Speaker：Joo Yeon Woo (Korean-USA, Assistant Professor, University of Colorado)
Emcee: He Libin
Interpreter: Zeng Tingting
Introduction about Joo Yeon Woo
Joo Yeon Woo is an assistant professor in the Drawing and Painting area at the University of Colorado at Boulder in U.S.A. She holds an MFA in Drawing/ Painting as well as Media Art as related study from the Pennsylvania State University and an earlier MFA from Hongik University in Korea. Before joining the University of Colorado, she was a visiting assistant professor at the Oklahoma State University.
Introduction about Woo’s research
Woo’s researching consists of painting, digital photography, and experimental video and represents the issues of cultural identity and displacement she has experienced as an immigrant. Her creative works deal with cultural identity, post-nomadism, and cross- cultural studies heavily influenced by immigrant experiences and interaction between people and space. Most her recent works are based on documentary approach and artistic archives that investigate her identity and the identities of thousands of other immigrants-informed by a cross-cultural journey.
Additional Statement about my interdisciplinary approach in art making
I have been using many different media in my creativity. I believe there is no boundary between materials in order to express my concept.
After French Painter Paul Delaroche declared, “From today painting is dead,” artists have responded to the advent of photography by challenging the traditional definition of painting. The preponderance of new technology in the early 20th century, and more recently digital technology, not only liberated painting from the task of representational illustration but also encouraged artists to escape from brush and pigment into more experimental expressions of creativity. Despite Delaroche’s statement from art history, we know that the definition and style of painting has changed and been revived through our own lives and dreams. However, although we enjoy the new cutting-edge technologies of the digital age, no one is anxious for painting to disappear.
1. Introduction of research titled Digital Korean based on homogeneous society
Before I talk about my works, I would like to show one of interesting research performed by Korean Institute of Science in Korea. The reason why I show this research is because all my works are related to cultural sources that inform my identity.
You will see Koreans tend to consider themselves as a homogeneous race. One of Korean Institute of Science fixed the standard of Korean male and female faces in Korea Science Festival held in 2005. The faces were leveled by computerized tomography, which captured contours of faces from 100 dead bodies of Koreans.
It is interesting that many Koreans think how much their faces are closer to the standard one and the result of this research applies for related industries such as medical appliances, plastic surgery, and fashion. But after I move to US in 2003, I got impression that people are ethnically sensitive about diversity in races, cultures, religion, and languages. You never find this kind of research in the US where the most diversity exists in many ways.
2. The Tower of Babel
I would like to introduce another interesting movie and story which are related to my idea in artmaking. The left image is the movie; Babel and the right image is oil painting; The Tower of Babel by Lucas Van Valckenborch in 1594.
The story of The Tower of Bable is that the whole world had only one language for all people. The people of the earth became skilled in construction and wanted to build a tower to reach to heaven. God was upset about the people’s challenge and God confused their languages, causing them to speak different languages so they would not understand each other. After that the people cannot build up the tower due to miscommunication.
The movie, Bable, talks about our form of miscommunication between peoples as well as our prejudgments between peoples. The movie shows how one small event helps to unite other stories all.
3. Collaborative Project titled Iterative Convergence
This is my recent collaborative project titled Iterative Convergence. The work talks about nature of contemporary digital communication and its culture. We link over a billion people in real time through the Internet and volumes of information are updated by doubling every 73days.
Myself and Michelle Tillander set up 5 old traditional chairs with 5 monitors which shows 4 faces talking with different languages and one live camera. Since a live camera captures audiences, they can seat on the chair and participate in the installation.
4. Cultural Displacement
Basically my works incorporate conceptually personal experiences and the psychological conflict that comes from living two different cultures: Korean and American. I believe that identity is largely informed by my juxtaposition between these two cultural environments in space and time. Identity is influenced by the shifting processes of my emotional, cultural, educational experiences. Such a consideration of the identity belonged with the transcultural displacement enables me to question how I can better understand myself and my journey.
Although our wishful thinking is still attached to the concept of single cultures, actually cultures today are in general characterized by hybridization. “My home is yours and your home is mine” came from those ideas.
Since my main concept is “how do I address issue of place in my work?” I would like to introduce related theory.
