Where is your home?
We live in a time where we can choose our own way of life. Where to live, what to do, how to gain food; ways to seek answers to these questions are becoming more individualized. An era, which moving across different regions are free, range of occupations have broadened, and even the composition of family show anomaly, has resulted in a difficult situation like a test with too many distracters, making it hard to have confidence in any of the answers. An issue of survival to our ancestors long ago has now become a matter of choice for us. All of a sudden, I wonder if we are happier because we are so.
Okseon Kim's photographs question us of the choices we make. First, lets observe others' choices by following the artist's careless eyes looking at the people in the picture. These are people living as aliens in a small island of Jeju, residing in a very small house, keeping their household items to the minimum. Even if they need it for sure in the future, these people would never buy anything in advance. They won't risk their future for their house. Their choice may be foreign and surprising to some but to them or those who have made similar decisions it is only common and natural thing to do. Photographs reveal everything but there aren't much we can speculate from them. Where they are from, for how long they are staying, where they will head to, we do not know. What they show us through those still pictures is merely what's captured at that moment. The scene showing a small space, filled up with the subject with their facial expressions hidden away, do not easily show clues about their actual life. Thus it becomes even suspicious whether this is their actual living space. Like a temporarily built movie set, their space is simple and superficial.
Even those who have never left their birthplace, know what insecurity of drifting and serenity of settlement are. It is probably the same for those who are always preparing themselves to leave. What we see in their homes hints us they will not stay there for long, but the expression and behavior of people in the picture reveal that the place is a perfect nest as long as they stay there. Sleeping, working, raising pets and dancing regardless of what others may think, these people seem to have become one with their house. It is because the photographer cast light equally on all objects included in the scene, putting on a power game between the people, the main subject and the house, the backdrop. Oksun Kim's photographs show the subject and the living space as equals, asserting house is an expansion of the body where human souls dwell. Small and even shabby, the house suggests their soul is free, light as a feather. Everyone dreams of freedom, but with this and that dragging them behind, it is difficult to make it come true. Thus ordinary people set bulky stability their strategic target instead of light freedom. Then they dream of freedom, like a lingering desire for a road not taken.
Oksun Kim's method of questioning us is clear. No matter what you choose between freedom and stability, it can only last for so long. People in the picture may look like they can leave if they want to for another place simply with a bag in their hands, but in fact their energy is not heading outside. Inwards and inwards, such reserved nature of withdrawal that seems to be digging deep into the house and into the subjects themselves discloses how thirsty they are for stability. It is not important where, with whom and how they are living. No matter where, the way we live cannot be fixed in one way. This must be the same for Oksun Kim, the photographer and the first observer. What she had searched for at a stranger's house, looking into their eyes, was probably an insight for a life she had chosen herself, or a life she had not chosen. Thus her work has become a scene of intersection between an anxiety of the one who fears of leaving or being forced to leave in the future, and the serenity of the one who truly reside here, right now. At least one thing is definite about her work. It is a revelation of the fact that each person's choice is in the end a task for happiness of themselves, and that happiness is only allowed to those who worked hard on that task. People in the picture, Okseon who gazes at them, and us who look at them through her eyes; I wish happiness to all.
Suejin Shin (Photography psychologist)
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