Drifting and Settling
Choi Yeon ha
Studied education at the undergraduate and photography at the graduate level, photographer Kim Oksun has been seeking for relationships among individuals, society and culture in life. Kim's major keywords are women, space, daily life, body, gender, identity, subject, etc.
Kim's first body of work, <Woman in a Room> raised controversy in 1996. The photographic field turned its back on her work, but some art magazines recognized her shocking pictures. In her work, <Woman in a Room I & Ⅱ>, Kim had shown normal women in total nudity who were staring at the front without any hesitation. All she wanted to do was to become an image recorder, refusing to judge any values. From an objective perspective, she had tried to record bare bodies and realities where they were living. Critics recognized that Kim had successfully expressed the changed mindset of Korean women. But she could not be free from all the controversy between obscenity and art or social norm and ethical viewpoint. After finishing her study, she settled down in Jeju Island.
Under the title of <Happy Together>(2002), questioning the marriage life, Kim started a series of portraits of women who did cross-cultural marriages. She wanted to report both social and cultural life of Korean women who married to foreigners and resided in Korea. Kim's next project <You and I>(2004) is a New York version of <Happy Together>. While participating in PS1 International Studio Program in 2003-04 in New York, she had chances to compare cross-cultural marriages between Korea and New York. Not only Korean women, but Asian women from Japan, China and Philippines, and gay or lesbian couples had joined the project. She could find some similarities among cross-cultural couples, including curiosity toward other culture, visa and communication problems, different family traditions, children's nationality, etc.
Portraying daily lives of minorities in our society, Kim tried to express them as real as possible. That leads viewers to see both conflicts and troubles, or compromises and understandings in various spectra of life from different ages and races. She expressed people's relationship by showing attitude, gestures, and environments. People in Kim's pictures seemed calm but were posing for the photographer. While the photographer was working, subjects stopped their motion. And from the picture, viewers can see certain identity and relationship that were internalized to subjects.
After all, she settled in Jeju Island, where a Dutch bookkeeper Hendrick Hamel (1630-1692) boarded on the ship "De Sperwer", accidentally arrived on his way to Nagasaki, Japan in 1653. In Kim's recent project, <Hamel's Boat>, she illustrates daily lives of foreigners who started residing in Jeju Island. Interestingly, Kim settled in the island for 13 years, which is the same period that Hamel stayed in Korea. It has also been 13 years since Kim's husband, Ralf, a German, lived in the island. But the difference is Kim and Ralf chose to live in the island but Hamel were detained in the island. In the <Hamel's Boat>, Kim shows how foreigners are taking their time in open spaces, forming their new world.
New image makes us see the reality in a fresh way. Kim surely has her uniqueness different from other young photographers. And such uniqueness comes from her self-examinining point of view. I dare to say her recent project <Hamel's Boat> to reach a certain completion. This project beautifully illustrates human desire to drift and settle in the world.
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