Mina Cheon . art . text . teach . review . cv

 

THE DOKDO PROJECT 2008-2013

Since 2008 Research, Artwork, Writings, and Exhibitions about Dokdo by Mina Cheon

The Dokdo Project by Mina Cheon has been exhibited in varied locations, showcasing a diverse range of use of media and installation.

The project is about an island known as Dokdo, and while the artist traveled there several times physically since 2009, she has been working on conceptual virtual renditions of traveling there virtually through cyberspace.

The works of art produced through the project includes video single channel, video installation, virtual fly through, digital paintings, and prints on hanji, traditional Korean rice paper.

"Japanimanga and Techno-Orientalism" in ArtUS 2008 by Mina Cheon

The Rock-iness of Dokdo also known as Takeshima

Between Nation-“ness” and Nation-“less” in Global Media Culture

Every neighboring nation seems to have an island that is claimed as theirs and fought as mine. The set of islets that raises this geo-political conflict between Korea and Japan is famously known as Dokdo in Korean and Takeshima in Japanese.  One island, two names, two countries both claiming their separate legitimacy, historical legacy and sovereignty for each country’s belonging and property and national identity. Physically set as rocks in the East Sea, only circumference 5.4 km, the symbolic meaning of the island is related to the nationalist fervor and co-national rivalry between the two countries. Currently occupied by a Korean couple, a fisherman and his wife, the site is contested for deploying Korean and Japanese nationalistic history and politics and serving the frenzy international media and information war, embattling fishery line and natural resources, and expounding the consumption culture of tourism agenda. In short, the rocks are the ultimate placeholders for where co-national anxieties resides. The work that needs to take place is both a critical analysis that includes theoretical underpinnig of the islets through a postcolonial, performance, and new media theory perspectives and more artworks coming out developed out of the theme of having traveled there several times, notably past the three single-channel pieces of documenting the way to the islets physically and virtually via second life, google earth, and virtual tourism sites. Currently development and research includes working towards a physical installation as previously planned in faux styrofoam film set as well as with VR technology, hyper realizing this contested geopolitical space as a site of new technological experiences and frontier.

Sabbatical 2018 work coming...

Mina Cheon, Traveling to Dokdo, three single-channel video installation, 45 minutes loop, 2012.

Traveling to Dokdo by Mina Cheon is a three single-channel video art piece that works as a video montage and installation. The work highlights the symbolic meaning of both physically and virtually getting to the desolate Islets, which is geographically situated between Korea and Japan. Dokdo, which has been co-nationally disputed over belonging, is wrought with unresolved international geopolitics and legal battling over the sea-lands, fishery line, and natural resources. The symbolic meaning however that raises the issue of nationalism tied to territory is far greater than the physical property being fought over. South Korean media plays up the country’s Dokdo happy rhetoric to pacify the public at times, while at other times stir emotional fervor to reclaim Dokdo on a daily basis through historicization, demonstration, tourism and merchandising. Who owns Dokdo? With technology, everyone has a piece of Dokdo.

The video footages in the piece include traveling to Dokdo by boat and by other means such as via Google Earth, online 3D tour, and Second Life. It also includes footages of the artist Cheon running the Dokdo Marathon in Seoul in October 2011 wearing a spy camera and capturing all the people running to celebrate Korea's national Dokdo Day, October 25. This video is juxtaposed with an overlapping inner video frame of the artist as "URKorean," a Korean tiger avatar, roaming around Dokdo in Second Life. Many other layers of documenting Dokdo is shown as a way to reconstruct the idea of the Islets which is experienced through media and the imagination as larger than life yet paradoxically miniscule in actual scale. The range of sounds include from breathing sound during the demonstration run, water waves hitting the boat traveling to Dokdo, to downloadable K-pop music soundtrack "Daehanminguk," the 2010 Korea World Cup song by BEG, Rain, 4Minute and more, as well as the famous 1982 pop song “Dokdo is Our Land,” sung by Jung Kwang-Tae, that has remained to this day synonymous to the national anthem.

First shown at the Sungkok Art Museum last year in Seoul, South Korea during Cheon’s mid-career solo exhibition “Polipop: Political Pop Art,” which became an overnight media sensation in Korea, this piece is uniquely displayed here alongside Nara Park’s site-specific sculptural installation that alludes to the major shaping of the Islets. The two pieces together overlay physicality with illusions of light, video, and shadow, and simultaneously question the identity and fragility of Dokdo.

