A PHOTOGRAPHIC AND TEXTUAL PROJECT ON IDENTITY AND IMMIGRATION THROUGH THE LENS OF THE KOREAN DIASPORA


THE KYOPO PROJECT FEATURES A SERIES OF OVER 200 STANDARDIZED FULL-BODY PORTRAITS OF KYOPO FROM AROUND THE WORLD. IT SHOWS EACH SUBJECT IN THEIR "ANALOGICAL PLENITUDE", AS ROLAND BARTHES WOULD SAY, AND BETRAYS/DISPLAYS THE INTIMATE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN THE PHOTOGRAPHER AND THE SUBJECT. THE INDIVIDUALS ARE POSED FRONTALLY, THEIR EYES RETURNING THE CAMERA'S AND THE VIEWER'S GAZE, AGAINST THE STATIC BACKDROP OF THE PHOTOGRAPHER'S STUDIO. THUS, EACH SUBJECT CONNECTS WITH AND MIRRORS THE OTHERS, WHILE ALSO REFLECTING THEIR INHERENT DIFFERENCES AND AWARENESS OF THEIR SIMULTANEOUS CONTEMPORARY VISIONS AND EXPERIENCES. THE CLEAR AND STANDARDIZED COMPOSITION ALLOWS THE VIEWERS TO FOCUS IN ON AND PROJECT ONTO THE SUBJECTS, ELICITING QUESTIONS ABOUT THEIR BACKGROUNDS AND STORIES. RANGING IN AGE FROM TEEN TO SEPTUAGENARIAN, THE SUBJECTS ARE NOVELISTS, ACTORS, POLITICIANS, COMEDIANS, ATHLETES, EXECUTIVES AND RETIREES - SOME WERE BORN AND RAISED IN THEIR RESPECTIVE COUNTRIES AND SOME ARE MORE RECENT ÉMIGRÉS. THE STRIKING DIVERSITY OF THE GROUP - THE SUBJECTS DO NOT APPEAR TO HAVE MUCH IN COMMON OTHER THAN THEIR KOREAN ANCESTRY - CHALLENGES THE IDEA OF A MONOLITHIC, "AUTHENTIC" KOREAN IDENTITY AND STIMULATES EXPLORATION AND A RENEWED PERCEPTION OF WHAT IT MEANS TO BE KOREAN AND A CITIZEN OF THE WORLD. THE KYOPO PROJECT ALSO POSES THE QUESTION OF HOW KYOPO NEGOTIATE THE SOMETIMES CONFLICTING EXPECTATIONS AND SENSIBILITIES ARISING FROM THEIR INTRINSIC MULTI-CULTURAL IDENTITY.


FOREWORD


BEING A KYOPO IS BEING PART OF A TRIBE, FOR WE ARE TIED TOGETHER BY OUR EXPERIENCE, RACE, CULTURE AND ETHNICITY IN A SPECIFIC WAY. INDEED, THE INDIVIDUALS WHO APPEAR IN THIS BOOK REPRESENT THE COMPLEX AND RANDOM INTER-WEAVINGS OF THIS TRIBE; TAKEN AS A WHOLE, THIS GROUP IS NOT MEANT TO SUGGEST A REPRESENTATIVE GROUP, BUT SOMETHING MUCH MORE INTERESTING: IT IS A VISUAL AND TEXTUAL EXPRESSION OF AN ORGANIC WEB OF RELATIONAL CONNECTIONS. PUT IN ANOTHER WAY, THE PROJECT BEGAN WITH A SINGLE PERSON BEING PHOTOGRAPHED. THAT PERSON WENT ON TO RECOMMEND OTHERS, WHO WENT ON TO RECOMMEND OTHERS, AND SO FORTH, UNTIL THE ONE BLOOMED INTO MORE THAN TWO HUNDRED SUBJECTS, AND THE INTRICATELY OVERLAPPING AND INTERCONNECTING RELATIONSHIPS OF A CERTAIN KYOPO COMMUNITY IS WHAT THE WORK HAS PRODUCED...


