Sunday, September 28, 2008

Death days and birth days

Tonight we had our annual death rites for my grandfather, who passed away 8 years ago (that was the last time I was in Korea - I saw him when he was in the hospital a few months before he died). Today was also my nephew's 3rd birthday (LSH = Lee Seung Hyun). There was a LOT of family, including more "have I ever seen them before??" relatives. Tons of food. Tons of shrieking children. I got my first massage since I've landed, from my 5-yo nephew. And so on. All in all, it was a packed family day.

I'm feeling really sad. I am not present at all these days, which was one of my goals for being here. But it's too hard! I am especially overwhelmed by the research prospects. There are SO MANY LEADS to follow, with no guaranteed payoff. This project is no joke. I feel like I'm learning how to tame a wild animal that I have never before encountered, and that very few people have tamed in the past.

I also am suffering from overbooking disease, which is when you cram your calendar to the hilt, and then double book on top of that. Tomorrow I may meet a potential roommate. Very weird living situation prospect, but I have to get out of this current situation soon b/c it's taken large chunks of what sanity I had left. I can see why people sometimes just up and leave early, even on Fulbright. And also why independent research is really freaking difficult, especially in a field where people take one look at me and don't think I can make paper b/c I'm a woman. Or b/c I don't look strong enough. Or think I know nothing about making paper!!! This last one I need to work on - I'll ask my tutor tomorrow for help, b/c I am sick and tired of people thinking that I'm just some random person who landed in Korea to check out hanji w/o having done any research or papermaking.

I found out today that one of my aunts knows the hanji enthusiast I've been trying to meet! She had denied my request to visit b/c I was a random stranger calling her home (and she's quite old, recovering from surgery), but now I have a connection! Thank goodness. I also found out that the widow of a hanji maker in the town that I visited yesterday is still alive and well and in the hanji business. So it's nice to know that some leads are still warm. I have tons and tons of legwork to do, and it's getting colder (weather-wise) fast.

I'm definitely in a weird family zone lately. Hopefully some major pieces of my life here will come together very shortly and I can stop posting like a zombie.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Trying to be calm while overwhelmed

So, in that spirit, I'll spare the grisly details of traveling like a maniac and being w/family 24/7 (that, by the way, is NOT over yet ... tomorrow is the day our extended family comes together for my grandfather's death rites, so it's family all the way for a while). I'll come back to the weirdness of today's "quickie" day trip to a small city 2 hours from Seoul for a hanji festival later - still processing that.

I'm pulling a Terttu, but w/not as many photos. I'm going to worry about putting everything on flickr LATER. So these are the selects, for now.

On Jeju Island, these phallic fertility gods are ALL OVER the place. No joke.

This is Dragon Head Rock, a basalt formation from a volcanic lava flow. This is the angle that avoids the hotels along the seaside.

Hiking up to a Buddhist shrine, and all over places on the island, are rocks that people place that they wish on.

You do it w/o knocking down all the ones that came before, obviously.

Drinking mountain spring water at the shrine (all ladles and cups are already there - works in a culture that's not germ-o-phobic).

I loved seeing all of these in all sorts of places. This is in a mountain grotto, surrounded by candles and incense.

These are below, closer to the bottom of the mountain.


A ginormous spider (there were tons, and their webs were a bright yellow, I think. Actually, I can't remember exactly, but they were striking) at the O'Sulloc tea museum, where we had kick-ass green tea ice cream.

FOOD. This place was the closest you'd get to organic, close to the ground eating. I think they grow all their stuff on sight - this is from the Spirited Garden, an amazing site devoted to bonsai trees, known as bunjae in Korea.

Ginseng being ... I don't even know. It was a creepy visit, part Dharma Initiative, part infomercial.

This was the closest we got to the "beach" on the island. This part of the island at this time of year is very dangerous, so we weren't able to get to sea. We skipped the "cruise" tour and instead got our feet wet. Of course, I had to go out a second time and then have waves crash all over me (no place to run: all rocks), which embarrassed my family to no end since I was in a linen dress that of course went see-through.

We watched this dude get up on that big formation and take pictures of himself.

This is at the biggest Buddhist temple in Korea.

This, too, which makes me wonder about what is in my blood. Since I do work like this all the time (the piece is LONG, vertical, and embroidered: labor labor labor labor labor).

Inside the temple.

I love this kind of repetition. Again, making me wonder about my bloodline.