Recently when asked about North Korea, global media, and world politics, Cheon explains, 
“At the end of 2011, I was in Seoul, Korea when North Korean leader Kim Jong-il passed away. There was a great deal of sadness and empathy amongst the South Koreans about the passing of North Korean's great father. This sentiment did not get across into global media and especially Western and American media. As always, one's national grief is never the business of other nations, especially when there are imperial motives and political agendas at play, but as such, while many South Koreans remembers their family members who still reside in North Korea, the rest of the world seems to be amused at the failure of North Korea. As a Korean-American, I cannot neglect the sadness behind our country's division, and know that one cannot solely blame North Korea. Korea sits between capitalist Japan and communist China, it is already between two dividing westernized Asian countries. While, the split between North and South Korea can be seen as a relic of the cold war, there is also the more immediate neighboring geography athat says it all. As a contemporary Asian artist working in global times, it is imperative to look at these co-national geo-politics and respond to how global media shapes or skews our perception on how a nation is (in)formed or disregarded.”

Traveling to Dokdo, Dokdo Project at KAFFNY at The Sylvia Wald and Po Kim Art Gallery, October 15 - 31, 2013

Mina Cheon, Traveling to Dokdo, three single-channel video installation, 45 minutes loop, 2012.

Traveling to Dokdo by Mina Cheon is a three single-channel video art piece that works as a video montage and installation. The work highlights the symbolic meaning of both physically and virtually getting to the desolate Islets, which is geographically situated between Korea and Japan. Dokdo, which has been co-nationally disputed over belonging, is wrought with unresolved international geopolitics and legal battling over the sea-lands, fishery line, and natural resources. The symbolic meaning however that raises the issue of nationalism tied to territory is far greater than the physical property being fought over. South Korean media plays up the country's Dokdo happy rhetoric to pacify the public at times, while at other times stir emotional fervor to reclaim Dokdo on a daily basis through historicization, demonstration, tourism and merchandising. Who owns Dokdo? With technology, everyone has a piece of Dokdo.

The video footages in the piece include traveling to Dokdo by boat and by other means such as via Google Earth, online 3D tour, and Second Life. It also includes footages of the artist Cheon running the Dokdo Marathon in Seoul in October 2011 wearing a spy camera and capturing all the people running to celebrate Korea's national Dokdo Day, October 25. This video is juxtaposed with an overlapping inner video frame of the artist as "URKorean," a Korean tiger avatar, roaming around Dokdo in Second Life. Many other layers of documenting Dokdo is shown as a way to reconstruct the idea of the Islets which is experienced through media and the imagination as larger than life yet paradoxically miniscule in actual scale. The range of sounds include from breathing sound during the demonstration run, water waves hitting the boat traveling to Dokdo, to downloadable K-pop music soundtrack "Daehanminguk," the 2010 Korea World Cup song by BEG, Rain, 4Minute and more, as well as the famous 1982 pop song "Dokdo is Our Land," sung by Jung Kwang-Tae, that has remained to this day synonymous to the national anthem.

First shown at the Sungkok Art Museum last year in Seoul, South Korea during Cheon's mid-career solo exhibition "Polipop: Political Pop Art," which became an overnight media sensation in Korea, this piece is uniquely displayed here alongside Nara Park's site-specific sculptural installation that alludes to the major shaping of the Islets. The two pieces together overlay physicality with illusions of light, video, and shadow, and simultaneously question the identity and fragility of Dokdo.

Front installation by Nara Park for KAFFNY 2013, Korean American Film Festival in NY Visual Art Exhibition at Sylvia Wald and Po Kim Art Gallery

Mina Cheon, Traveling to Dokdo, three-channel video installation, 2012.
The three-channel video installation of Dokdo Room includes video of going to Dokdo by boat, coming from Dokdo by boat, and a center video of various virtual traveling to the island that is possible with today's technology such as visiting Dokdo via Google Earth, online 3D tour, and through Second Life, visiting Dokdo as a Korean female tiger avatar named "U R Korean."

Traveling to Dokdo, three single-channel video installation, 45 minutes loop, and the collaborative installation with Nara Park at KAFFNY Visual Art Exhibition at Sylvia Wald and Po Kim Gallery in NYC, fall 2013.