IT INCLUDES KYOPOS WHO HAVE LIVED IN COUNTRIES BESIDES AMERICA, INCLUDING ARGENTINA, CANADA, CHINA, DENMARK, FRANCE, INDIA, JAPAN, THE UK, THE PHILIPPINES, CUBA, AND BRAZIL. THERE ARE KYOPOS ADOPTED INTO WHITE FAMILIES, MIXED-RACE KYOPOS, AND A RANGE OF AGES FROM TEEN TO SEPTUAGENARIAN. PROFESSIONS INCLUDE BANKERS, A CHEF, A HAT DESIGNER, TAE KWON DO INSTRUCTORS, A HUMAN RIGHTS LAWYER WHO REPRESENTS THE MUSLIM COMMUNITY, WRITERS, A WELL-KNOWN ACTOR. SOME CAN SPEAK KOREAN, SOME CANNOT, AND SOME SPEAK ONLY A CHILD’S VERSION OF KOREAN EVEN THOUGH THEY ARE ADULTS. SOME HAVE KOREAN FIRST NAMES, SOME HAVE BOTH AMERICAN AND KOREAN NAMES, ONE PERSON, CABIN GOLD KIM, HAS A NAME HIS PARENTS CHARMINGLY MADE UP FOR HIM...


KYOPO LIFE, YOU WILL SEE, CONTINUALLY CHANGES AS THE INDIVIDUAL AND ALSO THE WORLD CHANGES.WHAT AT FIRST GLANCE APPEARS TO BE A BOOK ON "KOREANS" AND "KOREAN CULTURE" WILL PROVE TO BE INSTEAD ONE ENCOMPASSING THE WORLD.


FOREWORD SEGMENT BY ©MARIE MYUNG-OK LEE.


INTRODUCTION


SHADOW AND SCALE IN THE KYOPO PROJECT


CYJO'S THE KYOPO PROJECT...CONTAINS A SERIES OF PICTURES THAT CAN BE VIEWED SINGLY OR IN A VARIETY OF GRIDS, CONFIGURED FOR PARTICULAR SPACES,YET GRIDS IS NOT QUITE ACCURATE BECAUSE IT SUGGESTS A REGULAR, RECTANGULAR NETWORK OF FRAMES WHILE, WHEN THE KYOPO PICTURES ARE PUT TOGETHER, THERE IS INSTEAD THE ILLUSION OF PEOPLE STANDING IN RANK ON A SUCCESSION OF SINGLE FLOORS, SO THAT EACH STOREY, THE VIEWER SEES A GROUP PORTRAIT. THE EFFECT IS QUITE DIFFERENT FROM A TRADITIONAL SCHOOL OR WORK GROUP PHOTOGRAPH, SINCE THE FIGURES STAND A FORMAL, UNIFORM DISTANCE FROM EACH OTHER (A LITTLE LIKE SOLDIERS AT EASE ON A PARADE GROUND), AND SINCE EACH OF THE SUBJECTS HAVE BEEN PHOTOGRAPHED AS AN INDIVIDUAL AND ONLY LATER ASSEMBLED.


THERE IS ONE CURIOUS FEATURE OF THE KYOPO GROUP WHICH MAY STRIKE THE VIEWER, ESPECIALLY IF THEY BRING TO MIND CONVENTIONAL GROUP PHOTOGRAPHS: ALL THE SUBJECTS ARE OF ABOUT THE SAME HEIGHT. LEAVING ASIDE FOR THE MOMENT THE ISSUE OF SUBJECT MATTER, THE PICTURES FIT SNUGLY INTO A WIDESPREAD GENRE IN CONTEMPORARY ART PHOTOGRAPHY TO WORK IN TYPOLOGICAL SERIES, TO PRODUCE PICTURES IN WHICH THE ARTIST SUPPLIES A UNIFORM FRAME, SO ALLOWING VARIATION IN THE SUBJECTS (THEIR CLOTHING, POSE, BODY SHAPE AND FACIAL EXPRESSION) TO COME TO THE FORE. THIS TYPE OF PHOTOGRAPHY HAS A RELATION TO ANTHROPOLOGICAL PHOTOGRAPHS OF THE IMPERIAL PAST IN WHICH THE SUBJECTS, WHO WERE CLEARLY SEPARATED BY RACE OR CLASS FROM THE INTENDED VIEWERS, WERE COERCED OR INDUCED TO BE PHOTOGRAPHED, AND WHERE THE INTEREST WAS IN CLASSIFICATION AND MEASUREMENT OF TYPICAL SPECIMENS. IN MUCH TYPOLOGICAL CONTEMPORARY ART PHOTOGRAPHY, THERE IS NO CLEAR SEPARATION OF THE VIEWER FROM THE SUBJECT, AND THE PICTURES MAY ENCOURAGE VIEWERS TO THINK ABOUT HOW PEOPLE PRESENT THEMSELVES , ESPECIALLY BEFORE A LENS, MEANS, HOW AWARENESS OF ONE’S SELF-IMAGE MAY BECOME A TRAP, AND HOW ARTISTIC VIEWERS (AND THE CREATOR OF THE PHOTOGRAPHS ) MAY APPARENTLY ESCAPE IT IN MOMENTS OF HIGHER CONSCIOUSNESS.


