How we look toward home. The shape of color, a clip for Members, and a title for the film.
The memory is the entire. The longing in the face of the lost. Maintains the missing. Fixed between the wax and wane indefinite not a sign of progress. All else age, in time. Except. Some are without.
—Theresa Hak Kyung Cha, Dictee
Last Sunday I had two social events on the books. I wanted to attend both but I was pretty wiped from the week, plus don’t people know that Sundays are sacred?
I ended up canceling everything (which I immediately knew was the right thing to do), did laundry instead, ate fried chicken, and worked on my film. Which, by the way, I finally have a title for:
엄마 나라 | Mother Land.
In Korean, 엄마, pronounced um’ma, means “Mom.” 나라 is pronounced-ish nah-”rah” (the second syllable lands phonetically somewhere between “rah” and “lah,” a sound that doesn’t exist in English), and means “Country” or “Nation.”
I was originally going to call the film Fragments. But when I shared the translation of the Korean phrase from one of the film’s phonotrope sequences, Amanda Bonaiuto1 pointed out that there was something there that I might want to explore. And the more I thought about it, the more it made sense for the title to come from that phrase.
The Korean words aren’t usually presented as a unit. One is intimate and familiar, the other reverent and formal. Both inspire feelings of belonging, and, perhaps, ownership. To me, a native speaker, a sort of inarticulable but right strangeness comes from their conjoining.
The English part of the title also presents familiar words in an unconventional way. In contrast to what happens in the Korean, an existing portmanteau, “Motherland,” is disjointed.
And both parts of the title speak in different ways to separation/exile, belonging/ownership, absence/possibility.
They both speak to a longing to return home.
As many of you know, I’m part of the Korean American Artist Collective, and this film is going to show at our upcoming exhibit at the Culture House in DC. If you’re in the area, we’d love to see you (RSVP). I’ll be there with the other artists at the opening reception.
Honestly, I can’t believe it’s happening so soon. Travel plans are being made, as are some decisions. After some back and forth, the curators and I have agreed to loop 엄마 나라 on a 50” wall-mounted screen with a wired headset. (Hats off to the them, they’re juggling diverse works—paintings, hanji, sculptures, textiles—by quite a few of us.) It’s the next best thing to projecting in a separate room, and I think it’ll still feel immersive. One artist mentioned that a close-up screen with a headset might actually be preferable, in terms of intimacy, to a projection that could be 10 to 15 feet away.
In any case, I can guarantee that work will continue until the very last available minute; here’s one of the vignettes I painted since last time. It’s inspired by a photograph I found of my parents, a few days after Dad died and Mom was released from 5150.
Back when the photo was taken, the moment was just a thing flowing rapidly downstream, immediately forgotten. Decades later, it’s resurfaced, somehow more emphatic than the original.
On the turntable:
In Premiere Pro:
There’s a lot more I’d like to get done, including color and lighting normalization, general clean-up. Given that the exhibit opens in early September though, it’s possible that I won’t “finish” the film in time.
A former “I” probably wouldn’t have been comfortable submitting something so unpolished, with placeholders and rough edges, to a gallery. But a lot has happened, and I want to honor the rawness of that. The film is also about messiness, chaos, inconclusiveness; loose ends feel very much a part of the work.
In order for it to be honest, it may even be required.
Members, see a 1.5 min clip of the rough cut, below. The full film is gearing up to be about 6 minutes long. This clip includes the result of exposure experiments I mention above, as well as the typographic footage I referenced earlier.
Everyone else: until next time.
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