An Interview by Linda Aloysius

MPhil/PhD Fine Art Symposium, Goldsmiths College
(Im)materiality

June 2009

Linda: In your text you say that the activity of sewing links your theoretical investigation with your practice. It seems that sewing allows you to materialise your own intuitive processes and also to comment on the political subjugation of Korean women who sew for incredibly low pay – so I’m wondering if the link that sewing provides you with is primarily a political one?

Young In: Yes, the link between my theoretical investigation and my practice is mostly a political one and the activity of sewing can be seen as what links both. But more precisely, my practice is not literally related to my thesis. This act of sewing and my theory of ‘intuitive visibility’ have the common ground that ‘mediates’ between the two.
I think, political subjugation of the female Korean can be seen as the obvious part of my project, but it is not the main issue that I am trying to develop at the moment, gender politics is too big area, which can limit to explore my more urgent issue of intuition and its political location.

The ‘Intuition’ I re-introduce in my research is ‘not’ a conventional, western concept of “ability to understand something immediately, without the need for conscious reasoning” but intuition is an actual ‘technique of visualization’, which is also closely related to vision, to condition for action and bodily or fleshly engagement.
Through this understanding, the process of making, of sewing, allows me to materialize and visualize my own intuitive process with my bodily movement engaged with the movement of physical machinery, and to stimulate both vision and tangibility for the viewer. I think this as integral to this intuitive process.

In my thesis, intuition is introduced as the political methodology of the ‘irrational’ in relation to the ‘modernization of korea’ throughout some specific case studies of urban regeneration projects. These urban regeneration plans I introduce in my thesis, have been proceeded based on the idea of poongsu (feng shui), that doesn’t seem to make sense to the modern, highly industrialized Korea, but this peculiar cultural background has been key important element in creating specific visibility, which I am investigating into.
I think, this blend/coexistence between ‘marginalized cultural practice (of poongsu)’ and modernisation process of contemporary korea, has been my key concern in my thesis, which shares the common ground with my practice when I use marginalized skill of sewing to represent image of globalization, image of statues and cityscape etc..
Here, intuition become a force, to change the condition of contemporary visual world.

Linda:When we first met, over two years ago, I said that I thought that your project had some concern with female power and representation, such as those articulated by materialist feminists. I’m wondering if that same comment could be fairly applied today. I’m thinking this because you’re saying that your political interest links your theory and practice and this is mainly concerned with acceding a greater political dynamic to minority practices, in order that they become represented and visible. This concern is philosophically underpinned by your own critically derived combination of Eastern and Western philosophies, which you then operate as a critical methodology of “intuitive visibility”. But to what extent does your interest in Korean Modernism overlaps with a notion of female minority practices?

Young In: Well, thinking of my project in terms of female power…this is quite complimentary
comment. And I wish that my works are considered as such. But I am not ‘particularly’ trying to focus on identity/gender politics in my art practice as well as my thesis at the moment. In my opinion, gender politics is more to do with representation of ‘outer-self’, while in my case, I am more interested in the subject of inner-self with interrelation of culture and politics.

However, my approach to ‘intuition’ in relation to its political location touches upon the issues of culturally marginalized practices (such as poongsu, shamanism), which shares post-feminist issues - as far as I understood. If post-feminism is not only concerned with defining femininity, but rather emphasizes the power- obscure identity discourses, including the issue of the oppressed, ignored ‘otherness’, then this ‘otherness’ is what I am interested in.

Also, female identity is what is ‘given to me’, which is a kind privilege, I am privileged to visualize my different gender in my art practice as well as in my thesis. I think, having difference is a privilege because it does not exist in familiar languages compared with the major one.

Linda:Is it possible for you to say more specifically how the more obvious interests in your work – architecture, colour, certain forms of surrealism, notions of female and male – link to the concerns that you have already spoken about?

Young In: Sewing is a time-based process; time, in this context, means not a mathematical
time, but individualised time. For example, the sewing machine goes only when I push the pedal, and this generates a rhythm. Once the stitches are made you can’t easily erase or change them. So, it leaves all the traces of my using hands, ideas etc..
This particular rhythm and sense of time.is what I am interested in and this is what I relate to ‘individual time of duration’. Bergson mentions this when he defines intuition. It is also to do with East-Asian philosophical concept of time, which is more individual experience based.

