Accordion, Custom box
Bainbridge Island Museum of Art
The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA)
University of California, Irvine (UCI)
University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB)
University of California, Santa Cruz (UCSC)
University of Connecticut (UCONN)
University of Miami
University of Southern California (USC)
University of Wisconsin-Madison, Special Collections
Like most people with an interest in their family’s history, I am sentimental about the stories that I was told as a child by my grandmother. My Korean ancestors completely assimilated into the culture of the Soviet Union in an effort to guarantee the acceptance of their children into the new country. As a result, I grew up learning little about my obscure background, except for the sporadic mentioning of my grandfather’s travels to Uzbekistan from the Far East of Russia. The family stories I heard as a child do not match each other, nor do they make sense when put into a linear perspective. This ‘cultural amnesia’ has recently caused me to focus on the concept of how one defines the loss of ethnic identity. I want to capture the fleeting nature of my family’s stories and connect them to the experiences and effects of the forced exile of 171,781 ethnic Koreans in the Soviet Union.
I was aware as a child that I was not always told the whole story of my family’s origins, but rather the parts that were more age-appropriate for me at the time. I can recall only one time when my grandmother told me about the experiences that her family had gone through during World War II, and I remember how uncomfortable I felt seeing her crying in the dark. At the moment, I thought I would never ask her about the past again, not realizing then how these untold stories would go on to have an impact on my artistic life.
This book can be seen as my personal attempt to fill the silences produced by the untold stories of my ancestors’ background. Without any access to the direct source, my grandmother, I had to conduct my own research to my family’s history and explore how trans-generational stories can be passed on. How could a fragile, fleeting, and multi-layered story be made tangible?
Short Artist Statement
Constant contemporary cultural exchange highlights a disproportionate number of elements that combine new developmental signs of identification. What is at issue for those who experience such shifts—whether geographic, political, socio-linguistic or a combination thereof—is an ensuing continual remaking of the boundaries that exposes the problematic claim to a singular or autonomous sign of difference, whether in terms of class, gender or race. Such a definition of social differences—where difference is rather multifaceted and complex—leaves individuals to find their intermediation in a form of a ‘future’ whereby the past is of origin and the present is not simply transitory.
My current body of work is antagonistic toward notions of boundaries, disrupting ideas of distinction and limiting categories, given my own cultural background as a product of modern globalization. I use textile patterns that are specific to Uzbek, Korean, and Russian cultures; in other words, appropriating images from places that relate to my own peripatetic experience or to the shared experiences of the Korean diaspora in an act of reconstruction and investigation of what it means to be a displaced person. My practice is a series of reflections on my ruptured identity inflected by nostalgia and melancholia associated with displacement.
I attempt to fill the silences produced by the untold stories of my ancestors. Without any access to direct sources—my grandparents and other relatives—I conduct my own research into my family’s history to explore how trans-generational stories can be preserved and passed on, despite lacking details. By looking back at one’s own family story, generation by generation through moves, jobs, changes or losses, houses, illnesses, social expectations, and so on… those very experiences connect us to each other as well as to a community, whether a place or a feeling. How can fragile, fleeting, and multi-layered stories be made tangible? As a displaced person, I strive to retrace and produce my own (fragmented) history so that I am not defined by others and can resist other people’s images of my past, and consequently, my future.