Looking back at the last 2 years of my life since I returned home in the late summer of 2014 ending my 7 years of residency away from home, I have been floating around like a balloon that had lost its way in a strange place. It was a time of wandering in search of a way back home, trying to make home my home.
Seoul, my hometown where I was born and lived for nearly 30 years, was supposed to be my ‘home.’ Despite the fact that I still had my Korean passport intact, I somehow had become a stranger at home. It seemed that the only thing that travelled all the way through Korea was my body, nothing else.
I have been thinking about a person’s identity in relation to a place. I recalled Hwagokdong in Seoul where I spent my childhood. It was the place I still remembered, or the other way. There was the bookstore where I used to buy things, the street where I used to play with the kids in the neighborhood, and the elementary school that I went to (my bookstore is now something else, street has become something else, and the school has a fresh new look).
Pushing through my old memories was today. From garbage bags that had just been put out in the morning, abandoned furniture after somebody’s moved out and a broken bed to lots of housing wanted fliers and signs “looking for a room” or “selling a house” and sometimes night club posters, there were signs of living today. In between those were the past and the present intertwined like coils.
This place ‘hwagokdong’ is a special place in that regard but also a very common place. In hwagokdong, there is not a thing that even remotely resembles a landmark. It’s just a town with a multitude of houses, a place that likely exists in anyone’s memory. In other words, this place can be anywhere, maybe somewhere in Busan, Gwangju, or a foreign town.
I titled this exhibition My Pilgrimage. A pilgrimage normally refers to a religious adventure but it also means, in this case, a journey in search of meaning. I met countless roads along the way. All the roads I have travelled, my 20-something-years-ago hometown, seemed both familiar and strange. Between the curved and abruptly disappearing roads, I saw an image of myself only to find it broken away like waves on the shore. I must admit I am still uncertain of where I am. Maybe I am coming back or going into another unknown world. To find the answer, I left home again.