Cheesy hotel pics. We stayed at a REALLY fancy hotel (part of the package), which was a lovely treat. My sis and her husband never had a honeymoon, so this was how we compensated for it.

In Busan, a port city on the southeast shore of Korea, there's a famous seafood market. It was pretty wild.

There were too many people so I could only shoot a few pics. The catch was gorgeous mostly and scary sometimes. Sad, too, like the turtles.

The portrait of the young artist (in a very badly coordinated outfit b/c it was the last day and I had run out of clothes [but thank goodness Pauly sent yoga pants as a gift w/my sister from NYC!!!]) knitting next to a 1995 piece by a famous dead Korean artist (Nam June Paik) in a hotel lobby.

The KTX (high-speed rail) train from Busan to Seoul.

Coming "home" to amazingly amazing "knife noodles" - cut noodles with dumplings in broth. The kimchee at this place was oversaturated w/garlic. I mean, outrageously so. This restaurant only serves this dish, and does it really well.

From the gate that leads into the bonsai garden. I wonder if I will ever have a productive life.

Friday, September 26, 2008

In between roads

I am cooling down from being REALLY angry w/my sister for leaving my camera in her hotel room in Seoul since this means I have to make an extra trip early in the morning to fetch it and then head to another city outside of Seoul for a hanji festival. I am BEAT from the travel, just having gotten back to Seoul today at 1pm and having to leave tomorrow morning. I would love to skip the festival but this is why I'm here, and sometimes research is just painful.

Tonight was hard: I was at a Fulbright intro dinner while my entire family was at a restaurant in another part of town celebrating my sister's marriage (from 2.5 years ago). I tried to get out of the dinner early but was blocked at least 3x, so by the time I was free to go, it was too late. I felt torn all night and it made for a terrible sense of not being present. I'm only here b/c of Fulbright, and wouldn't even have been at the family gathering if I didn't get the Fulbright. But...our family so rarely comes together like this. I guess, mostly never. It was hard - two of the junior researchers were like, go! Esther was like, LEAVE, NOW, and Frank was like, I come from a family that always says family first. Whew. Maybe I should just be happy to have avoided more "why aren't you married? You're the oldest!" commentary. It's amazing to me that my choice to be single is so incredibly offensive and bewildering to so many people here.

I have no pictures b/c my camera is trapped in a hotel room. But soon! I'm so overbooked I can barely stand it. Plus, it's like COLD autumn suddenly in Seoul. Good news: I got a haircut today! More on that phenomenon when I get back into town.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Off and away

I try so hard to keep my family out of the spotlight, especially when they are unsuspecting toddlers, but I have no pictures left and am wrecked from another night of insomnia. So here is my cousin's wife and daughter on the holiday. Marian got her website up and running; looks great! [she's an Obie - I advised her pre-grad school and now she's gearing up to finish her MFA.] I have one more composition to write and a reading/summary to do for next week's Korean tutoring session, then I can shower and pack. Come 6am, I'll be on my way out! I am going to try REALLY HARD to stay offline until ... well, we'll see how long I can hold out.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Back to the future

I did it! I finished my to do list!!!! I know this is a terrible pattern to reinforce and encourage, but it feels great (yoga and showering helps). I also think I'm turning Korean b/c there's a drama that I watch on the weekends w/my aunt, and tonight I was totally crying by the end. I've backed up my computer but realized it's too full, so I'm cleaning house and finding amazing, hilarious, embarrassing (like this performance), wonderful things. Some things never change. Four years ago, I said, "I want to crawl into bed all the time and sleep" and "I want to be on a real vacation with a real beach, clean, and no one I know".

The invasion has begun!!!

My leaves have gone public!! Courtesy of Elizabeth and the whole crew in Morelia. Identidades.04 has begun!

Meanwhile, I have sealed up my 2nd subscription and they will go to post tomorrow. Along w/a couple other mail art goodies to two different continents. Now that I've finished those am in the middle of a second load of laundry, and have finished my Korean homework, I just need to apply for one more grant and then I will feel caught up enough to fully enjoy my family vacation in a couple of days. Can't wait! Can't wait to be unshackled from my computer, and to get out of Seoul.

