Filed under: Ritual and Repetition
Memory of November, 2006
5:00 min excerpt – Full Running Time 27:00 minutes
Soyeon Jung – Buffalo New York
The act of constructing “Memory of November” was a process of conjuring and reconciling traumatic personal memories. The trauma that this work speaks about is the experience of being repressed by a conservative, patriarchal society. The memories explored in the work deal with the formation of identity after the unexpected death of my father. In the wake of this trauma, “Memory of November” is a recuperative effort that assuages the destructive potential of subconscious memory. Yet, it is tainted by the knowledge that memory is inherently cyclical, inextinguishable and, therefore, always carries with it a residual melancholy.
The piece “November 3rd” marks the date of my father’s death and thus the end of immediate paternal authority. A book of poetry authored by my father serves as both the structure for the piece as well as a stand-in for his presence. The book references not only his physical absence, but also the persistent presence of his thoughts, values, teachings and authority. Woven into the pages of the text is a video documentation of a traditional Korean punishment. Recalling this childhood ritual has new significance as I, in my father’s absence, metaphorically punish myself for straying from his traditional values after his death. A second video of a performance using a traditional Korean Han-Bok while it is being worn, the erasure of Korean tradition from the physical body, acknowledges a failure to adhere to the rules of cultural performance.
“November 29th” represents this reconstruction of memory. In revisiting the same symbols found in “November 3rd”, specifically the Korean Han-Bok, it re-evaluates the meanings and feelings associated with these memories. Earlier in the chronology of “Memory of November” the work resisted a set of imposed cultural values. Yet those cultural ties are found to be inescapable and impossible to disregard. “November 29th” illustrates the problematic construction of identity that is inherent in being situated in between two vastly different cultures. The act of reconstituting the Han-Bok by the act of sewing is a resignation to the inevitable presence of gender roles and cultural identification. It is an allegoricla act stating that memories of the past cannot imply be suppressed and forgotten, but must be dealt with constructively, recuperated and reconciled with the present his environment the images serve as a catalyst for the viewer to consider their own sense of place.
*Han-Bok are classified according to their purposes: everday dress, ceremonial dress and special dress. Ceremonial dresses are worn on formal occasions, including a child’s first birthday, a wedding or a funeral. Special dresses are uniforms for people such as shamans and officals.
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