Organized and Curated by Next Door to the Museum Jeju
Hosted by @im_there_r_u_here
Sponsored by D Emptyspace
Behind the scenes conversation with Aracha Cholitgul (AC), SooA Kim (SK), Yujin Lee (YL), and Hye Ryung Na (HN)
Questions from D Emptyspace Chief Curator Hyejin Kim:
1. How did the four of you come together to do an online artist residency?
(AC) Yujin and I started our online collaboration, im_there_r_u_here last year due to our situation with travel restrictions at the time of Covid-19. We had in mind since the beginning that it should be a space where other people can join us in the online experiment because there’re so many possibilities, plus it’d be more fun. And this time Yujin invited SooA and Hye Ryung.
(YL) Early this year, I met Hye Ryung and Hyejin on Clubhouse, a new social audio app. Hyejin, who works for D Emptyspace, a global online exhibition platform, suggested that Hye Ryung and I do a show together on their platform. I immediately thought of my ongoing online (Instagram-based) artist residency with Aracha, im_there_r_u_here. I asked Hye Ryung to invite one other artist, preferably located somewhere distant. She invited SooA, who lives in New York. The four of us met via video chat and agreed to expand upon the online artist residency that Aracha and I already set up.
(SK) Hye Ryung called me from Korea. As we were catching up on our lives, she brought up this virtual residency idea and if I’d be interested in participating. She told me that it’s going to be chill, just collaborating with other artists (which I’ve never done before!)
(HN) When I met Yujin and Hyejin, we talked about the covid19 situation. It led us to talk about the new physical limitation and the possibility of virtual collaboration. We made plans for an online residency and exhibition. I invited SooA to join this project.
2. Can you explain a bit about the residency?
(YL) The residency started on June 1st and ended on July 22nd. Over a period of two months, each of us took turns in sharing a recipe for the rest of us to cook and taste in our preferred time and places. After each recipe’s execution, we met and discussed our experience via video call. Simple as that! (Please feel free to add details, ladies ;))
(AC) The challenging part was that we just revealed the ingredients and there’s no explanation on how to cook the recipe. This way, everyone could still improvise and be creative with their food!
(YL) Yes, SooA was the first to present her recipe, and she made a short 22-second video that contained a list of ingredients with a clip of waves hitting the shore at the end. The video started with a clock ticking sound and ended with a mysterious melody. (It’s quite addictive, and I watched it so many times!) I did not expect something so cryptic! SooA’s recipe seemed more like a mood sketch. Whatever her intention was, it set the tone for the rest of the residency.
(SK) Because at first there weren't any instructions or rules established, I had the freedom to decide how I would share my recipe. I presented my recipe as a calligram with a summer beach video in the background to give what the food should taste and feel like. My recipe was pretty simple to make, so I didn’t include the direction in words, but it was clear what this food was in the calligram.
SooA Kim’s contribution for the Online Residency
3. What was it like to make collaborative artwork online? How did it work out?
(YL) I love how collaboration pushes me to let go of my habits (both in life and in artmaking). It is pursuing inter-activity that may not have a finite result. A friend once compared this process to playing ping-pong. Collaborating via online is interesting because though in the process we build a level of intimacy, our physical bodies never meet.
4. What are the pros and cons of online vs. physical artist residency?
(YL) In some ways, the four of us could have only connected through an online artist residency, as we literally live across oceans--with Aracha in Bangkok, SooA in New York, Hye Ryung in Yesan, and myself in Jeju. Without this new “extended” place and space, we wouldn’t have been able to work together at all. (FYI, I really love this new term “extended,” which I kindly ask SooA to elaborate. ;)) A physical artist residency requires the artist to travel to a new location and quickly adjust to a new environment. On the contrary, the online residency allows each participant to maintain their respective jobs, relationships, and daily activities.
(HN) Pros are that there is an unlimited space for online residency and that we could keep our own schedules and personal spaces. But it was hard to get to know each other and hard to schedule a time for a virtual meeting (because we are living in three different time zones). It was like I was living in a dual space, between the physical and the virtual.
(YL) In the beginning, it was confusing to calculate the time zones for our meetings (lol). But other than that, I really enjoyed our four-way video calls made via Instagram group messenger video chat. My favorite experience was how each of us could choose different AR face filters, while we conduct our meetings. That is something you cannot do in physical meetings. This AR feature gave me a sense that this “extended” reality is not simply a substitute for a physical world. It is as real as the physical reality and may even provide an experience that is beyond what we can get in the physical world.
(SK) Responding to Yujin’s comment, “Extended reality (xR)” has been a catchy term in the tech and creative industry since the pandemic. It refers to a reality that is a combination of the physical and the virtual, where humans can interact with machines generated by computer technology without wearing a VR headset. This reflects our creative collaboration. It felt similar in terms of working between these two realities.
Yujin Lee’s contribution for the Online Residency
5. Why food?
(AC) In the beginning, we kind of wanted a shared activity that would allow us to create something separately because of our different time zones. We talked about many things that involved exchanging knowledge. Then, SooA mentioned that she just got some food recipes from her family (if I remember correctly.) I think that was the start!
