Upon viewing the exhibition Wearing Memories, I have been asked to research and reflect, drawing from my original thoughts and assumptions in order to further my knowledge.
Haji Oh is from Japan, third-generation ‘Zainichi Korean’. That is to say, that although her home is Japan, her family history is elsewhere, specifically tracing back to Korea under Japanese rule. (UOW TAEM, 2015). Does her Korean heritage draw forth these ideas of silent memories? Memories which she creates in order to feel a sense of belonging? I myself feel a sense of belonging to those whom I am related to whether I have known them personally or not. When I entered high school, I discovered that one of the guys in my own class was related to me, and although we did not mingle, I felt a sense of connection, and belonging to him regardless.
Her websites statement of this particular piece reads:
In 1993, a last homecoming trip of my grandmother with her daughters to Jeju-Island.
The “Island” that I imagined without seeing a map.
The “Island” has provoked my imagination.
In 2004, my first trip to Jeju-Island.
I wore my grandmother’s and mother’s chima-chogori there.
Strolling down a path on the Island, the wind was blowing into a chima.
Try to spin these memories.
The threads that have constituted the memories are becoming my skin.
This idea of creating memories to fill in the gaps, forming memories from ones which were previously silent to us, which did not exist. Oh’s imagined island is not real, yet at the same time, it’s more real than any physical island on earth. Her island carries more than just a geographical location, as it comes accompanied with the meanings and memories she has placed upon it. Perhaps my original assumption that we create memories without ever remembering them being experienced is an interpretation of Oh’s piece that the artist would agree with. “Ghosts of the originals stray as we forge a solid idea of what our memory should be. We fabricate realities to fill in the gaps of what we know.” (Turner 2015)
What is the significance of the string? My own interaction with the materiality of string, leads me to assume that it is there to represent the hours of labour and hard work put into the exhibition, to create a link between time and memory. Beyond the materiality however, is there a deeper meaning? Does it allude to the idea of the red string of fate? Although the myth looks at two lovers joined together by this red string, perhaps Oh adapts it, expanding her own definition to include her loved ones, family, friends, those who she has come in contact with over her life.
This idea of expanding the red string to link us to multiple people, leads me to think of artist Chiharu Shiota. This artist was brought to my attention by someone who read my previous blog post and said “If you dig [Haji Oh’s] work you might like Do-ho Suh and Chiharu Shiota” (NZTailender, 2015, pers. comm., 13 August). Although these suggestions were given for stylistic preference, I found that a piece by Shiota made me think back to Oh’s own work.
This piece utilises red string, connecting the feet of those across continents, referencing the red string of fate, as told in Chinese folklore (in the Japanese recounts, the string is connected to the fingers of those destined to be, instead of the ankles.)
The significance of string used to connect people in conjunction with memory also reminds me of an live performance installation I experienced, created by students at the University of Wollongong for student run exhibition, Nothing to See Here. The piece – 011235 – reflected on how the Golden Ratio can be found in everything, and how it connects us all, utilising a series of stories which were the same, yet different. Sometimes the stories were of the same event, with each performers memory allowing for a slightly different account, and sometimes the stories were of similar context, but different times and places. The installation finished by creating a web of string around the audience in the room, getting each viewer to hold onto the ever connecting tangle of yarn, eventually creating a dense web which every person in the rom was a part of.
Oh, H 2015, Wearing Memory, Haji Oh, viewed 19th August 2015 <http://hajioh.com/?page_id=138>
Shiota, C 2015, Works, Chiharu Shiota, viewed 20 August 2015 <http://www.chiharu-shiota.com/en/works/?y=2014>
Turner, E 2015, Wearing Memory – Haji Oh, Elysium Design Utopia, 6 August 2015, viewed 6 August 2015, <https://elysiumdesignutopia.wordpress.com/2015/08/06/wearing-memory-haji-oh/>
UOW TAEM 2015, Wearing Memory, Artist In Residence: Haji Oh, University of Wollongong The Arts, English & Media, TAEM Gallery.