Briefly describe the work you do.
My work investigates notions of home in context of identity, place and language.
Tell us about your background and how that has had an influence on your work and on you as an artist.
I was born in South Korea and have lived in Seoul, Hong Kong, New York and Toronto. Due to my nomadic background, I struggle to identify with a specific culture or place as my “home”.
When I was thirteen, I was growing up as a Korean expat kid attending an American international school in Hong Kong during its British colonial days. That same year, I witnessed Hong Kong’s Handover to China from the British Rule. The country’s flag changed overnight, and soon the currency changed. The sense of cultural displacement that I have experienced throughout my life has definitely influenced the core of my artistic practice – questioning what “home” can mean in various contexts.
The concept of the artist studio has a broad range of meanings in contemporary practice. Artists may spend much of their time in the actual studio, or they may spend very little time in it. Tell us about your individual studio practice and how it differs from or is the same as traditional notions of “being in the studio.”
I work mostly in my home studio space. However, I feel that I can work anywhere given the digital nature of my work. As long as I have my computer and a place to sit quietly, I am good to go. When I am working on more sculptural pieces, I do need to work in a studio space to physically execute the work and to see how the pieces function spatially. But often I find myself working everywhere and anywhere.
What roles do you find yourself playing that you may not have envisioned yourself in when you first started making art?
I find that I am very invested in the role of an artist as an archivist, which was not something I started out doing initially. With the advancement of digital photography and online data, I became very interested in collecting and curating the abundance of found images and information into my own stream of thought. I do this so that I can transform them. I work with methods of appropriation and redaction to construct metaphors from bureaucratic and domestic information – metaphors of our collective transit and identity.
When do you find is the best time to make art? Do you set aside a specific time everyday or do you have to work whenever time allows?
I do try to set a specific time every day, but I work better at night. The later the better – 12 am is when I focus the best.
How has your work changed in the past five years? How is it the same?
My work has changed a lot in that I have begun to work with appropriation more, as I mentioned above. My work has also taken a more interdisciplinary approach. My medium used to consist of mainly photography, but now it consists of images, text and sculpture. So while it has changed formally and methodically, the core themes that it explores have stayed the same. I am always thinking about the frameworks of cultural, bureaucratic, domestic, material and immaterial experiences of belonging, and what are the things that we have in common despite our cultural/linguistic/locational/social differences.
How have people such as family, friends, writers, philosophers, other artists or even pop icons had an impact on the work you do?
The works of artists such as Do Ho Suh, Rachel Whiteread, Liz Deschenes, Agnes Martin and Gordon Matta-Clark have inspired me deeply. Also, the artist Penelope Umbrico who has been a brilliant observer and mentor to my work, and my artist friends from grad school that I still talk with every day, have all had a great impact on my work.
Poetry has also been a big influence on my work too, I like to re-read T.S.Eliot and various Haiku poets. But, in fact, visual artists are some of my favorite writers – Roni Horn and Lee Ufan are incredible writers. And lastly, I would say that the soul of old school rappers and my steadfast parents have also had a profound impact.
Have you ever been pulled in the direction of a pursuit other than being an artist? What are your other interests?
No, I can’t think of anything else I’d rather do. My other interest/hobby is in food, ramen in particular.
Jesse Chun is a visual artist working in photography, text and sculpture. She received her MFA from the School of Visual Arts, and BFA from Parsons the New School for Design. Chun’s work has been exhibited nationwide in New York, Miami, Los Angeles and Portland, and internationally in Toronto, Hong Kong, Seoul and Istanbul. Selected venues include Fridman Gallery, NYABF at MoMA PS1, Abrazo Interno Gallery at The Clemente, BRIC, Los Angeles Center for Digital Art, Newspace Center for Photography, LAABF at the Geffen Contemporary at MOCA, Incheon International Women Artists Biennale, Space Debris Art and Toronto Contact Photography Festival. Her work been reviewed in publications such as The Korea Times and Asia Literary Review, and won awards such as The Korea Press Foundation Grant in 2011. She has also been a guest speaker at New York University, Columbia University, School of Visual Arts and Parsons the New School for Design. She is based in New York.
All images copyright of the artist and used with their permission.