A South Korean wellness center designed as a mock prison: on sensory deprivation, monastic life, the wellness industry, the prison-industrial complex, and the history of solitude.
Solitary is a collection of texts written at a wellness center in South Korea designed as a mock prison. This facility is run by an organization called Happitory—a combination of “Happiness” and “Factory.” Happitory offers retreats for teenagers, company employees, government officials, and the general public. Some sessions involve drama therapy, others are led by Buddhist monks. Most intriguing is a program called “Solitary Confinement,” where one can spend twenty-four hours of technology-free time locked in an individual cell.
To create Solitary, artist Tyler Coburn commissioned ten practitioners (including himself) to spend time in solitary confinement at this wellness center, where they produced texts using the materials on hand. Certain questions drove their writing. How does one square the relaxation promised by Happitory with the way solitary confinement functions in actual prisons? What types of thinking and writing become possible through its restrictions—no book, no Internet, just writing materials? How might the emphasis on writing relate to texts by Oscar Wilde, Antonio Gramsci, Kim Dae-jung, Shin Young-bok, and others produced during periods of imprisonment?Taken as a whole, Solitary is unique in being both a collection of texts and a collective artwork: an experiment in site-specific writing.
Contributors Jaeyeon Chung, Tyler Coburn, Sunjin Kim, Hyunjeung Kim, Kyungmook Kim, Min Kyoung Lee, Woochang Lee, Russell Mason, InYoung Yeo, Jiwon Yu
About the Author
Tyler Coburn is artist and writer based in New York. He has presented work at Centre Pompidou, Paris; The Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; Bergen Kunsthall; Kunsthalle Wien; Hayward Gallery, London; Para Site, Hong Kong; and Art Sonje Center, Seoul. Coburn is the author of the books I’m that angel, Robots Building Robots, and Richard Roe (Sternberg Press). His texts have appeared in e-flux journal, Frieze, ArtReview, DIS, Mousse, LEAP, and Rhizome.