First shown at the Sungkok Art Museum last year in Seoul, South Korea during Cheon's mid-career solo exhibition "Polipop: Political Pop Art," which became an overnight media sensation in Korea, this piece is uniquely displayed here alongside Nara Park's site-specific sculptural installation at KAFFNY, Korean American Film Festival New York, Visual Art exhibition at the Sylvia Wald and Kim Po Gallery in NYC, that alludes to the major shaping of the Islets. The two pieces together overlay physicality with illusions of light, video, and shadow, and simultaneously question the identity and fragility of Dokdo.

Gallery shot, Dokdo Room, Sungkok Art Museum, Seoul, Korea, 2012

Mina Cheon's Polipop exhibition includes Polipop digital paintings, video and sculpture installations.

This gallery view shows the video installation about Dokdo, the contested island between Korea and Japan.

Traveling to Dokdo, three single-channel video installation, 45 minutes loop, was first shown at the Sungkok Art Museum last year in Seoul, South Korea during Cheon's mid-career solo exhibition "Polipop: Political Pop Art."

This is a short section from the video installation "Traveling to Dokdo," which was a three single-channel video installation in The Dokdo Room at the Sungkok Art Museum, Seoul, Korea, January - March 2012. Currently used as a video short for promoting "The Dokdo Project."

Mina Cheon's "Traveling to Dokdo" includes video of going to Dokdo by boat, coming from Dokdo by boat, and a center video of various virtual traveling to the island that is possible with today's technology such as visiting Dokdo via Google Earth, online 3D tour, and through Second Life. It also includes footages of the artist running the Dokdo Marathon in Seoul in October 2011 wearing a spy camera and capturing all the people running to celebrate Korea's national Dokdo Day, October 25. This video is juxtaposed with an overlapping inner video frame of the artist as "URKorean," a Korean tiger avatar, roaming around Dokdo in Second Life. In between twenty minutes video segments, there is a video short of the various Dokdo traveling with K-pop music soundtrack "Daehanminguk," the 2010 Korea World Cup song by BEG, Rain, 4Minute and more. Original three video single channel length: 45:30 minutes.

A Virtual Fly-thru of 3D Model of The Dokdo Project

A fly-thru of 3D model of "The Dokdo Project." The sound is from the actual sound recording while being on the boat riding around the Island Dokdo. The controversial island that sits between Korea and Japan called Dokdo is created as a 3D model in preparation of the future installation.

Comprised of two distinct islets West (Seodo) and East (Dongdo) islands, Dokdo is situated at the space as an exhibition of faux nature, film prop-like setting made out of clumps of Styrofoam and paint. Cheon was inspired to create the most artificial resemblance of Dokdo as artwork when she traveled to Dokdo in 2009 and researching the hype over territorial claims of the islets expounded by Korean media and press for nationalistic purposes. She traveled there again in 2012 and interviewed people on the Island.

 

The Dokdo Project

Short video to promote The Dokdo Project at Whitebox NYC. Mina Cheon's "Traveling to Dokdo" includes video of going to Dokdo by boat, coming from Dokdo by boat, and a center video of various virtual traveling to the island that is possible with today's technology such as visiting Dokdo via Google Earth, online 3D tour, and through Second Life. It also includes footages of the artist running the Dokdo Marathon in Seoul in October 2011 wearing a spy camera and capturing all the people running to celebrate Korea's national Dokdo Day, October 25. This video is juxtaposed with an overlapping inner video frame of the artist as "URKorean," a Korean tiger avatar, roaming around Dokdo in Second Life. In between twenty minutes video segments, there is a video short of the various Dokdo traveling with K-pop music soundtrack "Daehanminguk," the 2010 Korea World Cup song by BEG, Rain, 4Minute and more. Original three video single channel length: 45:30 minutes.

Mina Cheon: Off to See the Wizard, 2012
Originally Polipop digital painting, 8 x 5 feet, giclee print on canvas, 2012.
For The Hanji Art Project NYC, archival print on hanji, traditional Korean rice paper, 29 x 46”, edition 2, 2012.