INTRO SEGMENT BY ©JULIAN STALLABRASS.


BIOGRAPHIES


PHOTOS AND TEXT BY CYJO: CYJO IS A KOREAN AMERICAN WHO IMMIGRATED TO THE US IN 1975, ONE OF THE 2.3 MILLION KOREAN AMERICANS HERE. CYJO’S WORK HAS BEEN EXHIBITED NATIONALLY AND INTERNATIONALLY AT THE SMITHSONIAN’S NATIONAL PORTRAIT GALLERY, WASHINGTON, D.C., T. ART CENTER, BEIJING AND THE KOREA SOCIETY, NEW YORK. HER WORK HAS BEEN FEATURED IN NUMEROUS PUBLICATIONS AND BROADCASTS INCLUDING A+A MAGAZINE, ELLE KOREA, ELOQUENCE MAGAZINE, GLOBAL TIMES, LA LETTRE DE LA PHOTOGRAPHIE, THE NEW YORK TIMES, THE WALL STREET JOURNAL, THE WASHINGTON POST, CBS NEWS AND PBS SUNDAY ARTS NEWS. SHE HAS LECTURED AT THE KACC, THE 3RD ASIAN AMERICAN CONFERENCE, THE KOREA SOCIETY, MIAMI UNIVERSITY, THE NEW YORK LIFE COMPANY, NYU APA, OVERSEAS KOREAN FOUNDATION, AND THE RUBIN MUSEUM OF ART.


FOREWORD BY MARIE MYUNG-OK LEE: MARIE TEACHES AT THE CENTER FOR THE STUDY OF RACE & ETHNICITY IN AMERICA AT BROWN UNIVERSITY. FOUNDER AND FORMER BOARD PRESIDENT OF THE ASIAN AMERICAN WRITERS’ WORKSHOP, SHE IS THE AUTHOR OF THE NOVEL SOMEBODY’S DAUGHTER. ESSAYS AND REPORTING HAVE APPEARED IN THE NEW YORK TIMES, THE NEW YORK TIMES MAGAZINE, NEWSWEEK, THE WASHINGTON POST, THE LOS ANGELES TIMES, THE ATLANTIC AND SLATE.


INTRODUCTION BY JULIAN STALLABRASS: JULIAN IS A WRITER, CURATOR, PHOTOGRAPHER AND PROFESSOR IN ART HISTORY AT THE COURTAULD INSTITUTE OF ART. AUTHOR OF ART INCORPORATED, INTERNET ART, PARIS PICTURED, AND GARGANTUA, STALLABRASS WRITES REGULARLY FOR PUBLICATIONS INCLUDING TATE, ART MONTHLY AND THE NEW STATESMAN. A BOARD MEMBER OF ART HISTORY, NEW LEFT REVIEW AND THIRD TEXT. HE CURATED THE 2008 BRIGHTON PHOTO BIENNIAL, MEMORY OF FIRE: IMAGES OF WAR AND THE WAR OF IMAGES.


TESTIMONIALS

I'VE ALWAYS BEEN IN FAVOR OF REMINDING OURSELVES AND OTHERS OF THE RICH VARIETY OF OUR PERSONAL AND ARTISTIC EXPRESSIONS AND EXPERIENCES, WHICH I THINK KYOPO DOES BEAUTIFULLY., - CHANG RAE LEE, PEN/HEMINGWAY AWARD WINNER, AUTHOR OF "NATIVE SPEAKER" AND "THE SURRENDERED"

