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Art, Literature, and the Interstices

SsingSsing

In my art, I’m really interested at looking at older visual forms and cultural practices and transforming them using media, technology, and modern sensibilities. Living in Korea has put me in direct contact with a fascinating and engaging culture to learn about. Being a “waygook-in” (literally translated as “outside person” or “foreigner”) gives me an outside perspective on Korean culture. I find that a lot of Korean viewers are often fascinated by a fresh perspective on Korean culture and are really interested in cultural remixing and seeing new representations of old traditions.

So I was really excited to find this new band called SsingSsing. They combine Korean folk songs with glam rock to create new songs. They also cross-dress to represent shamans’ way of channeling both male and female spirits.

It’s a radical form of neo-traditionalism that embodies a lot of what I try to do in my own creative practice. I can’t stop listening.

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Art Installation and One of the Oldest Poems in Korea

I was recently invited to do an art installation in a small cafe gallery in Daejeon.

In a closet-sized space, I installed some small croquis drawings interspersed with lines from what is considered one of the oldest–if not THE oldest– surviving poems in Korea. Written in Chinese characters, the poem roughly translates as follows:

Divine strategies exhaust the heavens,

Exquisite calculations probe the earth.

Battle won your honor is already high,

Be content now and desist.

One of the challenges and risks of working with text and images is considering the relationship between the two. Should one echo the other? Contradict it? Give additional information? Or be something else entirely?

In this case, I tried to make the relationship enigmatic. But in the text as well as the images, I wanted to address issues of strength and vulnerability.

The original poem was written from one general to another, seemingly pleading with the general to give up chasing him. Ulchimundok pleads with Yu Zhongwen to accept what he has won thus far, to “be content and desist” the war going on between them.

In reality, Ulchimundok was luring Yu Zhongwen into a trap. When Yu Zhongwen persisted, he was defeated.

So far me, the work is about reconsidering what power and strength really are with a particular focus on the politics of gender and empathy.

What is real power? How do we engage with it, and how do we let it go?

My Mural

A few months ago, a few other artists and I were invited to participate in a government project with the city of Daejeon. Near the train station is what once was a thriving city center during the Japanese occupation. However, the area has fallen out of heavy use, and many of the senior residents there live in poverty.

The challenge that the city is trying to address is how to enliven the area without gentrifying it and forcing the residents out. To that end, they’ve invited artists and designers to bring life to the local community visually through projects such as murals and various other forms of repurposing objects.

They chose the theme of the rose of Sharon, or 무궁화, Korea’s national flower.

For my mural, I chose to create an opportunity for the community to interact by adding a chalkboard element. In the speech balloons, I wrote typical greetings: “Hello!” “How is your health?” and “How are you feeling?” Viewers can pick up the chalk and write their responses in the empty speech balloons. The box on the left holds the chalk, and it’s about 8 feet tall.

Many other artists were involved, including fellow members of the Daejeon Arts Collective.

Sacred geometry by Johan Eduard Francis

Phoenix by Chris Brunjes

By Wendy Morison and Sune Horn

One of the buildings is also being converted into a space where visitors and read and learn more about the history of the area as a way of preserving the neighborhood.

In October, my art collective, DJAC, is doing a show in the Mugunghwa Gallery. It’s a bit small compared to the galleries that we usually show in, but it’s exciting to be a part of this interesting project.

Lovely Poem

Review and Video of Theatrical Performance of “Twelfth Night”

Musical composer and performer Wil Pertz edited the video of the performance of Twelfth Night, which opened for Men Are From Marzipan at the Daejeon Jung-gu Cultural Center on December 23rd.

Also, special thanks to Bryan Stubbles for his review. It takes so many people to make theatre possible, and I thank my performers, composer, director (Kevin), video editor, audience members, and everyone else who has supported the production. I couldn’t do it without you!

“Twelfth Night” opens for “Men Are from Marzipan”

Twelfth Night will open for Men Are from Marzipan tonight at the Jung-gu Cultural Arts Center.

The clip above is from our first performance. Tonight’s performance will feature Rosie Kim in the role of the sister–she was unable to do the first performance because of an injury.

Please check out our Facebook invitation for more information.

Twelfth Night Performance

A piece I wrote was recently performed as part of Daejeon Arts Collective’s Twelfth Night exhibition.

I was really interested in exploring the themes of the original Twelfth Night festival, celebrated 12 days after Christmas. According to Sparknotes, “In Shakespeare’s day, this holiday was celebrated as a festival in which everything was turned upside down—much like the upside-down, chaotic world of Illyria in the play.” Also, according to religionfacts.com, “During the twelve days of Christmas, traditional roles were often relaxed, masters waited on their servants, men were allowed to dress as women, and women as men. Often a Lord of Misrule was chosen to lead the Christmas revels.”

To that end, I used erasure poetry. Erasure poetry is a method of writing by cutting/erasing another source and using it as content for a new work. It was a technique used by David Bowie and William Burroughs and Tom Philips. I used as it becomes a way of taking down an authority–in this case, Shakespeare. Kevin Nickolai became my Lord of Misrule, and Nicole Overbeck filled in for Rosie Kim as his female counterpart and sister. The composition and electric bass performance are by musical genius Wil Pertz, and Raphael Marsonet rocks the joint on his saxophones. Also, many thanks to Dr. Pertz for editing the work together for the video.

My piece was mentioned in this blurb in the Korean Herald.

We hope to do the piece again on the 23rd of December with the exuberant Rosie Kim, who got a concussion and couldn’t perform at the opening. We will be opening for Kevin Nickolai’s full-length play, Men Are from Marzipan.

Last day tomorrow!

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At Daejeon Creative Center at Exit D-3 of Jugangno Station.

Art Talk Tomorrow

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Lecture to accompany the ongoing open studio at Art Space Jang. 4 p.m. at Gallery Jeong. Come one, come all.

Thanks to Dongil Shin for the illustrated invitation!

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