Yesterday I had two 4-hour sessions w/Koreans born in 1979. That's a lot of Korean practice and catching up on Korean culture. But it was great to meet a fellow artist who works in a craft medium and gets the whole being an artist, being an artist who uses her hands, having a weird schedule, choosing not to be married, choosing not to date life. Seyeon is working on a fantastic piece now, which looks like a cathedral sitting in a teacup, about 2.5 feet high. Very sad I didn't have my camera on me.

Friday, September 19, 2008


[My great uncle's ashes are in one of these drawers but I have no idea which one. It's not even labeled.] I have been so distracted by the current state of affairs back in the US that I forgot that I had a blog. I had horrible nightmares last night: I was in a class that Obama was teaching. I asked, "what if you don't win?" and he was very calm about it, as were all of the other students, who were all men. I then put my hands to my face and started crying, first just my body heaving, and then it all came out and I was practically screaming. No one seemed to understand why I was so shook up. Later, Obama's oldest daughter came to him with her birth certificate and asked why she had "Lazarus" as a middle name (amongst a few other middle names), and if he had wanted a son instead of a daughter.

It must have come from dinner and ice cream last night with Kelsey, who believes that the racists and idiots are the majority of the country, and that McCain will win. We also talked about our complete lack of faith in people. I mean, in people being able to do good rather than evil. She, a sociologist, and I, an artist, both think that people, given the opportunity to lie, cheat, and steal, will do those things. We both feel that the greatest shared human endeavor that we could participate in now is the complete eradication of our species. But since that's not going to happen, I need a new coping mechanism. Obviously, I've failed in the whole not reading the news business.

On the bright side, my written Korean is getting better! People keep touching my knitting on the subway w/o asking me and some student ran past me and pulled all my stitches off my needle, but at least the skein is getting smaller! Knitting thread takes much longer than paper. Today, I'm going to meet Lori's friend's daughter-in-law's sister, who is a ceramicist.

I also recommend listening to Josh Ritter's "Girl in the War."

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Shifting the spotlight

I'm getting sick again. As usual, from overwork. So, unless you want to hear about how I was on a bus today and it hit something (thank goodness it wasn't a person), follow these links!

1. Don has been putting together lots of sound and visuals on his and Rebecca's website. I met them in Mexico last summer - he is a percussionist and composer, she is a dancer and choreographer who just started teaching at Purdue this year. She's the best non-licensed bodyworker ever, and they are both amazing novice bookbinders.

2. Kathy, a pianist in Chicago, has started a new website to bring the creative community together.

3. Terttu, an Estonian-born, Chicago-based photographer, has FINALLY updated her blog w/the longest post ever, almost all pictures. I miss her like crazy.

I think that is part of my exhaustion, too, just constantly trying to keep up w/my friends in far-off time zones. Also, to indicate how worn down I really am, I actually referred to the Bible today while talking to a book arts class. In a really weird way. Even as it was rolling out of my mouth, I was thinking, "what the hell are you saying, crazy woman??" I'm counting the days until I get to fly off to an island . . . five days left!!

Wednesday, September 17, 2008


[Asia One, a b girl.] I am run a little ragged after staying up until 2am doing I don't even remember on my computer. I think it was a lot of belated updates on my website. I've been having to reformat lots of my docs to fit A4 paper to print here. But I'm close to done w/another app, which means two more and I'm done for the rest of the month. Today in class, my tutor said that I come across as too nice b/c I speak to slowly in Korean. But it's not even that - I speak quickly in English but still come across as a doormat!! We talked today about how I need to learn to say no. I am getting into a lot of trouble b/c of this, and always have. But it's funny that she mentioned the speed thing. It reminds me of when I was learning how to dance and my teacher said I had all the moves but had to do them FASTER. So that'll be my new thing.

The upside to today's failure to shore up my boundaries: I was knitting on the subway again on my way home, and got a LOT of attention. Usually a few older women will take notice and ask what I'm doing, I say I'm making a piece, and that's that. But today two women made me come over and show them what I was doing and they were like, "WHY are you only purling?? You need to knit!" I tried to explain to them that I only purl now since I'm a paper knitter so that's my habit. Knitting pulls the paper too tight. Besides, it's easier to do all the work in the front. Then, they kept trying to get me a seat by being on the lookout for people who were getting off the train. Once I sat down, the woman to my left asked me what I was doing and then the man on my right asked what kind of thread I was using (ramie) and so on.

