The Korea Herald


Diaspora, women artists

By Lee Woo-young

Published : March 12, 2014 - 20:27

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Three Korean women artists who spent most of their lives outside Korea have presented artistic records of their identities at a group exhibition at Seoul Museum of Art.

Titled “Nobody,” the exhibition showcases installations and photographs through which the artists express their quest to define their identities as Koreans living abroad. Through some works, artists do not only explore their personal identities, but also deal with historical issues such as “comfort women.”

Having moved to the U.S. with her parents in 1953, the year she was born, artist Min Yong-soon presents her life as an Asian-American through installations and photographs. In her photo series “Make Me,” portraits have phrases such as “assimilated alien” or “exotic migrant.” 
“Make Me” by Min Yong-soon. (Seoul Museum of Art) “Make Me” by Min Yong-soon. (Seoul Museum of Art)
“Frames” by Jo Sook-jin. (Seoul Museum of Art) “Frames” by Jo Sook-jin. (Seoul Museum of Art)

“It deals with phrases you have to understand in terms of living as an Asian-American,” Min explained at the press preview of the exhibition on Tuesday.

Her “comfort women” art project seeks to raise awareness of the issue of Asian sex slaves for the Japanese military during World War II. Min began wearing a shirt with a year printed on it ― one of the 79 years between 1932, when Japan established the first comfort station, and now. She aims to arouse curiosity about the meaning and if anyone asks her the intention, she explains. Over the years, she grew tired of wearing the clothes herself. She chose to produce T-shirts with the year printed on the front and a slogan on the back. The museum art shop sells the T-shirts and will donate the proceeds from T-shirt sales to the Korean Council for the Women Drafted for Sexual Slavery by Japan.

Artist Jo Sook-jin chose to move to the U.S. after college in search of more artistic opportunities. Based in New York, Jo said she finds her artistic inspiration from all over the world. She collects discarded objects such as broken table legs, doors and frames and rearranges them to create art installations.

“People say each object has life and I like to give life and meaning to the abandoned objects. My inspiration comes from every part of the world ― from Switzerland to Brazil,” Jo said at the museum. “I’m not trying to illustrate the divide between myself and the society I live in. I want to go beyond that and explore some fundamental meanings in my works.”

Korean-Canadian Artist Yoon Jin-me, who immigrated to Canada when she was 8, is now a well-known contemporary artist in the Canadian art scene. Throughout her career, she has explored her identity as a non-Western and female artist. The exhibition showcases her major works so far. The video installation “As It Is Becoming” explores how elements of nature, such as swamps and bushes, and the negative side of civilization, such as wars and natural disasters, are experienced through her body.

The exhibition runs until May 18 at Seoul Museum of Art. For more information, call (02) 2124-8868.

By Lee Woo-young (