Yunjoo Kwak

artistiek onderzoek - audiovisueel - archieven - digitale technologie - experimenteel

Kwak's practice is research-based and process-oriented, with a focus on architecture, migration, history, marginality and globalization. She works across the disciplines of film, photography, lecture performance, publication and archiving, creating artistic work that results from the research process. She is interested in the blind spots of representation that we might have not known or learned from history, and seek ways how to haunt them.


Table for Yeom One by Simbang Oh Yonggbu, Gosung-ri, Seogwipo-si, March 24, 2024, digital print, 47 x 70cm, 2024 - In Korean, 염원 (念願: Yeom One) defies translation into English. It encapsulates a profound sentiment that goes beyond desires, wishes, hopes, or even desperation. Yeom One embodies a fervent longing deeply ingrained in the psyche, shaping one's perception and affecting actions towards both the dead and the living. The ritual is a liminal space where the space of the seen and the unseen overlapped. Where do the dead belong? How can the unseen be reimagined? How can sensual connections between the seen and unseen worlds be evoked? This concept is particularly resonant among the people of Jeju Island, South Korea, reflecting their reverence for the Goddess of the sea and wind. On Jeju, this reverence manifests in approximately 40 shamanic rituals held across coastal villages from New Year's Day until the end of February in the lunar calendar. The Jeju Special Self Government financially supports these rituals, underscoring their cultural significance. The production of these rituals involves the participation of Haenyeo, the diving women of Jeju and various setting of the table to the Goddess. Through their rituals, they express their singular focus: ensuring their safety as they plunge into the depths of the sea.
Stone of Fury - A short 3D animation, Stone of Fury offers a meditative imagination of the life and death of the victims of 4.3 incident in 1948, Jeju Island, South Korea. The unrealistic, yet enigmatic shapes and movement of smoke and fire is a process of ritualisation for the imagination to flourish and expand beyond the unspoken narratives. Utilising LiDAR scanning of the stone tower from Jeju, I created a 3D simulation to ritualise the movement of the smokes and fires.
Rehearsing Stones, 4K, color, sound, 3mins, 2023 - Rehearsing stones is a series of performance that take place as my way towards the temple Jonjaamji nestled in the Halla Mountain on Jeju Island, South Korea. It’s a movement of stacking stones atop one another, building an array of both small and large-scale stone towers. It’s a phenomenon commonly encountered in rocky natural settings like mountains and valleys. These stone towers are not just random structures but rather collective gestures laden with meaning. This collective endeavour builds a palpable sense of unity, as strangers become collaborators in a shared, albeit unspoken, purpose. The stones, standing tall and resilient, embody the collective spirit of those who have participated. They are a testament to the human capacity to come together, and work serendipitously, even in the face of uncertainty. It's a testament to the enduring human spirit.
FILM: Only The Ports Are Loyal To Us, 16mins, 2020 - Only the Ports Are Loyal to Us reflects on the colonial history and the port ecology that connects two port cities: Amsterdam and Surabaya. The work is a journey through archival and contemporary images of each place, through which colonial legacies on both continents are revealed. The film footage is varied, including engraved prints of colonial ships from the 17th century, floor plans of warehouses along the IJ, and a slideshow of the ship Jan Pieterszoon Coen departing from Amsterdam and docking at the port of Tanjung Perak in Surabaya. The film invites viewers to float through a dark space, which is constructed with archival images that are now obsolete.
Map of Tanjung Perak_1928 - Research material, SOERABAYA 1900-1950: PORTS, URBAN VIEW, PORT, NAVY, TOWNSCAPE, JR van Diesen, ASIA MAIOR, 2004
The Boost Barracks_vintage postcard collection - Research summary: In the 11 months before World War II, 18 military barracks were rapidly constructed. Located along the Southeastern border of the Netherlands, these barracks were designed by Dutch architect and military serviceman, General August Gerard Marie Boost (1900 - 1985). The barracks were constructed due to the threat of war from Germany that resulted in a change in military service 1938. After the war ended, the utility and purpose of these barracks kept changing, running parallel to historical events of world warfare. Immediately after the war, Dutch military forces were deployed to the Dutch East Indies from these barracks during the Indonesian struggle for independence. Subsequently, from 1950 to 1953, the Netherlands Detachment United Nation unit was established and sent from these same barracks to fight in the Korean War. In 1960, the Infantry Security Company (RvH) was stationed in the barracks during the Cold War. Many other changes occurred; in more recent times, the Dutch army was deployed to the Bosnian War, Iraq War and Afghanistan War in 1991. Since the 1990s, a significant and perhaps apropos change began to take place — almost half of these military barracks were transformed into asylum seekers' centers.
FILM: The Defectors, 2017, 30mins, color, sound, HD - The film is comprised of several stories of North Korean refugees residing in the Netherlands, as told by a Dutch activist, a Dutch professor on Korean studies, North Korean refugees and many others in the course of developing the project. By re-narrating the intricate history of the buildings and having dialogues with the three protagonists, I attempt to open different point of view with a new way of critical thinking on the entangled history through the cinematic endeavour.
Indexical Archives, 2017, photomontage, inkjet print, installation view, Rujak Center for Urban Studies, Jakarta - The images were collected throughout the course of developing the research of The Boost Barracks. In this photomontage, a set of vintage post cards with The Boost Barrack produced circa the 1950s to 1970s act as pixels and historical evidence/ reference. I then compiled images of the relevant historical events surrounding each postcard/ barrack. These images are scaled up or down in reference to the pixels. This constellation of images and text offer an expanded and overlapping narrative of the history of The Boost Barracks. I subtly play around with the images to bring together fragmented accounts of the biography the boost barracks. The fragments are such as floor plan of each different buildings, vintage postcards of barracks, image of NATO meeting, Dutch soldier’s UN mission during the Korean War, inside of the current building which transformed into asylum seeker’s center, etc.
Unfinished Odyssey II: Only The Ports Are Loyal To Us (2018 – ) - Research summary: Only The Ports Are Loyal To Us focuses on the historical narratives when the military function of the Boost Barracks that implemented during the Dutch East Indies. During this period, more than half of the 18 Boost barracks were changed with the military service to train the Dutch soldiers to Indonesia during the Indonesian National Revolution (1945-1949). The principal of Dutch East Indies was located in Surabaya, the second biggest city in Java Island and the first area developed by the Dutch colonial government. The port of Tanjung Perak, built by the colonial government, was the important gate with shipping services and nowadays partly becomes a passenger terminal, container cargos, shipyard and headquarters of Indonesian navy. This project considers the port as both witnesses to, and dynamic agent in, history.
SLAUERHOFFSTRAAT, READING ROOM PROJECT, 2018 - SLAUERHOFFSTRAAT is conceived by Yunjoo Kwak based on her long-term research project "Unfinished Odyssey" since 2015. The project investigates the history of Dutch military architecture by reflecting upon the world’s military conflict, colonialism, migration and geo-political narratives between the Netherlands and Indonesia. Together with her artist, musician, writer friends and participants read and talked on the Dutch poet and novelist Jan Jacob Slauerhoff (1898-1936) at her house located in Amsterdam Nieuwe West, Slauerhoffstraat.