Paper 2- In the works : Yong Soon Min

Yong Soon Min is a complex artist, many of her pieces are rudimentary yet the art touches several audiences. Yong Soon Min’s art is intermixed with politics, which tend to provoke thoughts on culture and identity. Min grew up in a postwar environment,  created by the Korean War in 1953, which influenced her view on social issues and surfaced in her art. In the Humanities visit to the galleries in the VAC and the statements from the artists, including Min, one can see that her own life is reflected within her art, the life of an immigrant. According to Kara K. Hallmark in  the Encyclopedia for Asian American Artists “As an artist and educator she challenges us to reconsider social and political issues, such as identity, place and war”. Throughout the years her art has provoked many questions surrounding identity, place and war.

In regards to identity, Hwa Yong Choi Caruso in Art as a Political Act:Expression of Cultural Identity, Self Identity and Gender expands on the idea of how Korean immigrants lived in the United States. Min’s art challenges the traditional cultural expectations of a Korean women and demonstrates what obstacles they must face.  Caruso ties Confucian hierarchy to Min’s Korean culture. Caruso says the “Ritual Labor of a Korean Bride” (1993) continues to criticize the traditional social status that Korean women had to endure. The art piece says ‘Please walk step by step all over me’ on the carpet. According to Caruso, Min wanted to expose and signify the traditional social status of Korean women as powerless in society. The art “can function as a sign of resistance to colonialism and all forms of oppression, including traditional Confucianism.” According to Alice Yang, Min’s identity as a Korean woman has looked at more than gender, which ends being combined with ideas of race.

Following the issue of identity, was the idea of place for Korean women like Min, it was difficult to transition from Korean culture into the American life. Scholars are interested in how these women had found their place and how they created a sense of belonging in that place. In “Bad Women”: Asian American Visual Artists Hanh Thi Pham, Hung Liu, and Yong Soon Min Elaine H. Kim said “ illusions are challenged and the possible is made imagined and palpable.” Kim also mentions how Min works with cultural and aesthetic collage and focuses on her own female body and its place in global politics to challenge Eurocentrism. In the journal article  Globalization and Ethnic Identity in the Art of Theresa Hak Kyung Cha, Yong Soon Min and Nikki S. Lee Yookyoung Choi talks about Mi’s  deColonization installation, which includes a poem called Home (by Won Ko)  : “To us already a birth place is no longer our home. The place we were brought up is not either. Our history, rushing to us through fields and hills is our home.” Choi believes this poem expresses Min’s sense of “being and belonging through her constant attempt to come to terms with the history of her home country and her adopted country.”

In Art; Around The Galleries; ‘Look and Learn by Sharon Mizota, she mentions how women who didn’t find themselves matching the images of white femininity were neglected. These non-white women saw that their worries were not being met by social and political movements. She also sees the struggle between the several perspectives, themes, and images that are commonly kept hidden in the Korean American community. Kim mentions the use of photographs to dismantle the truth claims of representation. 

The topic  of war aroused much interest among scholars. How can war be art?  Border as Narrative Engagement:Yong Soon Min by Kyungso Min had helped display the underlinings of war in her work. In a way  Kyungso Min feels that Yong Soon Min had expressed what many Korean people were feeling, they resented the level of influence and presence of Americans during and after the war. Min wanted to make her work of the border stand out. Her goal was to have the instillation be both a universal and personal experience of crossing national borders. Many of Min’s installations in the 1990’s were inspired by the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ). Based on what Kyungso Min said in his essay, most of the previous interpretations of her DMZ inspired art had placed high importance on the political aspects regarding the war rather than the idea of just borders.Scholars were fascinated by the materials used, since they had “covered the stories of five communities, like the situations in refugees’ homelands during war, the ways in which they had come to the U.S., and their circumstances since settlement.”.

In conclusion, scholars looking into Min’s work have had interests in the aspects of identity, place and war. Although none of the topics encompassed in her art are  straightforward, there is much to be said regarding the inspirations that go into each one. The topic on identity includes experiences of being an immigrant in the U.S., a Korean woman and someone who has lived through a war and seen the effects. In certain pieces she shows the internal struggle between her own traditions and trying to adapt to the culture within the United States. Then there’s a sense of place, this is more focused on Korean culture and values that are based on Confucious ideals. Min’s work helps combat that and create space for non-white women. The other topic seen within her work is war, it encompasses her individual experiences and wars universality. These are various issues that are discussed throughout the time of her art. Although her art is all encompassing one can see how there may be confusion in what pieces represent a single motive or topic in her work. Every piece incorporates these several aspects, which can make the discussion around her art that much more complex. Despite the fact that there are several themes involved in her work, something that is left undebated is how one can separate her identity and place if she is both yet neither.