“My work merges improvisational movement, improvised sound/ voice/music, video, and spatial design. I prefer performance spaces that have their own stories---in nature, on city lots, plazas, and underpasses, in/atop industrial buildings. I want my performances to be both a window and mirror for audiences to discover more about themselves and their human and spatial environments. I am drawn to dealing with loss. My special ability is my capacity to listen attentively to my surroundings and create through my body---through movement, stillness, shadow and sound----places for shared feeling, vulnerability and curiosity. Improvisation affords me the license to alter in the moment my pace, direction, body architecture, and movement density to intensify connection, or to become still/ silent to listen....What’s atstake is my ability to sustain myself and family through a practice that foregrounds improvisation, preferences work that requires substantial time for exploration and deep collaboration, and seeks a purpose larger than making performance products.”
LSDC: How have the social shifts of 2020 impacted your life as an artist?
JK: My work turns on touch and human connection. My work is ignited by the specificities of space and place. Since my SaltSoul project of 5 years ago, I’ve increasingly thought of myself as a public artist---creating art for and in public spaces to build empathy and community among diverse people. So, when we were forced to isolate indoors and socially distance, my work was upended. More than that, I went through a period when I questioned my identity as an artist, feeling completely unmoored from my sense of who I am. I was separated from people who are my thought partners, sounding boards and collaborators. Everywhere, feelings of loss, vulnerability and helplessness made connection with nature and each other more important than ever. But connection was either prohibited or too risky. I even researched other professional prospects, like starting a Korean food concession. I came to my senses and reaffirmed for myself that in order to be my best self, I need to have art making in the center of my life. With people getting vaccinated and society reopening, I’ve started planning and making small projects---all of them outdoors. The racial unrest of 2020 and ongoing has compounded the impact of COVID. I live in a neighborhood that is majority African American. The racial justice protests of 2020 turned a spotlight on the undercurrent of anxiety, anger and tension that is palpable within my community. My sense of shared unease has grown with the increase in assaults on Asians and Pacific Islanders. I struggle with how art----my art----can help address the problems of racial injustice and antagonism, problems that are far harder to contain and solve than the COVID virus.
LSDC: Have you produced any new work, live or digital?
JK: Video editing has been an artistic refuge for me during the pandemic. I’ve reedited old footage to capture my feelings during this time of loss and isolation. I’ve also made two short videos---- one in a snowy forest in Massachusetts, and another with my dancer wife Marion, my son Ari, our dog Luna, and my longtime friend and colleague, gamin, a traditional Korean instrumentalist, in a hay field outside Philadelphia.
Recently I’ve been working with a new videographer friend on a short video for a global South Korean audience. I’ve also been developing a project idea for community engagement around memory and memorialization in the time of COVID.
LSDC: How would you describe yourself as an artist, and/or your work, as we step into the year of 2021?
JK: As we move through 2021, I am assessing the economic feasibility and sustainability of my vision (above).
LSDC: How have you maintained balance and regularity in this time? What does your daily/artistic regimen look like?
JK: The routine for most days has been shaped around caring for our sons and our family dog Luna. We got Luna last fall, and even though we purchased her primarily for my older son, she has been a great source of companionship, curiosity and delight for me. If I get time for video editing or other artistic work, it’s usually at night, after my sons are in bed. My wife and I have recognized that we each need some time and space to focus on our respective arts endeavors. Making that kind of time for one another has been important for dealing with confinement in a small apartment. But I expect that we will keep up this pattern as the world opens up.
LSDC: How has the broad emergence of this digital realm influenced your creativity/artistic work?
JK: I’ve been slow to take advantage of the explosion of digital opportunities. One reason is that my work depends so much on physical connection w/ people & spaces. Also, spending more time on childcare for my 2 1⁄2 & 11-year old sons has left little time for experimenting with the digital realm. I’ve made it a priority to give them time in nature, so we’ve increased our time camping & making trips to the woods & bodies of water.
I recently started teaching an online movement class for Asian immigrants. I was very hesitant & anxious about it in the beginning. But I got such a positive response, & the participants started recommending it to their friends, so that I’ve come to really enjoy figuring out ways to connect through virtual space. I also appreciate being able to see work & hear from artists who would not be so accessible but for increased use of the Internet.
JUNGWOONG in Motion
Jungwoong & Marion in "SaltSoul speaks to Habitus"