Matt Mancini interviews Jiyoung Yoon
MM: First off, do you consider yourself a ‘Chicago Artist’? Do you feel being a Chicago artist brings a negative connotation in regards to the art world at large?
JY: I left Korea to come to the Art Institute, but I feel that I came to Chicago to NOT become a ‘Korean’ artist or make ‘Korean’ art. ‘Korean’ art has a label and an image in the same way a European artist or an American artist. I really just wanted to be an artist; I don’t want to label myself a Chicago artist, I don’t mind it though because YEAH I’m here in Chicago and making art.
MM: Do you feel like you get pinned as making ‘Korean” art or here in the states?
JY: No, I never thought of myself as making Korean art. Even when I was there I was making work different from my peers. I’m not quite sure exactly what ‘Korean” art is, but it does have a specific aesthetic, it is connected to the atmosphere of the country and the characteristics of the Korean people.
MM: Do you feel like the characteristics of the Korean art world that inspired your previous work dissolved once you came to Chicago?
JY: I changed a lot, especially with the ‘finishing’ part. Finishing and clean surfaces are a big part of the Korean aesthetics. I was previously obsessed with reaching a particular finish level in my work before but, coming here I learned to became more flexible.
MM: If you could describe your work as a particular food and flavor what would it be?
JY: Food, oh my god. Well I want some of my work to evoke different senses and sensory relationship with the viewer. I know some of my older works have a sour taste. I’m happy with that read. Hmmmm…maybe a lemon bar.
MM: What are the reoccurring themes that revolve around your work? Do you see them changing any time soon?
JY: I’m not really sure how things will go but I know I’m very ready to end something. Now I’m planning two different projects that will be finished this month, I want to end this 2013 properly. I will use the New Year as a setting stone for something new. I want to move on from my old ideas that were influenced from my experience in Chicago. I don’t necessarily have to start with fresh ideas and a new body of work but I do feel I’ve sorted out some of my old ideas so I’m ready for what’s ‘next’.
Observation is important in my work, when I observe something weird it makes me think about that thing very intensely and it gives me inspiration to make things. I’m a people watcher. People around me are very important to my work, their behavior, the way they think, the way they approach me and the way they make me approach them.
MM: You seem to have specific narratives as a driving force for your work, are those narratives important to be read from the work and does it matter to you if don’t people arrive there?
JY: Of course it matters. I don’t want people to feel pushed to think the way I think. I have two approaches to my work. One is making very personal devices that relate to my body and the other is making sculptural installation where I’m dealing with the viewer’s body in relation to my work. I want observation itself to be reciprocal. Making devices is my way to make a sentence about my personal problems. The devices are built for me, they narrate to the viewer what is happening to me. I want the viewer to realize that I ‘ve have gone through these things (devices) and hopefully relate that experience to themselves. I want my work to talk to people, have a conversation without me being there, that’s why I am also concerned with signifiers and implications from the aesthetics of my objects. That’s all included in my sentence to the viewer. I want that to be apart of my communication to them.
MM: Can you talk a little about your craft and choices of material?
JY: Craft is definitely connected to materiality in my work. When I choose a material I think about it very hard in connection to the concept and construction of the work. I think about the idea and try to find the perfect material to connect it. The emotions the materials evoke are important to me. I try to show my emotions about each piece through the material.
MM: I think about the color yellow as a self-expressive motif in your work, do you consider materials as self expressive as well? .
JY: Yes. For me yellow is just yellow, I don’t have to think about yellow to choose it. It’s not necessarily representing me. But it represents the yellow in other people, the viewers. I found out later that yellow is representative for depression, but I don’t consider it going that far for me. Yellow is very emotional and evokes a different emotion in everyone else. I guess I’d like to think of myself as something like expansion foam.
MM: If you could have a baller blue chip gallery budget, what would be making and would you still be using the same materials?
JY: That’s a bullshit question! But I have some big time projects I’ve been sitting on since undergrad. I would probably experiment a lot with that money and let the work be the process results of my experimentation. I would probably make a huge sphere and light it up everywhere. It would be so big the viewer could enter in, it would have light absorbent material as a skin and it would be shooting light around it to appear as if its floating. I don’t know I’m not sure about that one.
MM: How do you arrive at content in your work?
JY: More recently I’ve been having a very hard time grappling with a specific question. What creates what? Not like the chicken or egg first kind of question. My work is very connected to language. My latest project asks questions about being broken. Are we born broken? Can someone already be broken and can that brokenness translate to someone else and so on. It’s a complicated thing to explain but it’s something I’ve been wrestling with a lot.
MM: What’s your 5-year artist plan?
JY: Mainly just to be an artist and keeping making art. Not sure where I’ll be. Residencies and showing are really important to me right now. I’m less interested in teaching, more so just developing an art career for myself.