(YL) SooA’s idea was brilliant because food has always brought people together. Food is also about stories and memories. Of course, the taste, smell, and texture is a big part of the experience of food, and one may question whether it is a good subject for our online residency and collaboration. Yet, when I recollect some of the greatest memories around food, it is the people I was with and the relationships I had formed that come to mind. Food brings people together in a way that gives a concrete form to the intangible interpersonal relationship. For four artists living in different parts of the globe, collaborating, virtually… Can you think of a better subject? :)
(HN) It was an easy and smart idea from SooA. Food is like a language. As there are many different words and phrases to describe the same idea, it is the same with recipes. We used food to communicate and overcame our physical distances.
(SK) In our first meeting, we were trying to figure out how to connect ourselves and work together despite our differences in time and place. Since I haven’t met Yujin and Aracha in person, it felt like a blind date where we had to talk about each other’s interests and lifestyles. Somehow food came to my mind because that’s what I usually do when I want to know more about a person, community, and environment that I’m unfamiliar with. For the same dish, everyone has their own unique recipes and instructions. I remember being shocked by my friend in college cooking kimchi jjigae for me because she put jalapeños peppers. I have never seen anyone put something else other than tuna or pork. But, it tasted really good....So, I wondered how Hye Ryung and Yujin would cook their kimchi jjigae. Also, I was curious to know what kind of Thai dishes that Aracha would eat every day. So, I shared the word “food” with them and we discussed further how to proceed with this collaboration.
6. Can you talk about the final work that you decided to present on D Emptyspace?
(AC) I’m not quite sure what to say to be honest, haha. I mean since the first edition of im_there_r_u_here, we always put most of our energy into the process (activities). So the final artworks are something that is a collection of our memories from those activities. The room I made on D Emptyspace is about our time difference. Besides our shared activity of cooking, the part when we had to calculate the time differences in order to organize a video call was also important to me.
(SK) A misfit in time, space, and culture..? This extended potluck felt ephemeral like a still life. In my individual practice, usually done in videos, I incorporate appropriations. I tried this method in making my room on D Emptyspace with the still life painting series by Pieter Claesz.
(YL) When we shared photos of the food we cooked, I couldn’t help but feel… a bit frustrated as I could not taste it! Coming to terms with this fact (lol), I started to see the food photos as colors, shapes, and patterns. So for my room on D Emptyspace, I made a kind of a wallpaper with the food photos and placed some of the dishes on this wall, as if they are works of art to be appreciated for their beauty :)
(HN) In my room, each project is visualized as abstract images. They are created with images and texts collected throughout our collaboration. Viewers could try to guess the images.
Hyeryung Na’s contribution for the Online Residency
7. You did a series of “Drawing Conversations” via an online application. What was it like to “paint” together on a digital whiteboard? Is it different from making a physical painting?
(HN) First of all, we can't touch the work, as you know. (lol) Also, we can’t see what kind of tools they pick. We cannot see each other's actions until they start making marks. It was like a game of wit without any limitation.
(SK) I haven’t painted for a long time. The tools and textures are definitely different in the digital realm. But still, painting on a digital canvas still gave me the same therapeutic feeling I had when I painted on a physical canvas back in the day.
(YL) I think Hye Ryung made a keen observation. In the “extended” space, our bodies disappear. We enter a psychological space without our bodies. In many ways, this is very freeing. We only need to focus on one sensory system, the mind. We are there, not physically, but our minds are present… I wonder if this is how AI androids may recognize their own existence… hmmmmm.
8. What were some challenges working digitally/virtually?
(AC) Internet connection, the limitation of your digital equipment, there’re so many things! I’ll leave some answers for others, haha.
(YL) We used an online whiteboard application for our Drawing Conversations. There were so many glitches, which was very annoying. Though, for me, I kind of enjoy or welcome such technological failures. It somehow made the whole thing more human! (lol) Sometimes working online and staring at a screen makes everything so… flat, cold, and non-human. The reality of our physical world is that oftentimes things get “heated” and are misunderstood or confusing. When my phone gets heated and the program I use freezes, it frustrates me, but it also makes me feel like the tool I’m using is also... ALIVE! (lol)
(AC) There’s another thing. Maybe it’s not a challenge, but it was a bit strange that I never met SooA nor Hye Ryung before. It feels like we skipped a step in getting to know each other as friends and went straight ahead to doing group activities, video calls, and collaborating on an art project. This was quite interesting to me.
(HN) Limitation of the time, technical issue(application). But these brought us together.
(SK) I would say something about “aura”… (But, let me go back and recap Walter Benjamin first. lol)
(YL) (lol) I love SooA’s last comment about the “aura”! :)
Aracha Cholitgul’s contribution for the Online Residency
Im_there_r_u_here is an online artist residency initiated in 2019 by Aracha Cholitgul, Thai artist based in Bangkok, with Yujin Lee, Korean artist based in Jeju. Facing the pandemic, Cholitgul and Lee felt the need to create this extended reality space, where artists from around the world can collectively reside, create, and play. Please feel free to contact the residency via Instagram DM.