For their January 2017 exhibition and performance at the KCC, the Korean Artists Association chose nostalgia for childhood as their theme. The text which follows is from the exhibition catalogue, with installation shots mainly by LKL.
I, Kid. 우리어릴적
Childhood memories are special to all of us. They do not disappear, but are planted in our hearts and heads, like seeds. The moments of childhood events often grow into something strong, magical, beautiful or ugly. They have formed us – whether we like or not!
‘I, Kid. 우리어릴적’ represents a connection between us and our childhood, now and then, and worldly and naive.
26 Korean artists have recollected their childhood memories, and have produced and performed something special for all of us to enjoy and share. In 2017, the KAA celebrates its 20th anniversary. Through ‘I, Kid. 우리어릴적’, the KAA artists are looking forward to their future as well as looking back to their past. You are invited to join them!
Seoyoung Kim, Curator
Sang Gun Kim, Alex Moon, Chaguk Ku, Dongsub Woo, Hyunju Cho, Rokly Wang, Sol Lee, Jun Seok Kim. 김상근, 문성현, 구자국, 우동섭, 조현주, 왕민지, 이솔, 김준석
My Street: My Playground (2016), Virtual Reality Installation
When I was a child, I used to play in and around small streets. All those small streets on the way to school and around my house were my playgrounds. They were boys’ football pitch and hopscotch ground, and places for girls’ favourite elastic string play and jackstone play. Seoul indeed had many play streets back then.
But only a few decades later, it is difficult to find such play streets in Seoul. Small, curvy streets have disappeared and replaced with the wide, straight streets between massive skyscrapers. Children who used to play on those small, curvy streets have vanished into their own indoor or computer game play spaces. Scenes of the play streets with children on them now only live in my memory. I wanted to re-create my playground, my streets with a virtual reality technology. I wanted to visit my childhood again and to invite others to join me to enjoy my and perhaps their reminiscence.
Eunjung Seo. 서은정
Girl in Hanbok (2016), Oil on canvas
Trying to remember what was on my mind as a child in pre-school is a mystery, although attempting to do so kindles a blurry impression of myself as a young child.
The life of a child is widely mediated as a series of sweet events, although childhood might better be curated as a discovery of the world, accepting its reality, and its mixture of happiness, disappointment and sadness.
Here, I can feel my mother’s love, as she dressed me in a lovely green Korean traditional dress (hanbok) and had my picture taken.
This portrait revisits this mysterious, character-forming stage of my life.
My small farm (2017), Soil, Seeds, Recycle boxes
My mother had an allotment in front of our house when I was growing up. She grew chillies, lettuces, tomatoes, cucumbers, aubergines and many more.
I watched animation cartoon programmes on the television in the evening when my mother prepared a meal. She always asked me a chore of getting a few spring onions, chillies and other vegetables when we were watching my favourite programmes. I was really reluctant to leave my beloved TV programmes.
When we moved to a house which didn’t have a space for an allotment, my mother continued to grow vegetables in plant pots on the rooftop of the house.
I didn’t understand why my mother put so much efforts and labour into growing trivial vegetables.
However, growing vegetables continued to be part of my life when I left home and lived in a Buddhist temple. Whenever I missed my mother and had troublesome thoughts, I went out to stand in the middle of the temple allotment. I now look after my own allotment in front of my studio in London. I grow potatoes, tomatoes, chillies and cucumbers.
Someone has recently asked me whether my potatoes could be an artwork, and I think they are and perhaps beyond. To me, my allotment and what’s in it have legacy of my mother which have formed my art.
Jeong-Min Moon. 문정민
Life-16 (2016), Rice paper, newspaper, white paint, balloons
My parents ran a silk farming business during my childhood in mid 1970’s. I used to help my parents to prepare food for silkworms every day.
It was my important duty and joy. In case of rain, I checked the weather and chose a right moment for leaf picking. I ran out to the woods with my big basket. I carefully picked tender, shiny mulberry leaves for my dear silkworms. I remember the rain dropping-like sound which the silkworms made when they gnawed the mulberry leaves.
I saw the silkworms growing from larvae to pupae, building cocoons, and finally coming out from cocoons as moths. They taught me the beauty and mystery of a life.
I now ponder the preciousness of a life, and live each day fully with gratitude.
Magenta Kang. 강경신
Memory of Rainbow (2016), Driftwood, Dyed wools, cottons, and sand
I was brought up in a small fishing village on the East coast of Korea. From the age of five, my playground was the sandy beach behind my house and I spent almost every day there, drawing pictures and writing in the sand. Every time I returned to the beach my drawings in the sand had been washed away by the sea. One of the most vivid memories from my childhood is that of looking up from the sand as rain suddenly came down and seeing a rainbow at sea which appeared to come to ground at the end of the beach.
Against the emerald-grey of the water the colours seemed shockingly solid, as if I could reach out and take hold of them. I chased the rainbow along the beach but of course it always ran ahead and away from me. I cried and fell asleep on the sand. The memory of that rainbow will always inspire my sense of colour.
