They say you cannot compare an apple to an orange, but what do you do when that apple is also an orange? Being half-Korean and half-American, identity has been something I have struggle with. I have experienced issues of acceptance growing up and figuring out what it means to place myself within the boarders of these two cultures. Once again, I find myself using projects to examine an experience that is not unique to me, but seen with many individuals, who try to figure out what it means to be fluid with their identity.
Following the last project and taking such a dramatic turn, I find myself having trouble finding my footing. I knew which areas I wanted to explore more, like lighting and narration, and I also knew that I wanted to examine Asian narratives, specifically in Korea. As I think about this issue I have faced most of my life, I have many questions what it means to create an authentic narrative, especially around culture. Also, as escalated violence towards Asians in America increase, I have thoughts about representation and what it means to bring awareness, especially being an individual in this community along with my family and friends.
To kick start this process, I created a Miro board where I could collect all my thoughts. One of the first things that I did was create a section of categories. This being folk stories, traditions of Korea, modern Korea, and hybrid Korean architecture. Following the gathering of information, I began to take what I was most interested in exploring and moving them into a mood board of images. At the same time, I had another section of existing artworks that were influencing the structures I had in my mind as I began to sketch out ideas.
Link to Miro Board (still in expanding): https://miro.com/app/board/o9J_lO4bA6s=/
After the research I did, I decided to pick The Tale of Shim Cheong. This is a folk story that has been one deeply rooted in the arts. Pansori, a very dramatic and traditional style of vocal musical performance, is one of the noted forms of telling this story. This story has also been adapted by Korea’s National Ballet as well as into children’s books.
The story is about a young lady whose father is blind. He is told by a monk that if he can offer enough rice he would pray for his sight to return. In a condensed format, the daughter lies to her father to sacrifice herself to the water god/dragon king in exchange for rice from the fisherman looking to calm the waters. The water god is touched by her sacrifice and returns her in a lotus to the King, who marries her. Most importantly, her father did get his eyesight back.
Because a big part of the folk story I am looking at deals with the setting in water, I was trying to figure out what that meant for the design of the space. Starting off, I kept the architecture fairly traditional and grounded as if it had sunken to the floor and was to be rediscovered by explorers. However, this is when I started thinking of artists working with reexamining Korean architecture to look at identity. They suspended their work, and the view was unique and ghostly. The suspension felt like something that was freeing to the structure, especially in consideration to the way a light object may drift in the water. Moving forward, I am also interested in materials and play with light. Seoul Home is translucent so the way light works is different compared to Disappearing Great Roof, which has actual lights installed into the surfaces. They also both incorporate materials that would not normally be used for building these structures, so I am interested in that exploration in 3D.
One of the traditional structures that I kept going back to was Hyangwonjeong Pavilion in the Gyeongbokgung Palace in Seoul. Instead of the rectangular shape depicted in the art above from the hanoks (traditional Korean houses), the circular shape felt really right for the things I was considering in the drawing. In terms of considering modern architectural influences, I constantly was interested in Namsan Tower, which is often known for the bridges of locks that surrounds it in a very romantic way.
I began to deconstruct the architecture and rebuild. As I progressed, I got a little bolder with the structures. The two things I had constantly floating in my mind was a jellyfish as well as how the form would act with caustic lighting. As I got to designs that merged both structures, it was interesting that is started to feel western in the idea of Rapunzel’s tower.
The one question I am currently struggling with is what is the difference between making a setting where the story takes place versus making a setting that is the story or an embodiment of it. Are they separate or two different things? I am still not happy with what I have produced in terms of sketches, but as I have progressed, I have gotten closer to something that feels right. As a result, I still have many things to consider in the format.
The next step will to be narrow the sketches down based on a set of criteria revolving around the goal of the piece. I want to then pick the sketch that feels best and add color and lighting on top. After that, I will begin to 3D model by doing the largest foundations of the environment and shaping it to the basics of the architecture.