About TSE

Founded and edited by Sun Yung Shin, Minnesota, U.S., June 2012.

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This is a journal for spectral evidence.

Writing that may traffic with the invisible, the past, the future, Other Sides (other insides…)… Work that is messy or provocative or even grotesque. Work that traverses formal boundaries and is strange, magical, and theatrical. Work that is stained with history, that is multi-vocal, documentary. Work that is allusive, fugitive. The mystical and embodied, disobedient. Fable-like, mythic. Haunted.

Transit. ”act or fact of passing across or through,”

Why “spectral evidence”?

Although the legal use of spectral evidence has a traumatic and patriarchal history (see below), I see the basic concept as having potential as a metaphor for art and other kinds of cultural work, especially that which disrupts authority and intervenes in systems and structures of silencing, exclusion, and erasure. Art is a kind of bilocation (or multi-location) with the presence (product) of the artist separating from the maker and existing on its own in a semi-permanent physical form (e.g. a book), an ephemeral but embodied form (e.g. a theater performance, music), etc. etc. Spatiality and temporality have always intrigued me as dimensions of art-making and art-experiencing and of course life itself.

The internet–the room in which this journal exists–seems like an infinite house of ghosts and spectres, with hauntings and the invisible and visible in a continual dance of forming and dissolving. Apparitions. Tendrils and trash.

According to US Legal Definitions, spectral evidence refers to a witness testimony that the accused person’s spirit or spectral shape appeared to him/her witness in a dream at the time the accused person’s physical body was at another location. It was accepted in the courts during the Salem Witch Trials. The evidence was accepted on the basis that the devil and his minions were powerful enough to send their spirits, or specters, to pure, religious people in order to lead them astray.

In spectral evidence, the admission of victims’ conjectures is governed only by the limits of their fears and imaginations, whether or not objectively proven facts are forthcoming to justify them. [State v. Dustin, 122 N.H. 544, 551 (N.H. 1982)].

Instead of the devil and his minions, are artists powerful enough to send their spirits, or specters, to—not pure people [who don’t exist] in order to lead themastray—but into our own world to lead us all into a fruitful state of bewilderment, bewitchment, beyond our fears and through our collective imaginations? Or does each of us contain within us a “pure person”? What would such a caste of persons be like? What alchemy could summon them?

“I am heading toward certain discoveries….” – Susan Howe, “My Emily Dickinson”

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The photo on the front page is of people, Korean people–in traditional white clothing–at the first major railway which had its beginnings in 1897. It’s a photo of either the Namdaemun station or the Seodaemun station, both are major stations which must receive and expel millions of Korean a day in their current forms as subway stations in Seoul, many times. I’ve been through these stations and others in South Korea many times over the course of my four trips back.

Although I did not know that I was not surprised to learn that the project was launched by an American, “American financier James R. Morse actually obtained the construction rights for Korea’s first railroad, which was dubbed the Gyeongin Line. The plan was to connect Jemulpo in Incheon with Noryangjin in Seoul. Morse held a groundbreaking ceremony in 1897 in Incheon. But his financial situation rapidly deteriorated, and he conceded the rights to a Japanese firm two years later.”

The people in this photograph are now ghosts, but “A railway is a symbol of a modern society, and its construction signals the start of a modernization process,” Kim Jong-hun, an architecture professor at Pai Chai University, argued in his book “The History of Stations,” released in 2003. “But Korea’s case is unique because a railway didn’t appear when the people felt the need for it. Rather, it was Japan’s means of invading the country.”

Even the bodies of dead Koreans were unearthed to make way for this “steel horse.” “The Japanese forcibly mobilized thousands of Korean workers, bought a massive lot at a dirt-cheap price and bulldozed farms, homes and even graveyards, according to a March 9, 1906 article in the Daehan Maeil Shinbo, an early Korean newspaper.”

One of many eerie, haunting experiences during my last trip to Korea was my visit to the Dorasan station in the Civilian Control Zone just south of the border between the partitioned south and north parts of Korea. It hasn’t been in use since December 1, 2008 when North Korea closed access to it due to alleged provocation from the south. We, as tourists to the DMZ, were able to enter, and even get our passports stamped at this “ghost station.”

Source: Korea JoongAng Daily

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