Memoir: Autobiographical Memory


I wrote down big pieces of memory varying from national, political, cultural, to personal.

I categorized the listed topics into four different parts. The categories were self-identity, cultural identity, family identity, and political identity. I then realized a lot of them were deeply connected to one another although their primary themes might vary, so I made connections between the thoughts that belong to different groups.

The political aspect of my mind map, which is my connection to North Korea, inspired me to reflect the division in my frame. I drew several sketches that take two divided canvases with a line in between. The line represents the division of North and South, as well as the disparities between what the society forced onto me and who I truly was. But the two divided worlds still interact with one another, as the division is something to be overcome.



I collected photographs of myself from the age of five to ten (2000-2005). I selected a few photos in which my child self presents confusion and explorations of gender identity through appearance. Among them, I then chose the following three photos that depict my playful and bright personality as well.

I gathered images of Junghyun Lee, a Korean artist whose bold style of music, performance, and dance deeply influenced me. I believe growing up with her art taught me to be creative and bold in exploring and expressing myself, including even the weirdest voices from my heart. Her art was not only an important cultural influence but also personal, since embracing my unusualness touches on my identity. Among many impressive photos, I collected her images in two of her most stricking costumes. The first image is explosive as her costume fully depicts her weirdness with its powerful futuristic design, whereas the second photo captures her in an elegant garment that employs tranditional design and accessories.

I found an article about a Korean queer celebrity who came out as the first person to do so in the history of Korean television and media. The article is from September 17th of 2000, and the headline states <Seokcheon Hong(his name) “I’m Homo”>. The subtitle states [Seokcheon Hong “I Like Men”]. It was a very big deal and brought in a lot of controversies as well as support for closeted queer people, and soon made Hong lose all his jobs in media industry. But he left an impact on the legacy of openness and supportiveness within the Korean queer community that eventually affected my queer identity on both political and personal level.

The following image is from the first North-South Korean Summit that took place in 2000. It was a significant moment for the recent North-South relation as well as possible, highly-anticipated reunification in the future. Peace and active engagement between the North and South mean healing wounds of my family who are both from the North and the South, as well as healing of my home country.



The long, vertical piece by Rauschenberg below inspired the framing of my piece.

<Robert Rauschenberg. Rebus. 1955. Oil, synthetic polymer paint, pencil, crayon, pastel, paper paint chips, printed and painted paper, newspaper, journal, poster clippings, comic strips, drawing by Cy Twombly, and fabric on canvas, mounted and stapled to fabric, three panels, 8′ × 10′ 11 1/8″ (243.8 × 333.1 cm). The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Partial and promised gift of Jo Carole and Ronald S. Lauder and bequest of Virginia C. Field, gift of Mr. and Mrs. Peter A. Rübel,and gift of Jay R. Braus (all by exchange). © 2017 Robert Rauschenberg Foundation>

I started working with two 24-inch square canvases and acrylic paints.

I spent lots of time playing with the photographs and materials I had collected. The image below was the initial arrangement I finalized. The photograph was taken before I attached any of my materials to the canvases.



My piece contains two parts that are detached but not disconnected. The two canvases depict my memories from my childhood in early 21st centry when chaoses overtook my growing conscience as well as my nation. The upper half deals with my political identity, which is inseparable from Korean war and its residue–an illusion of safety though military force, industrial politics, and social barrenness. The bottom canvas portrays my individual identity that is confusing, odd, yet bright and vivid. Influenced by the literary, musical, and media culture of early 2000’s, I grew up as a playful tomboy who loved dancing, reading, and expressing herself. The thin wire in between represents the tragic division between my external and internal identities, both of which are essential but hardly narrated together. The wire also symbolizes the Demilitarized Zone between South and North Korea, which inspired the set up of the whole piece. However, the upper and bottom halves are connected, just as my grandmother’s existence weaves together my political and personal identities. Some gaps more connect than disconnect. If they disconnect, they are to be overcome, but not without a dance.

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