question that inspired this project is: how can the vitality of a system be grasped when the system is an established one and its vitality is normalized and banalized as well?

2. The Method

One way to reveal what a system does is to impose another system on the same information. This research probes the vitality of systems (that can be inferred from actions and responses) by replacing the system, altering the organization of the information, and creating alternative access to the system of origin. This access allows one to imagine the vitality and biases inherent in the system, which are often elusive and naturalized through the interface. The project started as a collaboration with Jaekyung Jung, and was diverged into distinctive directions.

3. This Report

This report documents one of the projects in the series, Record: 28 September 2012. As a Korean, one would not expect to remember the war in a form of commodity. The project is to aggregate the data related to these commercial items using a system of government document in order to create different efficacy to the mode of information consumption, which would make the vitality of both previous and present systems stand out. The data was re-aggregated several times during the process to fit the replacing system and to provide multiple access to differing vitality.

4. The Data

Record: 28 September 2012 consists of two sets of data related to a view of Korean War, which is the most significant event that formed contemporary Korea. These two sets of data are approximately nine thousand memorabilia items that were on sale on one day at and forty-one songs from a web archive. 

5. The Structure

The recent version of the project consists of a physical installation of data wells, a set of prints that densely record item descriptions, and a set of printed indices from the descriptions. The process involves five major re-aggregations of the original data.

6. The First Aggregation, Digital Files

The data of 9000+ items has been collected from website, stored on a local hard disk drive, and then classified into types (categories, image, title, location, price, description, etc.) through an automated process written in PHP. The style in the original text (such as italicised, CAPITALISED, underlined…) and HTML elements (such as “a href”…) are kept if they appear in the text. The data now exists in an .xls format and a folder of images.

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7. The Second Aggregation, Twin Wells

The data from the First Aggregation is divided into two groups: photographic images and texts. Each group is rendered into separate video files that list the item description and the item images, respectively. The videos are burnt into two discs of DVD, and played simultaneously down inside two separate hollow columns. The installation is the first physical object that has been made out of the aggregated data.

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It is impossible to look at both videos at the same time. The images and the texts do not coincide with each other.

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The left well: At the bottom of the inside of the column, there is a video of images that change every second. 1 hour 40 mins.

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The right well: At the bottom of the inside of the column, there is a video of texts for each item. The texts scroll to the left, towards the other column. 2 hours 30 mins.

8. The Third Aggregation, a Book

Too Much - A volume

A structured template is designed to mimic a formal record, and the classified data from the First Aggregation are inserted into the template. This then is exported into a .pdf file, which consists of 1200+ A4 pages.

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From left: search resultinformation classified into types, information laid on a template

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The file is printed double-sided and bound in black hard cover to take the form of government data archive. This book is the second physical object that has been made out of the aggregated data. The items in the book are in the order of the eBay’s product category, and their images are kept black and white.

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The categories are:

  • Collectibles
  • Original Korean Military Period Items (1950-1953)
  • Other Collectible Contemporary Photos (1940-Now)
  • Reproduction Korean Militaria (1950-1953)
  • Other Militaria
  • Collectible Military Autographs
  • Golden Age War Comics
  • Other Military Collectibles (Unknown Date)
  • Military Original Period Items (1954-1960)
  • Nonfiction Books
  • Textbooks & Educational Books
  • Magazine Back Issues
  • Antiquarian & Collectible Books
  • Postal Stamps
  • Clothing, Shoes & Accessories
  • Toys & Hobbies
  • Coins & Paper Money
  • Home & Garden
  • DVDs & Movies
  • Entertainment Memorabilia
  • Art
  • Dolls & Bears
  • Jewelry & Watches
  • eBay Motors
  • Sports Memorabilia, Cards & Fan Shop
  • Sporting Goods
  • Recorded Music
  • Antiques
  • Cameras & Photo
  • Crafts
  • Everything Else
  • Business & Industrial
  • Computers, Tablets & Networking
  • Pottery & Glass
  • Video Games & Consoles
  • Specialty Services

9. The Fourth Aggregation, an Index

Based on a statistical method, 1250 descriptive words from the item description (for example, “original,” “paint wear,” “awesome,” etc.) are drawn. They were listed as an index with page numbers of the book from the third aggregation.


10. The Fifth Aggregation, the iTunes List

Forty one American folks songs on Korean War are downloaded from a web archive. These songs, all from Korean War period, are programmed to play random on iTunes. Titles can be seen from the image below.

Song list

11. The Sixth Aggregation, a Booklet

The index is printed into a 16-page booklet of A5 format and bound with a black audio cable with a pair of in-ear phones at one end. The in-ear plays the folk songs to forcefully unfold the theater charged with specific sentiments of the era, which would evoke different affects depending on the differing experience of the audience.