Finally, a woman actually got up from her seat to sit next to me and ask what I was doing. So the whole story came out and she was really impressed that I'm here to study hanji, that I can speak Korean, and that I make such lovely work. It was nice, too, b/c she asked where I was staying and I told her about all the pressure from my uncle to get married, and she said, "it's not like you CAN'T, you're just choosing not to since you have your own work to do!" She was very supportive. I think I'm getting the attention more so now that the piece is getting longer and more conspicuous.

Oh, my word ruler is in another show in Denver at Abecedarian Gallery. Tomorrow is the last big obligation that I have, which makes my horoscope even more apt: "You come on stage to greet an adoring audience, do a riveting song and dance, then announce that you won't be doing any more shows for a while because you're about to go off and get busy on creating your next big splash."

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

My triceps are sore

Agh. This holiday shortened week is making my life a little harder than I'd like. My tutoring was pushed to today, which means I have tons of homework tonight to do before I go back tomorrow for another session, but ALL of it is really hard! I had to get another review of negations (I keep mixing up things like "I am not" and "I don't have") and learned passive voice, which is killer and completely unintuitive. I hate learning grammar that I don't even like to use. Passive voice sucks.

BUT, on my way to the post office today to mail my absentee ballot request and another residency app, I realized that I am being too much of a perfectionist about learning Korean. I'm American, so of COURSE my Korean is going to be a little off. So why do I keep beating myself up about speaking like a Korean American, if that is who I am?? I started to realize this last night while out w/Julie (we walked thru a couple of trendy neighborhoods after seeing a traditional performance at a big palace and having really good noodles): I don't expect her, a Korean-born Korean who studied English in classroom settings and spent 6 months in NYC, to speak flawless American English. And no one else in Korea seems to expect me to speak flawless Korean Korean. So why do I think I have to live up to an unreasonable standard?

This started to unravel when Julie asked me how to say in English that something is really close. The saying in Korean is something akin to, "it's right in front of my nose" (I had apologized for walking to one bus stop and then realizing I had to go to a different one down the street). I couldn't think of anything similar in English, and then thought about what I would have said if I was here. Which would have been something like, "no worries, it's like 2 secs away." And then I thought, why do I even talk like that? And it all started to unroll back into history as I tried to explain to her in Korean how people create their own very particular ways of speaking and communicating as a very direct reflection of their own identity, or the identity that they wish to assume.

She asked, "why not one second?" and I said, "I guess at some point in my life, I decided that everything would be TWO indicate how impatient I am, but to temper it just a wee bit." I explained the same thing in relation to handwriting, about the different phases we go through while learning to write and creating our own penmanship style. Beyond the hearts that girls often used to dot their i's and j's, I remember being very deliberate about how I practiced my letters, seeing examples of how I wanted my writing to look in my teachers' notes, or later on, in letters from men that I dated, or friends that I admired. I used to never understand why teachers sometimes wrote in chicken scratch. But now I get it, and love that I can scrawl things that are only legible to me (and sometimes, not even!).

Sunday, September 14, 2008


Making Hanji from Aimee Lee on Vimeo.

Okay, does this work? My web designer suggested that I try Vimeo, so I've set up an account.

Also, I've already done the unthinkable: an hour of Kundalini yoga at noon today, and an hour of running/walking around the lake tonight.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Slow recovery

This is the view from the very top of the grave site we visited yesterday. There's a mausoleum-type structure behind me where the ashes are kept of various people. The most depressing part of this picture is the high-rise apts in the back. There's a highway that cuts through, as well, so we heard cars the whole time there. My family was forced to sell the land they owned there to the govt so they could build that road. I went 11 years ago to this site when my grandfather was still alive, to visit my grandmother's grave site, and it was totally different. Very rural, and it took a while to hike there.

This is part of my grandfather's site. I found it apt that the monument is a huge book.

This is the back of his headstone, where it lists his family. Try to find my name! Oh, wait. That only works if you know 1. my Korean name and 2. Chinese characters. It's not near the top, though, since all the men in the family are listed before the women.

Yesterday was a loooong day, but good. I love how people just know how the tradition works here and everyone falls into place. So you know what food to prepare, what to do when you get there, and then have a good time picnicking. I thought it was going to just be my grandfather's son's families (since two of them, including my dad, are in the US, that makes just two families), but my great-uncle's (one of the youngest of my grandfather's brothers) family also came, which added about five more. I didn't know any of them.