THE KYOPO PROJECT IS SOMETHING THAT IS CRITICAL IN TERMS OF EXPRESSING A SENSE OF IDENTITY, A SHARED EXPERIENCE…I THINK THERE'S SOMETHING ABOUT CONNECTING WITH OTHER PEOPLE AND KNOWING THAT YOU'RE GOING THROUGH A SIMILAR SET OF CHALLENGES AND STRUGGLES TOGETHER…. WE HAVE ANOTHER DIMENSION TO US THAT CONTRIBUTES TO THE OVERALL FABRIC OF THE AMERICAN EXPERIENCE. - YUL KWON, DEPUTY CHIEF, FEDERAL COMMUNICATIONS COMMISSION, WINNER OF CBS SURVIVOR: COOK ISLANDS, DISCOVERY CHANNEL HOST AND FORMER CNN SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT

THERE IS INCREASING ATTENTION PAID TO GLOBALIZATION IN GENERAL AND TO THE DISPERSAL OF ENORMOUS NUMBERS OF PEOPLES AWAY FROM THEIR TRADITIONAL HOMELANDS THROUGH WARS, ECONOMIC OPPORTUNITY, AND A SENSE OF ADVENTURE. THE UNITED STATES, WHILE NOT UNIQUE, IS AMONG THE MOST SERIOUSLY IMPACTED AMONG DEVELOPED NATIONS. UNDERSTANDING THE IDENTITIES AND NEEDS OF SO MANY DIASPORIC COMMUNITIES IS AMONG OUR MOST PRESSING NATIONAL PRIORITIES IN MATTERS OF RACE RELATIONS, INTERGENERATIONAL RELATIONS AND SOCIAL JUSTICE. CYJO’S WORK IS A MODEL OF INNOVATIVE RESPONSE AND WE AT THE SMITHSONIAN APAP ARE HAPPY TO SUPPORT IT. - DR. FRANKLIN ODO, FORMER DIRECTOR, THE SMITHSONIAN APAP, SCHOLAR, AUTHOR, HISTORIAN

THE PRESENCE OF THE KYOPO PROJECT IS QUITE TIMELY IN THAT IT REINFORCES HOW AMERICA IS CONTINUALLY GROWING AND CHANGING COLORS WITH A VARYING ARRAY OF IMMIGRATION GROUPS THAT HAVE CALLED AMERICA THEIR HOME. IT ALSO EXPLORES THE MEANING OF BEING AMERICAN AND REMINDS US OF THE DIVERSITY WHICH LIES WITHIN. - JEAN-JACQUES NAUDET, EDITOR-AT-LARGE OF AMERICAN PHOTO MAGAZINE, FORMER EIC OF FRENCH PHOTO MAGAZINE, C0-FOUNDER OF LA LETTRE DE LA PHOTOGRAPHIE

THE ANGLE OF CULTURAL IDENTITY IN THE KYOPO PROJECT ALSO PRESENTS THE IDEA OF PERSONAL RELATIONSHIPS AND PERCEPTION AS A FORM OF OWNERSHIP. YOU FIND REACTIONS AS DISPARATE AS RELAXED ASSIMILATION AND A LETTING GO OF THE MORE OVERTLY 'CULTURAL' ASPECTS OF ONE'S SELF AS WELL AS A FIERCE GUARDING OF THAT CULTURE, SEEN AS A FORM OF STEWARDSHIP. THE SAME POINTS APPLY TO CURRENT DISCUSSIONS OF NATIONALISM AND CULTURAL PROPERTY IN THE ART WORLD, SO IT'S A TIMELY ISSUE FOR MANY. - BIBIANE CHOI, DIRECTOR, PHOENIX ANCIENT ART, NYC

THE KYOPO PROJECT IS A FASCINATING COMMENTARY ON INDIVIDUAL AND NATIONAL IDENTITY, AS WELL AS THE COMPLEXITIES – AND IN SOME CASES, THE CONFLICT – BETWEEN THE TWO. IT DEALS WITH A THEME THAT IS RELEVANT TO NOT ONE PARTICULAR CULTURE, BUT RATHER TO AN EMERGING POPULATION OF GLOBAL CITIZENS. YET AT THE SAME TIME, BY EXPERTLY NAVIGATING THE JOURNEY OF EACH INDIVIDUAL SUBJECT, MS. HWANG HAS SUCCEEDED IN COMPOSING A KALEIDOSCOPE OF VISUAL NARRATIVES THAT BRILLIANTLY REFLECT THE KOREAN DIASPORA OF TODAY. - MIN JUNG KIM, MANAGING DIRECTOR, EXHIBITIONS AND PROGRAMMING GROUP, GLOBAL CULTURAL MANAGEMENT ASSET GROUP, FORMER ASIAN STRATEGIST FOR THE SOLOMON R. GUGGENHEIM FOUNDATION