Dokdo, is a contested island that sits between Korea and Japan, which has been fought over territorially for decades between the two countries. Media often deploys this island to call on nationalism in South Korea and to create anti-sentiments towards the Japanese. The island has great symbolic national meaning while the set of islets are merely a small set enclave of rocks with a circumference of only 5.4 km. The trip to visit the Dokdo island between Korea and Japan is similar to going off to see the wizard: longwinded and full of fantasized expectations about finding some answer or evidence of national proof. The island is merely a set of rocks.

Korean-American new media artist, scholar, and educator Mina Cheon has been working on a series of artwork called “Polipop” (Political Pop Art) which is an art world that intersects politics and pop art. It takes serious discussions surrounding geopolitics of global, media culture and livens them up as accessible, eye - catching, provocative Pop Art. Ranging from video, sculpture, and new media installations, her series include over forty digital paintings, each at the size of 8x5 feet. Off to See the Wizard is one of the pieces that highlights the controversial and contested Island Dokdo that is between Korea and Japan in the East Sea. Cheon had visited Dokdo in 2009, where soon after she created this piece to reflect how similar it was to traveling to go off to see the wizard in Wizard of Oz. The trip was longwinded and full of fantasized expectations about finding some answer or evidence of national proof whereas the the island is merely a set of rocks and the landing on low tide was of mere 20 minutes. The anticipation of getting there was far greater than the actual tour, similar to the heightened symbolic meaning and how the place is a unique placeholder for national anxieties between Korea and Japan, that is far greater than the actual physical site.

 

"Do You Know?"

Polipop digital painting. Archival giclee print on 100% cotton canvas. Waterproof, archival quality canvas and UV resistance protection varnish. Each piece is original, print 1 of 1. Canvas stretched on custom wooden frame.

Dokdo, is a contested island that sits
between Korea and Japan, which has been fought over territorially for decades between the two countries. Media often deploys this island to call on nationalism in South Korea and to create anti-sentiments towards the Japanese. The island has great symbolic national meaning while the set of islets are merely a small set enclave of rocks with a circumference of only 5.4 km.

"Kodak Moment at Dokdo"

Polipop digital painting. Archival giclee print on 100% cotton canvas. Waterproof, archival quality canvas and UV resistance protection varnish. Each piece is original, print 1 of 1. Canvas stretched on custom wooden frame.

The artist traveled to Dokdo both physically by boat and virtually by Google Earth. She felt vertigo on both accounts, and seasick. Dokdo, is a contested island that sits between Korea and Japan, which has been fought over territorially for decades between the two countries.  Media often deploys this island to call on nationalism in South Korea and to create anti-sentiments towards the Japanese. The island has great symbolic national meaning while the set of islets are merely a small enclave of rocks with a circumference of only 5.4 km.

"Ways to Travel to Dokdo"

Polipop digital painting. Archival giclee print on 100% cotton canvas. Waterproof, archival quality canvas and UV resistance protection varnish. Each piece is original, print 1 of 1. Canvas stretched on custom wooden frame.

There are many ways to travel to the island Dokdo: by boat, through TV, through online virtual tours, Google Earth, and Second Life. Looking like Mission Impossible, the possible happens when one travels to Dokdo through technology.

 

The Cultural Performance of Dokdo
Between Nation-“ness” and Nation-“less” in Global Media

by Mina Cheon 2012

The territorial issue over Dokdo (Takeshima in Japanese) between Korea and Japan must be considered through the cultural lens since the set of Islets have greater symbolic meaning beyond its actual geographic physicality, making the mere set of rocks a highly contested geo-political space. This Island has become a hot seat of co-national rivalry between Korea and Japan, a placeholder for cultural anxieties between these neighboring countries, as well as being a point of contention between right and left winged political parties of South Korea where opposing views on unification is tossed around with the issues of Dokdo. These multi-layered disputes and complications create various forms of national identity of Dokdo that are constantly reconstructed through media outlets. Played out and shaped by mass media and communication, Dokdo’s cultural capital in global new media culture is banked on how it circulates and propagates an illusive national identity and desire of nation-“ness” amongst people. Such “virtual” aspects tied to physical site however, further confuses the identity of the Island, making the place more susceptible for marketing ploys, and further removing itself from a possible reconciliation of territorial disputes.