Architecture as it relates to power and intuition.. I am interested in city’s landscape, which represent male-dominated, conservative, coded visibility. Architecture is also the accumulated, edited history of the past. For instance, because buildings have been built in each different period of time, each city has become a strange kind of montage of different power structures, different times.
I am interested in looking at modern cities, and I try to re-interpret its image in my own way by transferring architectural images as playful, artificial images.

Finally, I think of intuition as a collective language, which I represent through the global imageries. Certain forms of surrealism, using bright colour, making Easter/Western, female/male element together would be linked to the idea of the ‘global’ I think.

Linda:These answers clarify a lot of the links between your practice and theory. In regard to your intentionality as an artist, you express a desire to bridge minor practices with a major positive, political dynamic. Also you want to engage and combine Eastern and Western Philosophies. And in your work itself you create “fantasy” globalised entities and situations that represent combinations of cultures; it does seem that, in your work, there is a fairly forceful intention to create a kind of controlled chaos, that assumes a certain theatrical aesthetic, but that reflects your desire, as an artist, to shake up existing structures, without necessarily destroying dominant orders, but with the intention of re-distributing their power. I am wondering if this process, of bringing together apparently opposite or irreconcilable forces, is your primary aim as an artist? If this is the case, I am wondering to what degree this intention manifests itself in your work as a pro globalisation act or to what degree you are critiquing globalisation itself? And, either way, is there at least a spark of anarchy in this intention?

Young In: I am committed to creating works that question the boundaries and the social norms
given by the society.
Touching the boundary between the rational and the irrational through the methodology of intuition is related to this kind of question, which may be twhat you are saying as ‘controlled chaos’ because by thinking of the boundary, familiar structure will look differently.

About your question of a spark of 'anarchy', i think, my interest in re-distribution of the power is a lot to do with sharing something in 'common', rather than creating a totally 'new'. in this sense the anarchy would be more to do with addressing the equal positions of the opposites rather than regarding them in a hierarchical order.

In this sense, globalization would be kind of..the visualized state of 'equality'?. for Ranciere, anarchism is not considered such as in Marxist notion ( in relation to its influenced feminism, sexism, racism etc) but rather trying to remind what the western world forgot about.. i think, the kind of anarchy i am interested in is not something to do with hierarchical relation. but more to do with restoring forgotten order from the below.
Globalization is, for me not something I promote or criticize, but I think of it as the condition of contemporary visual culture, that I am interested in. it is also to do with my personal background..

I think, the elements of my works such as a kind of joke, global imageries, artificial image making out of irrational ways of thinking, decorative nature of the works..….are related to this kind of ‘democratic anarchy’. – starts from equalization of differences.

Linda:This situation of controlled chaos as – I am wondering whether the theory has increased/heightened your own sense of this state. In your studio, we discussed your current work when something unexpected happened in your practice, and agreed that it was a potentially very positive opportunity for you to move away from more habitual ways of making and perhaps more towards this chaotic state. What do you think of this comment? Does this reflect what is happening for you and your practice?

Young In: Yes, I think your observation is right. My practice has been moved by my theory.

I think, in my recent process of my work, I am using sewing, more as a free drawing tool, the process of work reveals more of a sense of ‘duration’ (but of course in a quite controlled way: e.g. sewing, with certain material, etc). you are also right saying that the process of making itself becomes ‘unpredictable’ to a certain extent, by giving up habitual ways of making, which I see as a move, although it will probably seem a subtle change for the viewer.

Linda:Finally, showing your work publicly seems to be a large part of your activity as an artist. How important is the notion of audience to this process? Does your idea of audience have anything to do with your responses to the Western Art Market?

Young In: I don’t think, any artwork can escape from the (Western) art market and money value.
But it is problem that art is judged by certain standards because of the nature of commodity society. Lots of art in the past history has criticized commodity capitalism and its negative influence on art. By doing this, art can create new modes of sense perception, but these art are soon after, supposed to be a part of commodity and promote commodity value in a process which will be endlessly repeat.
I see commodity capitalism as the stimulus that encourages art to re-establish a new capital order, which I think, is related to the function of intuitive visibility.