WHAT IS VERY INTERESTING ABOUT THE KYOPO PROJECT IS THAT IT IMMEDIATELY DENIES THE ARTIFICIAL CONSTRUCT OF THE CITIZEN SUBJECT AS CONFINED TO THE NATION-STATE AND SPECIFICALLY KOREA AND ALSO HOVERING ABOUT: THE U.S., HOWEVER, AT THE SAME TIME, IT DOES HIGHLIGHT DIFFERENCE AS WELL - OF LOCATION, OCCUPATION, OF DRESS AND APPEARANCE. AT THE OUTSET, CYJO HAS FOUND HERSELF AS A NEXUS OF AN INTERNATIONAL COMMUNITY - A PORTAL OR ARTIST ORGANIZER WHO HAS FOUND THE VERY JUNCTURE OF INTERNATIONALISM COMMON TO URBAN SPACES SUCH AS POST-WAR PARIS, OR LETS SAY MOST MAJOR COSMOPOLITAN CITIES SUCH AS NEW YORK OR MORE SPECIFICALLY IN HER 21ST CENTURY STUDIO IN NEW YORK CITY, WHERE HER SUBJECTS PASS THROUGH, LEAVING THEIR STORIES AND NARRATIVES TO ACCUMULATE IN HER PROJECT, THAT IN ITSELF HAS BECOME A LARGER ONE OF LINKAGE BETWEEN NOT ONLY THESE SUBJECTS, WHO WERE CHOSEN THROUGH ACQUAINTANCES, BUT TO OTHER COMMUNITIES WHO FIND AN AFFINITY OF SIMILARITIES TO THE DIASPORIC CONNECTION ILLUSTRATED BY THE VERY DIASPORIC PRACTICE AND PROCESSES OF THE CREATION AND CONTINUATION OF THE KYOPO PROJECT. - ALEXANDER CHANG, DIRECTOR OF NYU APA, AUTHOR OF "ENVISIONING DIASPORA"

KYOPO UNSPOOLS A VERITABLE CINEMASCOPE OF VISUAL BIOGRAPHY TO EXPLORE IDEAS AFFECTING KOREAN AMERICAN IDENTITY TODAY. CYJO’S IMAGES ARE WONDERFULLY UNENCUMBERED: SHE FOCUSES HER LENS ON A STRAIGHT-FORWARD PRESENTATION OF THE PHYSICAL AND CONSTRUCTED “SELF.” HERE WE ARE, THE IMAGES TELL US, IN OUR SELF-PORTRAYALS AS CONTEMPORARY KOREAN AMERICANS. CHANGE MAY CONSTANTLY SKIM THE SURFACE OF MODERN LIFE, BUT KYOPO REVEALS SOMETHING LASTING BENEATH: ABOVE ALL, AS CYJO WRITES, THE IMAGES CONNOTE A CELEBRATION OF “MODESTY, KINDNESS, AND COURAGE.” THEIR STORIES ENRICH US ALL. - AMY HENDERSON, CULTURAL HISTORIAN, NATIONAL PORTRAIT GALLERY, THE SMITHSONIAN INSTITUTION

SURPRISINGLY, NEVER BEFORE HAS THERE BEEN A PHOTOGRAPHY BOOK ACCOMPANIED BY TEXT THAT PROFILES PEOPLE OF KOREAN ETHNICITY AND CREATES A PLATFORM THAT EXPRESSES THEIR IDENTITY. WE WANT TO ENCAPSULATE THIS BIT OF HISTORY AND PUT THIS EDUCATIONAL PRODUCT INTO THE HANDS OF OUR CHILDREN, OUR FRIENDS, OUR FAMILY AND NON-ASIANS THAT WANT TO LEARN ABOUT THE GROWING MULTICULTURAL IDENTITIES THAT EMBODY AND DEFINE MANY OF US, ESPECIALLY DURING THIS TIME OF GLOBAL EXPANSION. - CYJO, CREATOR OF THE KYOPO PROJECT

MORE INFORMATION ON KYOPO CAN BE FOUND HERE.

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