Saturday, October 13, 2007

Art Space Talk: Eun Woo Cho

Eun Woo Cho was born in Seoul Korea and earned her BFA at Ontario College of Arts & Design. She has been involved in several different site specific performances and shows in Canada, Italy and the United States. She recently obtained her M.F.A from the School of Visual Art in New York. Her Red Skirt Project explores the plight and strength of comfort women during Japan's occupation of Korea- this series also explores the ability of women to endure pain in general.

Red Skirt Project- Red Ribbon, Various Size performance, Photo Video, 2006
Brian Sherwin: Eun Woo, you earned your BFA from Ontario College. You recently earned an MFA from the School of Visual Art in New York. Who were your mentors during your academic years?

Eun Woo Cho: To be honest, I try not to be inspired by a human being, but in something greater than a human being. It is difficult to find mentors or "mentor ship" because human beings will never be perfect like the universe. I believe the meaning of the mentor or inspiration from someone else is to truly understand their ideas and to respect their life and their existence. "Whenever I talk with her, I feel like I tripped, and found a white pearl near a tree in a beautiful forest. Whenever I see her, I could almost hear sounds of clear morning dew." Petah Coyne, my thesis advisor in SVA MFA, is not only an intelligent artist, but she also has great wisdom in her heart. I truly admire and respect her as a person. Her existence and mentality change her surroundings and mood. She is magical to me.

Artists not only work in their heads or the bottoms of their physical beings, but deep inside of their hearts-- in this they rejoice. Everything already exists and has been defined and created perfectly by the greater human being. People or artists create their works or try to make something mean that they try to prove how small and imperfect they are! We want to meet a mentor, an inspiring person and professors, who do not force us to understand their lives, but naturally know where they are coming from and what their aims in life are.
Red Skirt Project- Korean bride, my older sister, Various Size performance, Photo Video, 2004

BS: Eun Woo, you are known for taking on controversial themes and certain establishments with your work. For example, the Red Skirt Project. Can you tell our readers more about the Red Skirt Project and how you have given your support to Korean women who were used as sex slaves during WWII?

EWC: There is "NOTHING" on this earth that could not support them. How much support will be enough or not enough? What will make their terrified bloody hearts become white? Who will clarify their sorrowful lives? What will be true support? A Japanese government letter of apology is not enough! Millions of dollars is not enough! Beautiful art work is not enough! However, I will truly celebrate and pray for their existence here.

I am proud of their survival. I am celebrating their being and I thank you for them that they are still surviving and continue to live their lives. The Red Skirt Project is not only focused on sex slaves during WWII. It is all about women and human growth in this different society and in history. It represents different degrees of human emotions. The Red Skirt Project is multiple access and it presents potential conflicts in information about women in different times and about the young generation. It is a gesture of promise. It is both a traditional and a new way of entering a contract with performers under a mutual agreement which benefits women, audiences, and me.
Red Skirt Project- flower, Various Size animation, photo, 2006

BS: Can you go into further detail about the traditions involved with Red Skirt Project? Would you say that the project reveals not only the rape of the 'comfort women' by Japanese forces during WWII, but also the rape of Korean culture in general during that time?

EWC: Everything is tradition and everything is not tradition in my work. My work depends on the viewer's choice in terms of imagining what it means. It may also be changed to fit during these days, and the changes can become accepted as a part of the other tradition on other days. I try to do my work in traditions-- or not traditions --because, one day, you will be the tradition as well.

BS: Eun Woo, you were born in Seoul, Korea. How do people form your homeland view the Red Skirt Project. Did you find a lot of support for the Red Skirt Project back home? Also, did your family support this project?

EWC: Yes. I have enough support from my country Seoul, Korea because I was born there and I have their soul. My country, Korea is small, but extremely precious and strong. It has survived as a country for 5,000 years. They have great wisdom. I have their hearts and I am proud-- I am very thankful to have them.

When you plant your crops, you need to wait a long time for your trees to bear fruit. Art is the same as harvesting fruit from your trees. You may not be able to have your fruit in your lifetime, but, if you work hard on it, I promise you that you will have it someday. If I did not have my fruit during my lifetime, my grandchildren will benefit from my efforts. My family is my everything. If they are not here, I am not here. They are my key to life. I heaven when I see my parents. I always receive great comfort and fulfilling love from my parents and my two sisters.
Red Skirt Project- with my younger sister hyun kyung, Various Size performance, Photo Video, 2007

BS: Eun Woo, would you say that you are an activist first, artist second... or artist first, activist second-- or are these two aspects meshed together? Would you remain dedicated to one aspect if you no longer did the other?

EWC: Every single human should be involved socially or politically in their lifetimes and, furthermore, in society. Human beings are supposed to be naturally involved in activism. Creating, practicing, and demonstrating their activity in their lives will continually define their ideas or concepts or transform their new ideas to create meaningful moments in their societies. I am having a good time and I appreciate my life as much as I can, even though I have to face difficult problems.

BS: Eun Woo, can you go into further detail about your artistic philosophy? In your opinion, what should art do for society? What should it not do?

EWC: The universe will continue to turn without your theories. It has done so before and will continue to do so. You do not know where this wind comes from, the sunrise, or the little bird's song. You forgot where you are coming from? You do not know your creator. It follows then that, for scientists, "theory" and "fact" do not necessarily stand in opposition. Is this contemporary work exploring and exciting for this short moment, is it really individually experienced and aesthetically expressed to the world, or are we in the same political frame?

Sweet things can easily make other things bitter. If the artwork is not sweet but exudes a quality of feeling, or if it shows that the artist has spoken to a great extent from their soul with their material, are we in heaven? Your individual meanings or ideas fail because those theories already existed before, a long time ago, either in your mind or conjecture but not necessarily based on facts or truth.

His or her understatement, in true descriptions of reality, is not understood as statements that would be true independently of what people think about them-- or unnecessary. Your idea of thought, "theory", can not take away or make captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy-- which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this sinful world-- rather than your Paradise.

Red Skirt Project- comfort women, Various Size performance, Photo Video, 2007

BS: Finally, what projects are you working on at this time?

EWC: I am working with video, sound, time, heaven and death. It is a fascinating subject matter, because we can't force any of these subjects-- wishes or attempts to die may fail! Death is an important natural process. Death could be/not be the beauty of life. War, crime, revenge, martyrdom, suicide, and many other forms of violent death are glorified by different media. Understanding the nature of the universe and its contents, there remain some important unanswered questions.Whether death is a subjective matter depends on ones belief in the presence or lack of ones perception of what good or bad existence will follow their natural law. Every single human activity is a search for happiness and love in their heaven.
I hope that you have enjoyed learning about Eun Woo Cho and her art. You can read more of my interviews by visiting the following page--
Take care, Stay true,
Brian Sherwin


Ljubomir Vučinić said...

Rich with deep emotional reflections.
Compliments !!!
Appreciate it.........

Anonymous said...

fantastic work!

miron topciu

Hyun K Cho said...

so beautiful- I love her work