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12. Observation

The second aggregation was presented at the Northwall Arts Center in Oxford, and the third and the sixth aggregations were presented to individual audience in private settings. It seems the process of conjoining a static system for record and a transitory information for sale creates an unlikely affect for the viewers. This affect is coming from a conceptual mismatch between the given data and the form of system. Some liked the fact that the project takes the objects that only exist on a certain time and location to a printed catalogue. It was obvious enough for the viewers to notice the origin of the data due to its nature: price, shipping cost, location, etc. What is brought to light bears the nature and features of the old system,, now absent and previously used to naturalise the desire to transact the memory of war in a form of commodity. Without the old system of naturalisation (, and with new unlikely systems (the gallery installation, the printed catalogue, etc). The index at the end of the catalogue was favoured by some viewers, because it offers a perspective of the entire set of objects, which otherwise could have been merely the scraping of the information. These new systems are unsettling fields for resonating actions and responses of the old system, providing room for reflecting on both the data and the system.

In the mean time, the sixth aggregation, the index booklet, drew interest despite the fact that it did not seem to work as a stand alone object. It was evocative for some viewers for its capacity to draw an ephemeral map of certain things. The keywords in the index are not necessarily the attribution of the actual object but rather the attribution the sellers gave to the things. They do not point out a clear argument but still manage to hold somewhat coherent an image that is related to war and marketing.


13. Expansion: Records of U.S. Involving Wars

Further data was collected from over the course of the following year. This additional data would turn the record of the 28th of September, which is the record of Korean War related items, into the record of the items related to U.S. involving wars. However, this expansion was never realised into books.

Below is the computer graphic simulation of the expansion. The volumes are based on the amount of the data collected.

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The list of U.S. involving wars (note that Korean War is also included in the list):

  • American Revolutionary War
  • Chickamunga War
  • Northwest Indian War
  • Shays’ Rebellion
  • Whiskey Rebellion
  • Quasi-War
  • First Barbary War
  • 1811 German Coast Uprising
  • Tecumseh’s War
  • War of 1812
  • Creek War
  • Second Barbary War
  • First Seminole War
  • Texas-Indian wars
  • Arikara War
  • Aegean Sea Anti-Piracy Operations
  • Winnebago War
  • First Sumatran expedition
  • Black Hawk War
  • Second Seminole War
  • Second Sumatran expedition
  • Mexican–American War
  • Cayuse War
  • Apache Wars
  • Puget Sound War
  • First Fiji Expedition
  • Rogue River Wars
  • Third Seminole War
  • Yakima War
  • Second Opium War
  • Utah War
  • Navajo Wars
  • Second Fiji Expedition
  • John Brown’s raid on Harpers Ferry
  • First and Second Cortina War
  • Paiute War
  • American Civil War
  • Yavapai Wars
  • Dakota War of 1862
  • Colorado War
  • Shimonoseki War
  • Snake War
  • Powder River War
  • Red Cloud’s War
  • Formosa Expedition
  • Comanche Campaign
  • United States expedition to Korea
  • Modoc War
  • Red River War
  • Las Cuevas War
  • Great Sioux War of 1876
  • Buffalo Hunters’ War
  • Nez Perce War
  • Bannock War
  • Cheyenne War
  • Sheepeater Indian War
  • Victorio’s War
  • White River War
  • Pine Ridge Campaign
  • Garza Revolution
  • Rio de Janeiro Affair
  • Yaqui Wars
  • Second Samoan Civil War
  • Spanish–American War
  • Philippine–American War
  • Moro Rebellion
  • Boxer Rebellion
  • Crazy Snake Rebellion
  • Border War
  • Negro Rebellion
  • Occupation of Nicaragua
  • Bluff War
  • Occupation of Haiti
  • Sugar Intervention
  • Occupation of the Dominican Republic
  • World War I
  • Russian Civil War
  • Posey War
  • World War II
  • Korean War
  • Lebanon Crisis
  • Bay of Pigs Invasion
  • Simba Rebellion
  • Dominican Civil War
  • Vietnam War
  • Communist insurgency in Thailand
  • Korean DMZ Conflict
  • Shaba II
  • Multinational Force in Lebanon
  • Invasion of Grenada
  • Tanker War
  • Invasion of Panama
  • Gulf War
  • Somali Civil War
  • Intervention in Haiti
  • Bosnian War
  • Kosovo War
  • War in Afghanistan
  • Iraq War
  • War in North-West Pakistan
  • 2011 military intervention in Libya
  • War on ISIL (Operation Inherent Resolve)
  • War in Afghanistan

The textual and image data collected from

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