About my works

In my childhood, I was a leader among friends for having a bigger body than children my age, and I could have greater power in the community of school than anyone else. However, my central role faced many changes as I grow up. This is because the quality of life has improved as the small country is Korea has risen to a certain level of economic position in the international world and has changed from an era when people were worried about eating to an era where they are concerned about the health and want a high standard of quality of life. In regard to this, the government and all media use various information to present social models and demand many codes of conduct under the pretext of happiness. As a result, having a body bigger and more obese than others, I slowly became a social misfit by economic logic, contrary to my intentions.

In Alders Huxley’s book, ‘the brave new world’ (1932), Just as in society where the basic human rights of misfortune and dissatisfaction have been lost, addicted to the happiness presented and brought about by the development of science and technology and capitalism, I cannot erase the idea that the human society we are living in is slowly changing. As a result, humans are living in an era controlled by fictional materials such as money, economic power.

In the book, ‘Sapiens‘ which is by Yuval Harari (2015), one of the reasons why a species of humans, called Sapiens, was able to exist at the top of the earth, is because of their belief in the money, which was created by trade. The economic logic of money with such a strong power has caused many inequalities, and these inequalities exist not only among individuals but also among nations. After Wilson’s Declaration of National Self-determination, many new countries arose, and countries that had been colonized in the past became independent from imperialist countries.(‘Self-determination’,2010)  However, the former imperialist countries, which amassed a lot of wealth through the labour and resources they exploited from the colonies, still control the world in culture and politics and boast powerful powers. According to the post-colonial theorists say that countries in the Third World are still culturally and mentally colonized. (Gandhi, 1998.p.4) Countries with past colonial experience, including developing countries, consume goods from U.S. mega-companies such as Apple, McDonald’s and Nike, while many countries in Southeast Asia provide cheap labour for the production of these goods. In Lee Wan’s work ‘Made in’ series (fig1), He went to countries such as Cambodia and Malaysia to directly grow and produce rice and sugar cane, documenting how these agricultural products are exported by global companies, the working environment of workers and informing the audience about their environment.

Figure 1, Lee Wan, Made in, single video 2014

Through these processes, I presented a question about the pains of banana-producing countries in South America and Southeast Asia through the work ‘Eat Bananas’(fig2) and ‘Trace'(fig3) expressed the feelings I felt as I looked at the British imperial monuments through the footprints of students from various countries. 

Figure 2, Sunyoul Kim, Eat bananas,mixed media, 30 x 45 x142 cm 2019

Figure 3, Sunyoul Kim, Trace,mixed media, 60x 180 cm 2019

As mentioned before, the interference of the great powers by economic logic can be easily seen through a lot of news and media. South Korea is a leading pro-U.S. country, and we received a lot of aid from the U.S. through the Korean War and was able to achieve the current rapid economic growth through much support after the war. However, conflicts between the generation who experienced the war and the generation that did not experience it played a major role in polarizing the perception of the United States. Moreover, many artists express this social phenomenon in their work. In particular, Korean photographer Noh Suntag approaches Korean society’s problems as universal human issues rather than merely solving them with ideological confrontations in the Red House III series.(fig4) His photos also show different perspectives of generations and perceptions of the United States.

Figure 4, Noh Suntag, Red HouseIII, black-and-white photograph, 2005

As a generation that has never experienced war, my perception of America is negative. One of the reasons is that the U.S. has made trade sanctions against several countries for its own profit and warns its allies not to trade with them. For example, in Iran, the United States is imposing economic sanctions on Iran for its support of terrorist groups. (Dehghan and Blond, 2018) However, people know that the U.S. is pressing them to gain an upper hand over Iran regarding its oil exports.(Wintour, 2019) Another reason is that in inter-Korean relations, South Koreans can be guaranteed safety by the U.S. decision. South Korea has a high level of economic strength and defense capability, but the U.S. military is still stationed in the country, and the U.S. requires South Korea to pay a huge annual increase in defense costs.(Jeon, 2019) In addition, the America is at the center of negotiations between the North and South Koreas.(Mccurry, 2019)