Min Seo. 서민석
Solace in the Rain (2016), Paper
Today I am standing underneath the acacia tree; surrounded by its fragrant aroma. People don’t know why I am standing there; I simply never explained why. They just figure that this is what I do when it rains.
As both parents went out to work, I was brought up by my grandmother around the age of five. After playing with friends she would always tell me that I was dirty, everything about me was dirty; my clothes, my hands, my skin. She would strip me naked, taking the soiled clothes from my body, ushering me swiftly into the bathroom. When I was ten I moved elsewhere with my parents. But deep inside I still felt dirty. It seemed to become part of my identity. Grandma had called me dirty more often than she had uttered my real name. To me today I am still that dirty kid. I wear an item of clothing and then it’s straight into the washing machine; never wearing anything more than once. I shower twice a day. Should someone nearby sniff then it must be me, I must be the smelly one. That whole process starts again; shower and a change of clothes. My humiliation and shame rise up from within; my emotions are swirling around inside. My choice of colour for my clothes? Black. It hides the dirt from everyone. Today I am hoping that the falling rain will wash away that dirt and that the fragrance from the acacia tree will
gently cover me.
Sarah E. Choi. 음은경
1963-1964-2017 (2016), Stone, textile and mixed media
When I was 3-4 years old, I used to live in my grandparents’ countryside house. Because of my dad’s illness, my mum wasn’t able to look after three kids, and I was sent to my grandparents.
Near my granny’s, there was a little brook with a few stepping stones which enabled me to cross the brook from my granny’s to the field and the mountains where I could find all kinds of flowers, wild spring vegetables, autumn fruits, trees in the mountains. I spent time catching the locusts in the rice plant fields, admiring the rainbow. For me, the other side of the world over the brook was full of excitement and dreams.
Crossing the brook with the steppingstones was a real fear for a 3 year-old girl, but nothing could stop me jumping the stones to the other side, even though I often fell into the water.
Until now I still dream of jumping on one stone to another with full of anticipation as if I can catch the rainbow from the other side of the brook.
Soon Yul Kang. 강순열
DREAM…1000 paper cranes (2016), Korean mulberry paper
When I was a child, we never had enough or various toys to play with. But my friends and I had lots of joy and satisfaction from folding all sorts of scrap papers that we found. We made boats that could float on water. We made airplanes to launch to the blue sky. There was always a competition to see whose boat or airplane could go furthest. We folded newspapers into hats. We made cards by folding scrap papers and then played games with them. I also remember making paper dolls and then making clothes for them. It was a great achievement and pleasure to fill my doll’s box with what I made.
When I was a teenager we made paper cranes and gave them to friends with a wish. We used to say and believe ‘if you fold 1000 paper cranes, your wish will then come true’. At that time I did not have a reason or motivation to fold 1000 paper cranes, but one of my friends indeed succeeded in making 1000 paper cranes. I was amazed and astonished by her beautiful tiny paper cranes which she kept in a special jar. Decades later, I have now folded my 1000 paper cranes. I have a DREAM which I wish, and I believe it will come true one day.
SuKi Berwick. 손숙희
Nostalgia over Millennium Bridge (2016), Acrylic on paper on fabric
Before I started my first school, my friends and I used to play a game of Ttang Ppetgi which is a form of play on the ground. We first chose a flat ground at a corner of someone’s front or back yard then draw square lines in which we played the game. We then played Gawibawibo (rock-scissors-paper) in order to claim and expand into each other’s land. Through this game, I learnt how to build and expand my territory, and playing the game gave me a kind of competitive edge and a sense of achievement.
We played on and on until twilight fell on, forgetting all about our dinner time. My mother would look for me calling my name all over the village.
At the weekends, my brothers and I would play Hide & Seek around the house or in nearby fields. I would usually hide behind or between terracotta pots which had full of foodstuff in, while my brother counted to ten. It seemed that my older brother was winning most of the times. We usually ended up rummaging through the pots for savoury snack stuff!
Sungyoung Park. 박성영
For the Moment (2016), Acrylic on canvas
Every spring, in front of my primary school, street sellers sold chicks from cardboard boxes. To me, they were the prettiest, cutest, yellowest little things and I could buy them with my pocket money without asking my parents.
I was 8 years old when I bought one for the first time. On the way home with my new chick in my arms I was so happy and excited. I made a cosy cardboard home for my little pet and tried to stay with and nurture it as much as I could.
Unfortunately, despite my best efforts, the little thing didn’t grow, became ill and died a few days later, perhaps killed by kindness. For a few years each spring I did the same thing, it was the first obsession of my childhood. When I saw bright yellow spring flowers like forsythia on the street, they reminded me of my little chicks.
Although my chicks always died too soon, through the years I learned a lot about nurturing, loving, and the sadness of loss and death. As an adult I realised that selling such vulnerable little birds to children as living toys was irresponsible and inhumane. I’m glad that the custom has ended but the memories, both good and bad, live longer within me than the brief lives of those beautiful little creatures of my childhood.