As an alternative read on the cultural and symbolic meaning of the Island, the paper explores Dokdo as a performative object and cultural subject. By looking at the island in this particular way, where performance object and cultural subject is related and its relation extrapolated in the paper, we see how the Island’s cultural currency and value exists between the physical and virtual realms, somewhere between the actual site and in our imagination that is influenced by media, marketing, tourism, and political propaganda. The paper addresses the multiple ways of traveling to Dokdo and the postcolonial meaning tied to traveling such as voyage, adventure, recollection, nostalgia, home, and territory. Today, one can visit Dokdo from the actual boat tour to Uleungdo and Dokdo to the various virtual tourism through smart phone Apps, 3D tours on-line, Second Life visitations, or media centered propagandas and promotions, notably the “Do You Know” and “Truth of Dokdo” campaigns, “Dokdo Research Institute,” and the “Cyber Dokdo” site. (1)

The text will be the result of researching Dokdo, instigating its nation-“ness” and nation-“less” identity in contemporary global media times. The work is done through a combined perspective of performance, new media, postcolonial, gender, and psychoanalytic theory, weaved together through the larger rubric of cultural studies. The presentation will reference some past writings done on Dokdo as well as the writer’s artistic projects related to Dokdo as case studies. The panel will facilitate a unique opportunity for Cheon to gather these various materials on Dokdo and present them in a cohesive way questioning the multiple identities of Dokdo today.

Cheon’s research of Dokdo as a performative object and cultural subject was highlighted with her 2009 visitation with the activist group “Ulee Madang” (우리마당). While unaffiliated with the activist group, Cheon writes about this particular group’s effort as the many sponsored “Dokdo Jikimee” (독도지킴이) demonstrations and campaigns that calls for unification and radical means of calling on nationhood. Cheon has written research papers about Dokdo as a cultural object in “Japanimanga and Techno-Orientalism” in ArtUS, and a section titled “Whose Island? Hatred of the Other Exacerbated by Media” in her book Shamanism and Cyberspace, tying in issues of place, territory, image, and imperialism that can be traced to such campaigns. (2)

Moreover, Cheon has dedicated an entire gallery in her mid-career solo art exhibition “Polipop: Political Pop Art” at the Sungkok Art Museum, Seoul, Korea (January 12 – March 11, 2012) and called it the “Dokdo Room.” With the rise of the Asian century, the room looks at the relationships and conflicts between neighboring Asian countries such as South and North Korea, as well as between Korea, Japan, and China. Dokdo is one of the pivotal cases that define the postcolonial relationship between these countries. Filled with a series of large-scaled digital paintings on walls, the exhibition highlights a video installation about Dokdo, its relationship to tourism, media, and the blind zeal for Dokdo by Koreans.

The extended Dokdo Project is currently being developed for a public viewing at an alternative art space called White Box in New York. This project includes the filming of Cheon’s recent visitation to Dokdo in 2012 and the interviewing of one of the two officially registered residents of Dokdo, fisherman Kim Sungdo (김성도), as well as interviews of some of the residences of Uleungdo, the other Island that is economically and cultural reliant on the image and symbol of Dokdo. The panel will also be the platform for sharing some of these interview footages that reveal the intimate conversations and relate them to the cultural potentials and pitfalls of Dokdo as a geo-political contested space. While Dokdo has been territorially disputed over for decades between Korea and Japan, the conflicts that manifests between the two countries dates back to pre-modern Asia where Korea’s geographic locationing between China and Japan has always ignited questions of colonization, territory, and cultural dissemination. In our time of global media culture, the issue of territory is both magnified and diminished at the same time, confusing the relationship between place, identity, culture, meaning, and time.

(1) “Do You Know” and “Truth of Dokdo” campaigns have been promoted by K-pop ballad singer Kim Janghoon and his freelancer media and political guru Seo Kyongduk, and with The Society of East Asia Peace (http://www.truthofdokdo.com/); “Dokdo Research Institute” created by the Northeast Asian History Foundation, educational ministry, Seoul (http://www.dokdohistory.com); and Cyber Dokdo (Dokdo of Korea) website is a promotional Internet site created by the Kyungsanbookdo Dokdo government office (http://www.dokdo.go.kr/).

(2) Mina Cheon, “Japanimanga and Techno-Orientalism,” in Cyber Passage, ArtUS, 24/25 Fall / Winter, 2008, 72-75; Mina Cheon, “Whose Island? Hatred of the Other Exacerbated by Media,” in Shamanism and Cyberspace (New York and Dresden: Atropos Press, 2008), 202-206.