Axel Braun - work and projects

Nothing is Impossible in a Place Where Dreams Become Reality

During an artist residency on Daebu island at the west coast of South Korea I started this research project on land reclamation. I see the extension of territories by technological means as a manifestation of the abstract idea of growth. At the same time it is illustrating the human inability to accept the natural limits that are restricting these ambitions.

Gyeonggi Bay is located at the edge of the conglomeration area around Seoul. It has witnessed strong transformation processes in the last decades. From 1987 to 1994 a 12.5 kilometer long embankment was constructed to link Daebu island with the mainland. The aim was to optimise the conditions for land reclamation and to turn the former tidal flat into an irrigation water reservoir.

Intense social and ecological changes were initiated by the dam. The traditional fishing economy lost its fishing grounds and the artificial lake Si- Hwa soon suffered from severe pollution. To dillute the increasing environmental problems it was decided to reopen the embankment. More than a billion US-Dollars had to be invested in water purification facilities and to transform the dam into the world’s largest tidal power plant. Artificial marsh land was created to improve the ecological conditions. Today these wet lands are hosting various endangered species and the area became a popular destination for free-time activities.

By working with historical and recent maps I tried to gain orientation in these landscapes and to visualise the changes. Starting with a Japanese map from 1910 I tried to find the ancient coast lines in the current landscapes of Daebu island. A video essay and a collection of photographies are resulting from this first approach. Furthermore I started to juxtapose my footage with simulations that illustrate the intended use of the new territories.

Several planned cities are currently built on former tidal flats in the area of Gyeonggi Bay. They belong to the Incheon International Business District which is supposed to become North East Asia‘s main business hub. Although they are partly built on formerly protected habitats, they are advertised to be particularly sustainable for having comparebly low carbon dioxide emissions.

In the ongoing research I would like to find more historical text and picture footage that is illustrating the economical, social and environmental developments. This collection will be contextualised with material of other land reclamation projects around the world.