First, many artists from the history to present talk about an issue of displacement. Critic Miwon Kwon introduced many interesting artists and their site-specific artworks in her book titled One Place After Another. If your works or concepts are site-specific installations, I strongly recommend this book.
Second, one of French philosophers, Wolfgang Welsch, wrote about this issue titled “Transculturality: the form of Cultures today”.
He talks about two different levels. Macro-level is consequence of the inner differentiation and complexity of modern cultures. For example, when you visit in New York City, you see a big China Town, Korea Town, or Mexican Town. So this means that one society has multicultures.
Micro level means “we are all cultural hybrids”. For example, although ethnically I am a Korean, but I am greatly influenced by American educations. So I am cultural hybrid. After I arrived here, Kunming, I heard many Korean songs in the shops. Many young Chinese peoples love Korean fashions, drama, and music. So you have been influenced by Korean culture. So you are also cultural hybrid.
5. Take Out San Francisco
Here’s image of my recent project, “Take-out” series, which are based on Transculturality. I will explain shortly about one of series named “Take-out San Francisco.” When you think about San Francisco, you will think about Golden Gate Bridge. The images inside a box are all Japanese architectures. Without my explanation, some peoples think these are in Japan. But I took these in the US. When you are in Japanese town, you don’t need to speak English. Physically you are in the US, but at the same time mentally you are in the Japan. There is no strong boundary between two cultures.
6. Post- Nomadism
As you can see my works also come from my nomadic life style. About nomadism, way of life of nomadic people is constantly moving from place to place, rather than settling down in one location. Many cultures have been traditionally nomadic, but nomadic behavior increasingly disappeared in industrialized countries. But nowadays we can easily find some aspects of post-modern nomadic life style in our present world and times. Today’s notion of nomadism does not imply unrestricted and undirected wandering; rather it is based on our hybrid cultures. Gilles Deleuze mentioned that the nomad is not necessarily a person who moves. There are many different ways of “travels” in which one does not move, travels in intensity. Nomads are those who start nomadizing in order to stay in the same place and free themselves from codes.
Here is a two simple example explaining what post-nomadism is.
First, As if our nomadic ancestor kept traveling for new grassland, we are digital nomads who continually move through dizzy building forests with holing our smart phone instead of horse. These our lifestyle enhances to redefine the meaning of “home” as something that one may carry only in one’s mind or in ones own character.
Second, people can access the ubiquitous network which is available almost everywhere. With such digitally nomadic behavior, our experiences are essentially multi-cultural, regardless geographic locations and ethnic characteristics of the living environments. When we move over the Internet, we wonder endlessly anywhere and anytime through hyperlinks across many multi-cultural online communities.
There was an article about “ 10 Things Digital Nomad needs”. The point is technology enables people to go and wander anywhere and everywhere to satisfy their curiosity. There are 10 gadgets or technology we probably need ;
(GSM cell phone and service, netbook, webmail/blog or Twitter, Cloud technology (Google Docs), digital camera, online banking, GPS service, memory cards etc)
7. Digital photography series titled Drinking Your Surroundings
This is my digital photography titled “Drinking your surroundings” which come from my journey as Nomadic life style. This project is ongoing project since 2004. I have collected over 250 cups for the past 6 years so that this work is my artistic archive of my journey. I collect and position pictures of my surroundings within the glass cups that I use everyday, in order to visually and conceptually absorb their truths.
8. Interactive web animation titled April Calendar
After this digital photography, I made a calendar. Calendar represents past, present, and future of my time. So this April Calendar is an animation version of cup series. People can click each date in order to see each different cup with different animations that represent specific stories such as trees grow down or bubbles come up or full moon show up suddenly.
9. Social network Korean site: Cyworld
This image shows very interesting social issue about cyber space in the Internet. Many Korean young peoples have their one blog called Cyworld, like facebook. They pay real money to buy these virtual items to decorate their online blog. There is no boundary between real life and virtual life. There was one of very interesting thing happened in Korea last couple of years. One guy stole one of virtual items in the Internet. And a guy who lost his item claimed to real police. The claim happened in the virtual space but nowadays the people called to real police to solve this problem. Korean government now.
10. Jar series and myscape series
From this boundary issue, I created this jar series. I captured my skin images and projected to clear glass jars. And then I changed a speed of video inside of jars. I wanted to create blurred boundary between human’s body and environment such as clothes.