October 5‑November 2, 2019
Opening Night Reception: Friday, October 4, 6 – 8 pm
Center Galleries at the College for Creative Studies, Detroit
WiAn: White Garden With White Noise is co-presented by Center Galleries and the Penny W. Stamps School of Art & Design. Supported by the Nam Center for Korean Studies at the University of Michigan
Through visually and auditorily immersive installation, artist JuYeon Kim recognizes, illuminates, and honors the unimaginable suffering and enduring spirit of the Korean “comfort women” (wianbu in Korean) who were forced into sex slavery by the Japanese military during World War II.
It is estimated over 200,000 Korean women fell prey to Japanese soldiers during this time period, many were as young as 14 years old. The girls and women, often from rural villages, were enslaved in a variety of ways, including kidnapping, coercion, or being convinced with lies of paid factory work during desperate times of famine. Victims of forced sterilization, many died during their time of enslavement. Those who survived often did not return home after the war for fear of stigma and rejection. For much of history, their story has remained untold.
Through WiAn, Kim invites viewers to join her in the recognition of this atrocity — and in providing comfort to the souls of these women. Through meditative poetry, a soundscape by classical music composer George Tsontakis, and sculptural objects, Kim creates a physical space for the souls of these women to be honored, to be comforted, to let go of the past, and to move forward.
Visitors to the exhibition encounter an ethereal white gardenscape of transparent and opaque fictitious flora, comprised of many different plant specimens. White, the traditional color for Korean funerals, returns the women to their rightful purity and innocence. At the center of the garden, two palanquins engraved with original poetry invite the souls of the wianbu to take rest from their arduous journey to be carried like royalty, to receive unequivocal compassion and kindness. A transparent door and trellis, also engraved with original poetry, invites souls to move lightly, unburdened, to the next chapter of being.
In a time when the #metoo movement has brought about a cultural reckoning, Kim’s work also provides comfort, strength, and a space of contemplation for the living, to all who have suffered and still suffer at the hands of systemic power inequity.
JuYeon Kim is the 2019 Roman J. Witt Artist in Residence at the Penny W. Stamps School of Art & Design at the University of Michigan.