Graphite on tracing paper, five archival inkjet prints in IKEA frames, gouache and coupy-pencil on paper, abandoned work stool of retired Seonmichon sex-worker, SD-video, 14 minutes 26 seconds, looped.
Site-specific installation at the Jeonju Independent Art Festival: -Second Wind, Seonmichon, Jeonju, South Korea.
Photo credit: Ki Hyuk Ahn
☗ It is said that Modern Art really began with Édouard Manet’s Olympia, when for the first time a nude was painted in all her imperfections. It caused a complete row within the institution, and set fire to aesthetic judgement. Sterilizing all conventional fantasies of femininity, the work not only shocked society with an unprecedented portrayal of taboo and groundedness, but even more so through the arresting, confrontational and dignified gaze of a sex worker. It is a tug of war between the judgemental and the judged, for a sliver of truth, or consideration. When a level playing field was missing in society as it was, as it still is, art provided an opportunity.
I visited Seonmichon on a cold but bright winter day, when I passed by the glass houses for the first time. There were no occupants in these spaces––some were simply empty at the hour, others were marked and waiting to be demolished––but a strong presence was nonetheless felt through the scattering of objects. A particular folding table in a soon to be dismantled glass house arrested me. It had Hello Kitty, the most kind and caring cat without a mouth, an icon of pan-Asian influence, printed all over it. After some research, I found out that the Hello Kitty character wasn’t even based on a cat, but a little girl.
I thought about how protection is offered and deserved, especially within a capitalist economy. What does it mean when some market demands are tackled head on, while others burn like wildfire but are perpetually sidestepped and allowed to fester? What is nourishment, and the difference of such offered between a restaurant and a glass house? If one has ever had a desperate need relieved, there is room for gratitude, or at least some form of acknowledgement of the caterer who filled the gap, with labor. I wish all were accredited with the Mugunghwa.
If the tidal waves of human nature will never cease to cycle, the least we can do is confront it with a dignified gaze. To the roses of Korea, and their autonomy.
–– Yi Yi Lily Chan
철거, repeatedly graffitied on each of the glass house doors, means ‘Demolish’.
🌺 The Mugunghwa is South Korea’s national flower, and a symbol for government accreditation and regulation.
“Bella Ciao”, performance by the Swingle Singers, 2002, Roccatederighi, Italy.
“It’s Impossible”, performance by Shirley Bassey on the All About Shirley TV Special, filmed by the BBC in Hamburg, Germany and Sardinia, Italy.
“It’s Impossible”, performance by Perry Como at the BBC Studios, 1971, London.
❛ Ciao! Bella, ciao!
And you have to bury me O bella, ciao! Bella, ciao! Bella, ciao, ciao, ciao! And you have to bury me Under the shade of a beautiful flower ❜