Yeondoo Jung

The Creators Project: Can you tell us about your first gallery exhibition? Many people thought it was rather memorable.

Yeondoo Jung : The first gallery show I had in Seoul was in 1999 and was called the Gracelands Palace. It was a performance featuring an Elvis Presley impersonator in a Chinese restaurant. This was somewhat based on an actual Chinese restaurant named Graceland Palace in London. In that restaurant, a guy named Elvis Chen comes out to perform every Friday night dressed as Elvis. The funny part of it is that he doesn’t sing in an admirable American accent but rather in his Chinese accent.

Did you want to become an artist when you were younger or did you experience a calling later in life?

I couldn’t even dream of being an artist when I was young, but when I suddenly told my parents that I wanted to go to an art school, my father threw a crystal ashtray at me. If I was hit with that I wouldn’t have been able to attend art school, but I was able to dodge it, and I ended up going. (laughs) Actually, I think my father influenced me to become an artist. He was a pharmacist, and he worked with both Western and Eastern medicine. He basically created new medicines using both areas, and he mixed the two together successfully, which was inspiring.

Your work seems to focus on a space between dreams and reality -- a subconscious netherworld. Do you see it like that?

People nowadays live in a fantasy world. They communicate on Facebook as if things happened in real life, laugh and cry when a character in a movie laughs or cries, and talk about that character as if he or she is a close friend. In a way, the idea of what’s real and what’s not real has become meaningless.

Wonderland is a piece of yours that’s exemplary of this type of thinking. How did it come to fruition?

Wonderland is a project that is based on drawings from kindergarteners. Over time, I collected about 1,200 drawings. Let’s say a child drew one side of a shirtsleeve really large and the other side really small. I would take that drawing to a fashion designer and ask him, “How would this come out if we actually made this?” And he would reply, “Hmmm, that would be very avant-garde…” So then we decided to make it. If you see drawings from children, you can see that they lack dimension, color, texture, and gravity -- the things that define reality. A picture is a very realistic thing, so the project was to focus on the gap between the two -- unrealistic matter within a material designed to show reality.

Do you feel like you’re some sort of illusionist? Many of the things you create seem to possess that quality.

I think movie directors like James Cameron are illusionists. Through those kinds of perfectly created illusions, people in our current society accept illusions very naturally. Things that could never be reenacted in the past are now commonly seen in 3D movie theatres. In these times, I don’t think that the things I create are considerable enough to be called illusions. No matter the high technology I use to create my artworks, technology will always be a tool to use behind the scenes for me. I believe that my art aims to remind people what reality really is. So, I think I actually play the role of an anti-illusionist.