Here is a seven-year old girl.
After waking up one day, she finds her room overgrown with trees and damp with water having leaked in. In a sudden, she gets some ominous, uneasy feeling: Oh no! Mommy / is / gone. The story begins on this strange morning.
The girl goes to the kitchen to find her mother. But there grows a tree in the middle of it and the floor is already damp, scattered even with sharp spines of cactus. Over-there. From a branch out of her reach hangs her picture of her mother. And as if tempting her to go to look for her mother, a red thread leads the way. Well, if I follow that thread, I will be able to meet my mom
. To set out on a long journey, the little girl breaks her piggy bank, takes out her cherished treasures and finally, gets on a boat. The boat carrying her arrives in an unknown village. There is nobody on the shore; only an old big tree welcomes her. And as if showing the girl which way to go, seagulls, that she fears, are sitting on the branches on one half of the tree, and sweet flowers bloom on those on the other half. The girl quickens her steps toward where the blooming branches point. She comes across a doggie and a horse. Flowers are bursting in their pots outside every door. However, she finds no one in the village. The little girl decides to fly a paper airplane in search of her mother. If my mom is here, she can see the airplane I am flying
. As if remembering the paths that she has traveled, the girl marked the way with a red thread. She thought that after finding her mother, they would be able to come back home by following the tread. In the meantime, the girl comes to the playground of the village.
A Story of Won Seoung Won
a Story of Mine
,and a Story of Ours
After a hiatus, Won Seoung Won presents her new series titled My Age of Seven in 1978
about her story when she was seven in 1978. From the methodaspect, this series is in line with the previous ones. Her way of creating photographic stories of the people around her by combining different image sources from the photographs taken by her throughout the country, has been the ‘hallmark’of the artist. Her Dreamroom
series told us the stories about the rooms of her friends whom she had met while studying abroad, and her Tomorrow
series displayed at Alternative Space Loop (Seoul, Korea) constituted the ‘world/space’out of the limited space of ‘room.’As in Puppy Village
which imagined a village for abandoned dogs and The Story of Jongno-gu Ssangbaek-ri
which unraveled the story of the family of her husband, the artist constantly listened to what occurred to those living with her and fulfilled their wishes ‘through photograph.’She just could not be half-hearted in dealing with the storiesof her own friends and acquaintances, and so, cut and pasted every piece one by one in such an analog manner as to look absurd. Indeed, she is in dead earnest: she combed the whole country in search of trees and waited days and days for the color of the sky that she had wanted to photograph. In spite of thousands of images of skies and trees on the internet, the artist remains faithful to her working process which requires so much time and labor. Consequently, the completion of each piece takes quite long time, and therefore, the intervals between new creations are longer than those of other artists. However, this explains why her photographs, though digital ones, appear to be a result of detailed manual work. They look even like quilts which are made by sewing together different pieces of fabric.
My Age of Seven in 1978
series was produced in the same way. Therefore, at first glance, it seems to have no significant difference from the previous works. However, in this series, each work does not have a single, independent meaning but as a small episode, becomes a part of the whole story. Each story dein each eleven works from My Age of Seven: Oversleeping
to My Age of Seven: Bed-wetter’s Laundering
, functions as an element of a grand unified narrative. As a result, the viewers come to read the narrative made collectively by the photographs and Won’s stories included in it. And generally, due to this linear arrangement of episodes, people tend to think of the series more as ‘story’than as ‘image’, though there may be differences among them.
Like her, I too was seven in the same year, that is, in 1978. But unlike her, I do not have many memories about that time. I would have probably been glad to have many friends because I have no brothers and sisters, but simultaneously, felt rather embarrassed that I had to meet a lot of strange people suddenly. And I also think I was both surprised at and tense about the fact that my mother and I parted and met again at a fixed time everyday. Thus, My Age of Seven in 1978
brings me back to my seven year old days. I can recall my first play ground, as well as the cute (?) episode that I left home to search for my ‘real’mother, bemy elders’joke that I had been found and adopted under a bridge. With my numerous stories like these dissolving into another, I came to listen to the little girl’s story, following the images in the photographs.
In this way, Won’s works often help the viewers recollect their own stories endand connect their own narrative with the images in what they are seeing. This feature, which can be undoubtedly interpreted in various ways, seems to be at least one of the reasons why people like his / her photographs and feel at ease before them. And this, I think, is ascribed more or less to the fact that her photographs resemble quilts, as was discussed earlier. As quilt makers compose a new story by sewing together fabric scraps, moving from stitch to stitch, the artist creates a new image/story by joining together small images taken from differentplaces and different times. Consequently, her pictures are always abundant in details, which leave the works open to interpretations as many as the number of the eyes and minds of the beholders. Those hundreds of layers hidden by the artist bring the effect that these visual images serve as stories as well, and that these stories give rise to countless, never-ending versions. Thus, even at the very moment when you are reading the artist’s story, you need not simply follow it. The story is not only hers, but also mine, and but also yours.
Suddenly, several questions come upon me:
Did the girl following the red thread find her mother?
Did her mother come back when the girl finished laundering?
And were they able to return home in safety following the thread?
Bo-seul Shin / Curator, Total Museum of Contemporary Art