It was like the twilight zone, seeing people who have all existed while we have, in a similar formation - my grandfather had 5 kids, and this one, too. Parallel universes in the same universe! The other interesting thing is that there seem to be a bunch of art people in that branch of the family. Either it's all from people who married in, or maybe our ancestors further back had a little bit of it in their genes. Since people in my family always think my sister and I are the weirdos since we're not doctors or working for huge corporations.

When we got home in the afternoon, the men took turns taking naps while we sat and made the traditional rice cake dumplings, and then had dinner. This morning, I played w/my niece and a long piece of pink string. It is fascinating how exciting a piece of string can be to children. Which reminds me: I had a traumatic dream about moving into a shared studio space (at least 25 people in a huge warehouse) with a kitten and smokers. I ended up in a huge, huge fight w/another artist and then they all schemed to kick me out. The hilarious part of it was that it was actually a school, and that school was...SAIC! So weird, b/c I'd think that it would have been Columbia (my alma mater).

Friday, September 12, 2008

Everything feels better

All the panels for my next subscription piece are knitted. Now I just have to make the accompanying zine, which means navigating a scanner in Korean. Yikes! The good news is that I love knitting on the subways here, since they move so smoothly that you can stand w/o holding onto anything for dear life (I'm going to be bummed when I get back to NYC), and my muscle spasm has calmed down.

I just connected w/Dan from The Arm, a letterpress studio and more in Brooklyn - he was the one who refurbished (more like, brought back from the dead!) my boss' old Vandercook that had lived outdoors for months thru winter and spring and construction. Look at the before & after shot!! A beauty.

Beatrice just finished installing yet another public art piece, this one in Arizona.

I had another fun session w/my tutor today. There is SO MUCH to correct. But I'm have to work on it so that I don't sound like someone who was born in Korea in the 1930s. After a brief meeting with Na Rae and Keith Smith for iced tea and a book art exhibit, I ran off to my language exchange. We walked from a really crowded hood to Ewha, and walked around campus. After getting bitten by mosquitoes while sitting on newspapers (on park benches), we walked back out to get some Italian food. He's the perfect person to do language exchange with b/c he's not afraid to speak English (he's quite good), and corrects my Korean while encouraging me to make mistakes so I can really learn. He's traveled all over the world, and is married, which rocks. I prefer that b/c it eliminates the tension that I have already had to deal with when hanging out w/unmarried men here.

Time for bed - tomorrow morning we go to my grandparents' graves to tend to them, have lunch, and then come back for family dinner. It's the big huge holiday here. Some people relate it to Thanksgiving. I'd say, delete the pilgrims and natives, but keep the overeating. I really have no idea, since I've never been in Korea for Chuseok before. But it will be nice to hang with family.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Up and down and all around

[Jeong-In's studio, which I still need to talk about! But I want to wait until I see her again and get my head on straight.] I was just mad for a few hours at someone I've only known for a few weeks but my brother-in-law Skyped me and now I've calmed down. I met Richard, Ellie's and David's friend, who is teaching music composition at Hanyang University - I crashed his birthday dinner tonight. It was really nice: his students and colleagues are great, so I can see why he likes being here and enjoys his job.

Before dinner, I caught the first part of Keith Smith's lecture on book arts at Hongik University. I was glad to have to leave early b/c it made me feel too much like a student again, in a bad way. Speaking of Americans, I need to get a witness for my absentee ballot request and then I can mail it. Even though no one is going to count my vote. I'm going to say now that I am trying hard not to read the news anymore b/c it is SO DEPRESSING AND ENRAGING and I can't deal with feeling that helpless on top of it all. My theory now is that it's all about the numbers. If you're not with us, you're against us. Screw the swing voters - if you haven't figured it out by now, then you may never. I want to come back to a country that doesn't operate like a beauty pageant!! Oh, and on top of the helplessness, more bad news about the Orphan Works Bill. Maybe I'll follow my sister and husband to Europe if they flee the country. No, I can't do that. That's the way it gets worse.

One side of my mouth is done and I have a new mouthguard and it makes me feel like a football player. The GOOD news in all my chaos is 1. I have knitted almost all of the knitting I have to do for my next subscription piece and 2. a Denver gallery has sold one of my books! Wohoo! 3. I finally have a video to show from my visit to that papermaker down south! I shot and edited it all by my lonesome, and have never used iMovie before, so be gentle on the criticism. It's on my website, here.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

"You should exercise"

1. identidades.04 is on! Once I know when my invasion begins, you'll hear all about it.

