My project Like Any Other comments on gender and ethnicity. It explores different ways for creating ruptures on Korean patterns. I activate the paintings in relation to the stretcher bars, which become metaphors for framing and societal expectations for the authentic. Further, Korean textile is not only created through sewing and manipulating fabric to suggest a trapped, exoticized female body, but also invented by overloading the textiles with patterns that are perceived as Korean.
The series is inspired by my experience of being seen as “the other.” I aim to capture the tension that arises from the divide between different social groups and the mindset of “us versus them.” I am directly drawing inspiration from Korean object-wrapping cloth called bojagi. By employing bojagi that was historically a creative outlet for Korean women who had limited contact with the outside world during the Joseon Dynasty, I consider ideas such as tradition, labor, craft, and “feminine” work.
The textiles I create symbolize constructed notions of what it means to be Korean. My work is not simply a representation of minority identities, but rather a commentary on the dehumanizing, problematic process of being identified, reduced and categorized. The human-scale box painting that combines the traditional Korean textile saekdong with a wide range of contemporary, global logos considers both the past and the present to further investigate the idea of authenticity as well as the idea of cultural hybridity and transnationalism.
Through the traditional and invented textiles of hybridity, I aim to destabilize preexisting notions of what it means to be Korean or feminine. The human-scale figures are wrapped like an object with overtly colorful textiles to express the embodied experience as well as both the gravity and absurdity of objectification. The one-dimensional way the figure is seen is imposed upon her. However, the fabrics are not only covering, blocking and suffocating, but also protecting, hiding and mystifying the body.
By meticulously creating colorful Korean textiles through painting and sewing, I cherish my cultural background. However, through imposing various disruptions and overburdening the textiles with “ethnic” patterns, I not only convey my experience of being objectified and judged superficially, but also expose and undercut the very preconceptions others may have based on my gender and ethnicity. My work shifts the focus from the search for authentic origins and clear categories to the uncertainties of translation and complexities of globalism, multiculturalism, transnationalism, and hybridity.
© Julia Kwon, all rights reserved