Luckily, I had a chance to be involved in the community project organised by Erika and Mai in January and February of this year. I was staying in Korea to visit my family after completing my degree in History of Art in the UK and Korean-Dutch artists Mai and Erika were looking for volunteers to help their communication with residents in their workshop. It was very exciting and pleasant to work with the friendly visual artists, and to see closely the process of developing artistic ideas and of making artworks. However, unfortunately I had to be back to the UK before the third workshop and it will not be possible for me to see the final works on show either. I have to be satisfied with imagining how their show would be, based on the exhibition plan by Erika and Mai, yet still hope that they have another show to present the works in the Netherlands. Then I would love to fly to see them.

Collaboration between two artists is particularly interesting as they work with completely different media. Mai works with textile and in installation art. She works as a theatre costume designer in the Netherlands. Erika’s main area is photography and video. She is interested in performance art, too. What they are in common is that the two Dutch artists, born in Korea, both have a genuine interest in Korean tradition, culture and history. Undoubtedly the interest would originate from their personal histories. Erika and Mai were adapted to the Netherlands in their very early ages and brought up in Dutch family. It would be natural for them to perceive themselves as Dutch rather than Korean as they admitted. Yet still, they have a great curiosity about Korea, the country where they were born and I guess they would feel a deep bond with Korea in some way.

The personal histories have provided inspiration for the key concept of the community project called ‘At home in Patterns’, although there are multiple layers of meaning behind. In the project, what they constantly question is about home. They question ‘feeling’ at home. To answer, you might want to define what home means before thinking of what you feel at home. A selection of definitions of ‘home’ from two dictionaries might help as follows:

–      the house or flat/apartment that you live in, especially with your family (Oxford Advanced Learner’s dictionary 7th edition);

–      the town district, country, etc. that you come from, or where you are living and that you feel you belong to(Oxford Advanced Learner’s dictionary 7th edition); and

–      the place where you came from or where you usually live, especially when this is the place where you feel happy and comfortable (Longman dictionary of contemporary English).

Several phrases such as “with your family”, “that you feel belong to”, and “where you feel happy and comfortable” catch my eye. Certainly, ideas of home and home-feeling can be very personal and subjective. It gives a good reason for working with a group of people and an interesting point that there would be a variety of concepts of home depending upon individuals’ different circumstances.

The workshop began with talking about favourite clothes as a kind of warm-up. 6 participants in different ages are female residents of Geumcheon where the artists are staying for the residency programme. ‘Clothes’ have been chosen as a theme for the first workshop as the artists believe Korean care a lot about their appearance so that ‘clothes’ would be a good topic for them. Also, clothes could be perceived as the home of our body as the artists suggested. Participants brought the favourite clothes with them and shared personal stories behind the clothes. The second workshop was about the favourite place where participants would feel at home, apart from the house where they are living. All different places were mentioned: for example, a mountain, an old house and a tea room. Some participants suggested conceptual places such as being abroad, relationship and the moment when feeling comfortable. Several days after the second workshop, the artists gave a Polaroid to the first person, asking to take a photo of a scene around her current house and to pass the camera to the next person. The schedule was decided by the participants. Participants worked individually as a link in the chain. The individual photos by participants will be presented in a shape of circle on the floor of the exhibition space, inviting the viewer to walk through the path formed by the photos of participants’ current home.

The final work of the project is a selective collection of memories of home shared by 6 Korean residents of Geumcheon and 2 Korean-born-Dutch artists. For the artists, ‘At home in Patterns’ that questions the meaning of home would be part of the journey to discover their identity as Korean because Korea could be their home as the Netherland is. How much, then, would the artists feel at home in Korea? I never asked, should ask. Exploring Koreans’ thoughts of home would help the artist not only give more ideas of Korean culture but also define their feeling in Korea. Meanwhile, for the participants, the project would have been a chance to enhance their life in a way that they rediscover meaningful moment from the past. All pieces of memories show special feature of your life as a pattern of dot makes a more interesting dress. Some events might have repeatedly happened in your life like a pattern appeared repeatedly. However, you would not remember the events happened in different times as a single event as they occupy a separate space throughout your life time. Memory can be changed according to the point of time that you recall it, for instance it can become blurred when you get older. You would be able to see a series of memory of a single event in a slight different version, if you could document the process of change in your remembrances. It illustrates another pattern of the event in your life.

The project offers intimacy and simultaneously distance. It shows personal stories, thoughts and emotions as if we see through camera zooming in and revealing small details of the person. It is like a close-up portraiture. On the other hand, it suggests viewing the collection of portraitures from a distance and allowing single events to be seen as part of a pattern of dots in a big picture, our life.

Article written for our publication ‘At home in patterns’ by Seihee Shon an art historian currently working in the UK. 

  

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Arirang is a Korean folk song. Arirang is the soul & Spirit to Koreans and therefor as important as the National anthem. Since the world cup they made a more modern version that is more upbeat, but the traditional song is very sad and melancholic. The Korean word for it is ‘han’, it’s a kind of lamentation but not the same because they have also movies that’s ‘han’. ‘Han’ is everywhere in Korea.

Workshop 1: what are the stories behind clothes?

The clothes:

Hyunha Chae                                         Hyunae Oh

Kyunghee Kim                                        Kyungmi Choi

Sookhee Shin

Jyungmi Oh

From left to right, and from top to bottom:
1. Kyunghee Kim
2. Sookhee Shin
3. Hyunae Oh
4. Kyungmi Choi
5. Hyunha Chae
6. Jyungmi Oh

Workshop 2: what place symbolizes home?


From left to right, and from top to bottom:
1. Happy moments by Jyungmi Oh
2. Different and indifferent by Hyunha Chae
3. Malang Malang by Kyungmi Choi
4. Tea room by Hyunae Oh
5. Base manure by Sookhee Shin
6. Heart by Kyunghee Kim

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