2. Going to bed early sucks if you end up tossing and turning for four hours and then getting up to do your composition homework (though at least the insomnia gave me something to write about. I titled my piece, "Stress Disease").

3. Even though I know that exercise is crucial for my health and sanity, it's not going to happen anytime soon. My language exchange partner was trying to get me to do it but I'm not budging. This has been a lifelong struggle, so why stop the struggle now?

4. I'm experiencing good karma on the transit system lately. Maybe this is what happens after you get felt up inappropriately by a stranger. Knitting ramie thread also helps - wins BIG points w/the older women who are curious and happy to see a young person who knits.

5. Still a BIG fan of my tutor. She's exactly what I need - she yells at me a lot, but in a really fun way, and picks up my mistakes and bad habits lighting fast. ALSO, she has been reflecting the person that I really am, which is to say that there is no way that I could NOT be an artist, based on my personality and behavior. To think that I wanted to be a CPA in 7th grade!

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

In the spirit of not being myself

I can't remember who said it, but I need to just do it: "work smart, not hard." So, to keep it short:
1. Tina, an NYC poet, just updated her site.
2. I had a very good first tutoring session today.
3. My upper back has spazzed out again, which means: overworked, out of shape, low on mag! I swear I'll go to bed early tonight.

Monday, September 08, 2008

Maybe now just "she is crazy"

Today I went w/NaRae to Heyri Art Village, which is way out past the suburbs, where lots of artists live and there are insane numbers of beautiful galleries. Like an architect's dream, all of them. On the way, we stopped in Paju Book City (a publishing town) and visited a letterpress shop. That was really nice. It's been interesting to note how I feel when I go to places that invoke nostalgia for any number of different places. Too bad it's all so far away from the city.

Both of those places reminded me of IKEA. Or maybe just America: lots of space, numbered and lettered parking lots/entrances, lots of space to park.

It was quiet b/c it was Monday so we didn't get to see much since galleries close on Mondays. We went to the Book House for a while, and then met the gallery owner of Art Factory. I ended up sitting there feeling like I was going to pass out/fall asleep, when suddenly I felt like I was going to throw up. I ran to the toilet and staved it off for a while, but later had to run back for reals. AGH. Not really great when you're trying to negotiate whether or not you want to exhibit at a gallery in the spring. Right now, of course, I'm not feeling doing anything at all.

Oh, and the pictures.

Sunday, September 07, 2008

"She is crazy and fun and interesting and busy, all at the same time!"

Carol of Warwick Press said that after looking at my website. I found it all too apt and hilarious. Today's big excursion was a trip to Bukaksan, a big mountain that used to anchor a huge fortress wall that surrounded Seoul, which was a walled city (go figure! No wonder I am so crazy about walls. I esp like the way they built them here w/the HUGE bricks that have tiny corners carved out to fit - they're all different shapes). This wall didn't work very well in warding off invaders, though. Only a little bit is left, the rest being eaten by war, the Japanese occupation, and contemporary life (like train lines). A photographer took me up and down and my half of the apple he cracked had a worm in it. My first worm in an apple, ever!

We saw a tree w/bullet holes when people tried to assassinate the prez about 30 years ago, and lots of people my parents' age - young people don't hike on the weekends b/c they're recovering from their insane jobs. I had that same feeling of death as I did last year when I started treadmilling and thought my heart was going to explode. So, as hot and sweaty as it was, it was at least a much-needed workout. I learned lots of hilarious things about current Korean culture while walking an historic site. And then was horrified as we walked thru the gate that single women visit so that they can get married soon.

We went to a really great dumpling place for lunch and then walked to the Whanki Museum, but didn't go in. Then we walked thru official grounds around the Blue House (the Korean version of the White House in D.C.) - security kept asking us where we were going. I saw the photog's studio site. It's still being built, below an existing structure in a tiny corner in a really quiet hood near a newly trendy gallery district.

Oh, here are the pics from last Thursday's gallery hopping.

I think that I am trying to live about five different people's lives at once, which leads to massive burnout:

1. artist
2. admin assistant
3. researcher
4. language student
5. hypochondriac

Also, I clearly WANT too many things, and am too attached to things, like the idea of being five different people at once, which leads to suffering. I think that in my lifelong pursuit of being non-materialistic, I have become excessively covetous of non-material things! The backfiring is intense.

