It seems like a blog entry per week is not enough. A part of my brain says: #holiday, #fun, #tourism and #sleepmore. But the other part of my brain, the one that doesn't take a break tells me I'm on a mission and every second counts... ok, every minute.
Time expands and contracts perceptibly depending on the activity of the day. Exploring and getting to know people are my favourite activities right now. While retouching has become a drag since my good equipment is still in Montreal.
The last 2 weeks have been an exercise on opening up and taking the least space possible. Let's say that at this point I have exactly the opposite philosophy than a certain candidate for the US presidency. I came here to make a project about Korean women and gender equality, and if there's something I've learn from Canadians (or should I say the best Canadians) is not to shove my cultural imperatives and jugements on other peoples. So even though I've been working with gender equality for quite a while, it is time to empty my cup and let these new experiences fill it.
Of course there's a lot of reading involved and there will be some encounters with local specialists. But the worst I could do is use my art to do some "westerner mansplaining". I want to hear the grievances of the locals and then transform them into poetic images. I have, as much as the language allows, conversing with the dancers that I will work with to be able to draw a reality to represent from them. I have to say that this would not be possible without the help of my friend Sejin who has been organizing, translating and contacting people on my behalf (we do love her).
These past weeks have been about recreating a process that I know by heart in a place that is completely unfamiliar to me. Fortunately my commitment to my work has been stronger than any doubts I could have about my capabilities to get things done. Must say that the generosity of Korean people has been a great help to that regard.
I've been roaming the city in look of the locations that can reflect each of the concepts. So far I've found a strangely compelling landfill, a shallow river and and a haunted forest. I think the thing that has me the most excited is the costumes.
In order for you to understand where I'm going to do I have to explain that the traditional Korean garb is called a "hanbok". It is usually very colourful, there are different versions depending on gender and age. The women's "hanbok' is really stunning (see first blog post). You can recognize it easily by the high waisted ample skirt that shortens the upper body. The top consists of a little light ornamented jacket. The modern versions have been simplified and seem to have less fabric and be less restrictive. the materials are usually silk or linen.
For this project I want to make reference to these garments. Its a way of bringing tradition to the mind of the public. Nonetheless I don't want it to be literal, so I have been thinking of was of deconstructing the "hanbok". Asking around I found out that there is a flea market in a zone called Dongmyo. I was able to buy incredible linen pieces which according to people are either underwear or funerary garb. This amazing discovery was followed by another fortunate encounter with a women that makes a casual version of the "hanbok" in Gwangjang Market. I asked her to make a skirt for me. Probably there will more orders coming.
With all this going on it is hard to believe that I have had time to ponder about my own identity. But the question is so present, all the time. Korea has giving me the humbling opportunity to know what it feels to be a visible minority (albeit I'm still white-ish). You can't hide here. You can't disappear. For the most part I've ceased to be Damian and I have become 다미안, the same way I became Demian or Damien when I moved to Canada. Studies show that personality is not a fixed trait it is in great part situations that determine how you are.
You might think that by becoming these 4 or 5 different people I'm diluting myself. But what if putting yourself in such diverse situations makes you be everyone, understand everybody's motivations, pains and joys? This would be an affirmation of humanity. Yo could love and forgive yourself as you do with your best friend; or empathize wit others as you understand yourself. If that is the case I want to live ten thousand lives. Mind, body and Seoul.
P.S.: If you haven't seen it there's amazing video created by the multifaceted artist Matthew Richardson and directed by yours truly. You should watch it now and add to the 50 K views it has already =)