Gwangju Blog

No Sign

No sign


One of the first things many westerners notice when coming to South Korea is the overindulgent use of signage by the locals. Despite the comparatively rural setting, this is no less true in the Jeolla Provinces compared to the rest of the peninsula. There need be no image to show this phenomenon. The near total coverage of many urban buildings in signage has been well documented by many traveling photophiles before yours truly. However, rarely do I see local images which point to this aspect of visual culture from its inverse. With that in mind, please see the blank sign above.

This photo was taken recently at a local temple in Jeollabuk-do. While several non-monastics were about, the temple grounds were relatively empty. Compared to many others locally, this particular temple complex carries little in the way of local Buddhist fame. There are no temple stays, free dinners for lay-people, or popular teachers associated with it. Therefore, it is one of my favorites.

The image above contains a sign on a raised building adjacent to the main Buddha hall containing both the temple bell and drum. What makes this sign different from most of its brethren in similar buildings is the lack of white or gold-painted calligraphy on a black background. Instead of a title overseeing the room below, this space is blissfully free of such a message. In fact, the white board itself carries no trace of letters which once sat upon it. Indeed, in my years visiting this space, this rectangle has cast its gentle white glow without creed or concept to latch onto. The space is full, and beautiful in the emptiness of mind it inadvertently portends to create.

For its ability to be a sign without a message, an intentional rectangle showering its space with only its presence devoid of meaning, this photo was chosen for this weeks blog post. It is also fitting for the start of July, a month equal parts steam and heat. It is a time when conditions often necessitate a simple being without agenda, no sign to look for, and no place else to be. So, stay cool and dry friends and let tomorrows worries take care of themselves.

[Images taken with a Ricoh GR1 shooting Afga 200.]

(Photo & Text by Marty Miller)