Saturday, September 06, 2008

In just about two minutes

my second wind will come to an end. I don't know where it came from. After the end of classes on Friday, I hiked up to my cousin's neighborhood and searched for fruit. I almost gave up and then found one vendor but the apples I got weren't any good. The rest of Friday and Saturday morning were devoted to housecleaning and babysitting. SERIOUS LEGO ACTION. I put together a huge plane for my nephew. It takes me back - I used to be a lego fanatic as a child, but only in putting it together exactly the way they told me to. It makes me wonder, then, why I'm so bad at putting together IKEA furniture w/o making mistakes all the time.

I had a momentary moment of wanting to move to the boonies in Korea and not speaking to anyone but just making art. There is a big glitch now in my solo exhibition schedule next fall so that makes me a little nervous (three overlapping shows means three bodies of work. And I work hard, but can I work THAT hard???). I started the major dental work today that will wipe out almost half of my savings. AND had the dreaded "drilling w/o novocaine," which was pretty terrifying and definitely hit several nerves several times or more. Not a fan of that method.

But I had a really fun time w/Julie, a family friend, and I tried to explain the differences b/t distribute, attribute, and tribute. Yikes, that was hard. Then I had to do major time killing in a bookstore but it was SO NICE to get lost in the tiny selection of fiction in English. I re-read some Womman Warrior, which was nice, and a few other things. I think reading more regularly would go a LONG way towards salvaging some sanity.

Then I met a new language exchange partner for dinner and tea. He's really good at it, but I wonder if I'll just feel bad meeting him every week b/c he has SO MUCH on his plate but he juggles it all so well! A job that sends him to Latin/South America a lot, learning Spanish, being married, weightlifting, and who even knows what else. Not a good influence on me if I'm going to make a dent in my own overtaxed schedule.

So much for my weekend; I have to get up early tomorrow to meet a photog to go I don't even know where but it requires comfortable shoes (I vaguely heard "3 hours of walking) and my passport. WHERE AM I GOING? For now, to bed.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Art dinner

A view from the rooftop of the Gana Art Gallery, in the mountains of northern Seoul. There was a huge ridiculous buffet w/lobster and carved pork and grilled sweet potatoes and lychees still in their shells. The exhibit here, "the bridge," was quite good and sometimes very good. They paired artists - established with emerging - and they made work that dialogued with each other. Some pairs worked remarkably well together. I went with Hyejin, who was a classmate from grad school who is now back in Seoul after graduating this past spring. She thought it was funny to talk to me in Korean since we've only ever spoken in English. The dress code was to wear something red and I lucked out b/c of the red in my dress and shoes. There was a red carpet and all and they made me get my photo taken w/some big artist who is a friend of Hyejin's uncle. Total randomness.

Part of a huge exhibit up for a week showing the work of SUJAK, a book arts collective. NaRae took me there, and we stopped at an art supply store (all in Insadong), where we then met Hyejin.

Before we drove to the big show, we stopped by a printmaker's studio/gallery, which was also nice to see. He carves stone. Hardcore!

Today was our final class get together even though we have one class left. Audrey leaves Saturday morning to get back to her last year at Harvard, so she won't come to school tomorrow. I'm sad to see her go! It marks the end of summer and of summer school, but also of a more predictable, structured life. I had a big idea for an installation piece this a.m. while dozing on the bus but then forgot half of it once I got near pencil and paper.

I got an email today from Shawn, and it made me homesick. We've never gone for more than a few months w/o seeing each other, so it will be sad to be away for this long. I should revise my first statement: hearing from him made me homesick for a past that is long gone. When I lived by myself, loved my job, and was in a position of power in a really big arts community. Funny that I should be homesick for the days in an OFFICE. But Shawn was the best co-worker ever, so mostly I miss his head popping up from across our cubes, watching the river from our windows, complaining about crazy artists, and bickering like long-married spouses. Those will always be my "good old days."

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

It's almost over

Two more days of class!!!!! And then onto another uncertain chunk of time here, but one with half the contact hours for language study. Wohoo! I got my library card today w/JL so now I have borrowing privileges at Yonsei. That is a big relief. The guy who processed it was super nice and said that I spoke Korean really well and that it was wonderful that I could do that as well as speak fluent English. It was nice to hear that; kind of exactly what I needed right now.

