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. In the PhD program, she plans to further develop her ongoing long-term research project and body of work, Unfinished Odyssey that she initiated in 2016.

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.
The Boost Barracks_Detmers kazerne, Eefde, 2016, inkjet print, 70 x 46cm - This Boostkazerne is built in 1939 and is an example of the smaller typology. It is still unclear whether the Dutch army has ever used the barracks before the Nazis invaded the Netherlands. In wartime, the barracks were used as a military driving school. Dutch men were educated for the National Sozialistisch Kraftwagen Korps. These men were sent to the eastern front and many did not return. After the liberation, the Canadians used the camp. It was partially damaged, so the Allied Forces installed the so called Romney-huts. Dutch people that had collaborated with the Nazis during the war were also imprisoned here. Shortly after, Dutch troops were installed in the Detmerskazerne. It again served as a military driving school and troops that trained here were sent to the Dutch East Indies.
The Boost Barracks_Elias Beeckman kazerne, Ede, 2016, inkjet print, 70 x 46cm - “In 1938 Ede was chosen as a location for Boostkazerne. Built after the standardized design of the bigger type, the Elias Beeckmankazerne was put into operation in 1939. Construction was not yet finished by that time, but the Nazis that took over the barracks during the war completed it using the same pavilion style. Most of the buildings in this camp were constructed using red tiles and yellow. This combination is unique since in the rest of the Boostkazernes are characterized by dark tiles and red-brown bricks. Since 1946 troops have been trained for the war in the Dutch East Indies. The barracks have had a major role in educating army units but since the 50s there have not been any stand-by troops in Ede anymore. Another noteworthy event that took place in the Elias Beeckmankazerne is the formation of the first labour union for soldiers in 1966. It has been a very popular and successful union in the Netherlands. In its heyday, it had over 30,000 members, amounting to 80% of Dutch soldiers, and it took part in most of the meetings with the ministry of defence. With the abolition of 200 years of obligatory military service in 1994 the union was not necessary anymore.”
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.
Jalesveva Jayamehe: taken from the second floor of former headquarters of Dutch East Indies/ 70 x 46cm/ digital inkjet print/ 2018 - Jalesveva Jayamahe (Our Glory is at the Sea) is a monument a Statue of an Indonesian Navy officer wearing Ceremonial Service Dress, complete with his sword of honour, staring far to the sea as if he’s ready to challenge the ocean’s tide and storms. It represents the preparedness of the Indonesian Navy for glory. The monument is also located in Indonesian Navy headquarter. As a foreigner and not being allowed to access the monument, I decided to take the photos from various locations where far the monument can be seen. The imagery represents not only the physical distance between the monument and the camera but also imply the political gap through the landscape of the sea, shipyard, and the naval base.
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.
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.