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The Wind in My Garment

Exhibition of textile and craft works at Season, Aotearoa. Featuring collborations with Soraa Glass, OfBODY, Picnic Studios, John Harris, and Francesca Logan.

All things can be thrown into the infinite void, yet the void remains the same. Negative space and emptiness doesn’t have to be thought of as sad. Emptiness contains all of us, we are enfolded by it and it does not judge. Negative space is fluid and constantly changing; it is a space for transformation. In East Asian traditions, garments are often made to lie flat, coming alive when inhabited by a body. An empty garment suggests the absence of a person, but that absence has its own sense of presence. The wind in my garment sings an eternal song.

I was born in Korea, and my family immigrated to Aotearoa when I was six months old. I grew up without a deep sense of connection to my heritage. I did not feel like much of a Korean or much of a New Zealander; nor did I feel at home in the gender binary that was offered. In dealing with these complex dynamics, I questioned the nature of poles of identity, because I sat outside of them. I began to feel more at home in the negative space around identifiers, finding freedom, expansiveness, and joy in that emptiness.

Through learning about traditions of Korean craft I have been able to develop a deeper relationship with my heritage through an embodied practice of making, a space to find understanding for my experience of unbelonging. I feel myself inhabiting this inbetweenness and find that it is a space for transformation. Materials metamorphose from one state to another, delicately holding the memory of their previous lives as they embrace new ones. They hold meaning, as words do, and we can rearrange them to create stories: to tell old ones and create new ones.

This show was born from reflections on absence and loss, and how they are experienced in the body. My inhabitation of negative space collided with feelings of loss with the passing of my grandmother in 2020 in Korea, during the Covid pandemic, where my grandfather is currently living out his final years. The realisation of this loss compounded when lockdown lifted and I was able to visit her resting place. I have been processing my emotions through making, translating them using tactile craft objects that speak to experiences felt in the body.

A red silk durumagi (outer garment) left to me by my grandmother was a material starting point for this exhibition. This hanging screen, made using hand sewn jogakbo techniques, describes a life-size replica of the garment. Following Korean tradition, the original lies completely flat unless inhabited by a body. My grandmother’s absence is keenly felt in the durumagi, but I’m also aware that we only spent time together every few years. Our relationship was built on distance but still so full of love. I want to portray absence not as despairing but as a natural texture of our experience.

The flying kite fills with air and, though not inhabited, is animated.
The empty vessel does not hold nothing.
The unworn garment is not uninhabited.

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