I've been corresponding with Velma Bolyard, who found me online. We started out talking about shifu and knitting since we're both papermakers who love working with it as a textile and love knitting. It has been really nice to have that outlet to just talk about my work, and my thoughts around it, and all the other stuff that comes up in those discussions. She lives on a farm, and we all know how much I love farms. It's also funny to see who comes up in your life and at what moments. I know that it's really hard to have instincts about people who you only meet online, but I feel like she's a good, true soul, and that having this communication won't harm me. Which is really needed in a time where I am feeling wary of people that I meet, not sure of what motives and agendas are waiting to snag me and reel me in.

So, in the usual spirit of being too tired, I'm going to cheat and end with part of the latest email I just sent to Velma, edited a little for all y'all:
Today on the bus home I was thinking about how art and science fit together. I got offered a science scholarship to University of Rochester when I was in high school and I turned it down but thought it was ridiculous that they even offered it to me b/c I was NOT a science person. I did well in all my classes, but I wasn't passionate about it. However, there are aspects of science both in topics and in techniques that I really love. But our educational system doesn't let us just pick and choose the things we like in each subject and combine them. They expect you to embrace ONE thing and just go for broke.

I was thinking, there is SO much experimenting that goes into making my art, which seems more obvious once I started papermaking since it involves so much science in the first place. But also, the whole process of figuring out how one ink will print w/one press on one piece of paper that has been pulled and spun and knit in one way, versus the same thing while just changing one variable and then the next...turns into endless permutations! Which at first seems horrid to me b/c I fear there will be no end to the experimenting - "when do I get to the ART?" - but in the end I guess that IS the art. And that is the way I need to make it: a structure within which to play, a freedom within parameters.

You can easily compare artistic breakthroughs w/scientific ones like penicillin: all serendipity! All random mistakes coming out of lots of labor. But those gems only come when you turn your back for a moment, let down your guard, or take a break.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

The subtitle suck

At first, I thought, HOW can anyone tolerate video editing??! What a nightmare! But after spending so much time on this papermaking documentary-of-sorts, I now see how easy it is to get sucked into perfecting a 3-second clip. I'm having a lot of trouble w/fonts and sizes and colors, and it doesn't help that all the things I've read online contradict each other. I think I'm going to use yellow for the subtitles b/c it seems to help those w/astigmatism and it does pop better even if it's ugly. I think all of the video cutting is done; it's just getting all the text to look the same (and be legible at low res) and then I'll finally be able to upload it. It's a month later than my internal deadline, but I should accept by now that all of my internal deadlines are unreasonable.

Can't wait until this is over! But am excited about my first little movie; it will be nice to put it out into the world. I won't say when, b/c it will undoubtedly be an unreasonable date.

Monday, September 01, 2008

These days

[Another shot from Jeong-In's studio.]

I'm already so over the Fulbright b/c of the red tape nightmare, so I'm hoping that tomorrow will be my last visit to the office for a while, when I pick up my business cards (and possibly run into four incoming grantees who have just flown in). I'm really hoping that everything comes through on the NYC end so that I can start my private tutoring next week. I REALLY would like to get some useful Korean language instruction that actually helps me get better instead scolding me for not learning the word for crosswalk.

Tests are over! Four more days of class and then NO MORE SCHOOL. I keep saying that, and then I keep ending up in classes (the last time was 2+ years ago after grad school). But I am determined never to have classes M-F, four hours a day, ever again.

It's been pouring rain all day. I finished the major editing of the papermaking video from last month. Hopefully I'll get back on the paper trail soon so I can remember why I even came here in the first place. I also am thinking that I'd like to get back to printing on knit paper. Jeong-In goes to a studio that costs about $30/day to use. I think it would be nice to get back into printmaking.

I have a "to call" list that is severely backlogged. But I swear I'll make the calls tomorrow (yes, I say that every day). Yesterday I made a few mail art pieces and mailed them today; it felt good to do some work and even make a little book that I think will turn into my next subscription installment. I think that video chatting w/Ellie yesterday helped a lot. Today while getting all wet in the rain, I was feeling sad about how I can't trust people here (in all walks of life, mostly professional!), and thought, "well, who CAN I trust?" And I thought of Ellie and all of my other friends who don't think, "how can we use and abuse Aimee?" or "what can I get out of her?" And that was a relief to know that there are people that I can trust in my life, even if they are far away. Even in my soaked socks and shoes.