On this page, JaeWook Lee publishes informal texts about art, philosophy, and science.

Interview with the art work

Nightmare/JaeWook Lee 

JaeWook Lee, Nightmare, single-channel video, 2012

JaeWook Lee, Nightmare, single-channel video, 2012

JaeWook Lee, Nightmare, single-channel video, 2012

JaeWook Lee, Nightmare, single-channel video, 2012


NM- Hi JaeWook, so we are finally ready for the conversation between you and me. The easiest way to start would be to speak about the reason why you made me. 

JW- Well, I gave you a birth because, at that time, I just married to American Landscape. I mean in 2011 I moved to USA from South Korea, after serving the U.S. Army in South Korea. When two things meet, a new thing often emerges. For me, two things are a South Korean and the American landscape. What has emerged is you. And I am an artist. I create. It is natural. 

NM- You named me ‘Nightmare,’ in which you built a projector gun, correct? Can you tell me a bit about myself including explaining what some of the imagery that you are projecting is? 

JW- I actually changed your name from ‘The memory of Korean War’ to ‘Nightmare’ because the word ‘Nightmare’ is more poetic beyond the signification of language. At the same time, the title ‘Nightmare’ is from my own nightmares about the Korean war that I had when I was young.
I created a device called ‘gun-projector‘ where I combined a gun and a projector together. We say ‘shoot’ when we use a gun. We also say ‘shoot’ when we project images. So I was playing with the double meaning of the word ‘shoot.’ I ‘shot‘ the images of the Korean war on moving trains and smoke. The images are bombardments by the U.S. Army during the Korean war. The paradox here is that the U.S. Army destroyed Korea in order to protect Korea. So, I tried to create the postulate of reversibility of what it means to ‘shoot’. 

NM- With your gun-projector, you’ve projected onto moving, or amorphous material such as smoke. How does projecting specifically onto a moving train contribute to your concept of memories of the Korean War? 

JW- Yes. I chose ‘smoke’ and ‘moving trains’ due to their very nature of ephemerality in relation to the concept of memory. A memory is an event of the past, but the memory stays around one’s mind even though it is not out there anymore. Sometimes big social memories like wars stay in people’s minds from generation to another generation, and they affect human behaviors. For me, I was born in 1984 which was almost 30 years after the Korean War. Since two Koreas are still divided, the trauma of the war still exists. I used to dream about this war once a year when I was a teenager, which was scary enough to wake me up during my sleep.

NM- How has this work(me) been received by Korean audiences, and how does that contrast to how Americans perceive this artwork? 

JW- Well, actually I have never shown you in Korea. I can’t say how Korean audiences respond. The U.S. Army’s involvement in the Korean war was a major part of a war that was concealed by the Vietnam war. I came to the States last year, and I met some the U.S. Army veterans who came to Korea during the war. My displacement from Korea to the States and meeting with the elderly veterans re-evokes the social memory of the Korean war. I have never shown this work to Korean audiences. So, it is a meeting between a Korean artist and American audiences. It is also a meeting between the two countries in the video by projecting the images of the Korean War on the American landscape. I am more interested in the third ‘potentiality’ coming out of this meeting of heterogeneous elements. 

NM- You seem very concerned with socio-political subjects. What do you think that your main concerns are as an artist? 

JW- It is about how I position myself as an artist in the larger sense of society. For me, it is still questionable. In other words, I try to constantly re-position myself as someone who incessantly displaces himself from social forms as they begin to congeal and cohere. The socio-political subjects of my art practice might come out of this attitude toward society as a whole. In the art history, Duchamp is one of the artists of this kind. 

Jaewook LeeComment