These actions of the United States give a negative perception to the younger generation of Korea, and I satirized them throughout my work called American Dream(fig5) and Negotiation.(fig6)

Figure 5, Sunyoul Kim, American dream, flag and fan manufactured in china, installation 2019
Figure 6, Sunyoul Kim, Negotiation, mixed media, installation, 2019

Finally, looking at the human society controlled by these great powers, I have become curious about the future of humanity. In the past, many Asian countries have lost their own cultural identity and created new hybrid cultures, while embracing Western cultures.

The term ‘cultural imperialism’ captures the idea that political and economic power is being used to ‘exalt and spread the values of a foreign culture at the expense of the native culture’ 

(Tomlinson 1991, p. 3).

Indeed, no one can tell whether a new human race will emerge or be wiped out by war in the future. However, it is anyone’s guess that by economic logic, human society will become more and more uniform. This idea led to curiosity about how the closed country of North Korea would open its market through negotiations with the U.S. to maintain its regime, and then change. Based on this idea, I made a work called the brave New World.(fig7)  I wonder what kind of new world humanity will face in the future.

Figure 7, Sunyoul Kim, Brave new world, mixed media, 10x 5 x 25 cm, 2019

Reference List

Huxley, A. (1932) Brave new world. London: Vintage classics

Harari. Y. (2015) Sapiens: A brief history of humankind. London: Vintage. pp. 173-186

Gandhi, L. (1998) Postcolonial theory: a critical introduction. Edinburgh: Edinburgh university press, pp.1-21

‘Self-determination’ (2010) Wikipedia. Available at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Self-determination  (Accessed: 11 January 2020).

Dehghan, S. and Blond, J. (2018) ‘Tade with Iran and you won’t trade with US, Tump Warns’, The Guardian, 07 Aug, Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/aug/07/iran-braces-for-new-round-of-us-economic-sanctions (Accessed: 14 January 2020).

Wintour, P. (2019) ‘Iran will continue to defy US oil sanctions, says Tehran’, The Guardian, 24 Apr, Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2019/apr/24/iran-will-continue-to-defy-us-oil-sanctions-says-tehran(Accessed: 14 January 2020).

Jeon, H. (2019) ‘US and South Korea break off defense costs talks amid backlash over Trump demand’, CNBC, 19 Nov, Available at: https://www.cnbc.com/2019/11/19/us-and-south-korea-break-off-defense-cost-talks.html?(Accessed: 14 January 2020).

Mccurry, J. (2019) ‘US North Korea envoy dismissed year-end deadline for talks breakthrough’, The Guardian, 16 Dec, Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2019/dec/16/us-north-korea-envoy-dismisses-year-end-deadline-for-talks-breakthrough (Accessed: 14 January 2020).

Tomlinson, J. (1991) Cultural imperialism: a critical introduction. London: Pinter.

Brave new world.

My previous work has been expressed in various ways by economic power, that the countries of colonial experience are still in a culturally and politically colonial state.

In the latest work, it is a solemn Propaganda sculpture in front, but behind it has created an ironic sculpture holding a Mickey Mouse glove and a headband that symbolizes capitalism. When I think earlier about why imperial countries in the past still have power, the common thing is that they have considerable economic power.

Also, mega companies with considerable economic power in them are looking for new developing countries in looking for cheap labor and resources for their advantage.

Currently, many companies in the U.S. want to enter North Korea to import cheap natural resources. I wondered, when sudden external technology met, would they have a brave new world?

Even now, North Korea is trying to negotiate with the U.S. through many military actions. It is an unexpected move for North Korea, which has long been isolated from the outside world amid U.S. economic sanctions. So what are they trying to do through the market opening?

In other communist countries such as China and Vietnam, rapid economic development has been achieved through the market opening and continues to grow. Does North Korea do this for its economic growth? What do they really want?