Photography, performance, video project

One day everyone will realize that they have a certain origin beyond their parents and grandparents. When dealing with their own identity, it is also important for many to learn something about their ancestors, their lives and their homeland. The Korean artist Kyungwoo Chun, who lives in Bremen, has taken up this universal topic and implemented it as a photo project with 1,000 participants based on his own origins.

Few people are called 'Chun'. As a child, Kyungwoo Chun was told that his name was derived from the famous Chinese General Chun, who was sent to Korea in 1592 with a battalion of 20,000 soldiers to support the attack by Japanese troops. Chun fought victoriously for Korea and received high honors for it. It remains a mystery why he did not return to China later - at least the then 49-year-old left more offspring in his new home in Korea.

Since the emigrated general even wrote an autobiography during his lifetime, it was not difficult for Kyungwoo Chun to do research on this historically significant personality and to locate the place where he was once born. He learned that 3,000 of his namesakes still live in the remote village near Zhengzhou in central China, which is also called “Chun”.

The name ›Chun‹ is synonymous with the number 1,000 in Chinese. ›Chun Man Li‹, the general's full name, also contains a reference to a long distance and translated means about 1,000 miles. Based on the story of his famous ancestor, who moved abroad with an order or an idea as early as the 16th century, Kyungwoo Chun's recently completed photo project ›Thousands‹ symbolically visualizes many emigrant biographies - including his original ones.

Kyungwoo Chun, whose conceptual work is mainly represented by portraits and photo performances, traveled to the general's former home for the first time in 2006 after extensive research. His plan was to photograph 1,000 people named "Chun" there. With the help of the mayor and the village elders, who immediately accepted the artist as their relatives because of his name, he was able to immerse himself in the history and the family books of the place and arouse the interest of the population. Thanks to their enthusiasm, in spring 2007 he took the first step towards implementing the large-scale project. He set up a makeshift studio at three different locations in the region, where he exposed the volunteer candidates of different ages and genders for one minute each. With the films he traveled back to his adopted home Bremen, where the images were developed, printed and laminated. When they visited China again, the people involved were asked to handwrite their portraits with their names, place and date of birth.

After the planned 1,000 substitutes had been documented in pictures and writing, the bundle was wrapped in red cloths - based on the traditional Chinese lineage books, which are traditionally bound in red silk - in order to cover the first section of the journey from China to Korea by land and sea. From there, the portraits will continue their journey individually as postcards in early 2008. The consignment is sent to Kyungwoo Chun in Bremen.

In 2008 an extensive book documentation of the project was published and the project was shown at several exhibitions. In addition to an installation of the 1,000 Chinese descendants of the general who traveled around the world, these show works that relate to his external appearance. During his stay in China, Kyungwoo Chun also had a reconstruction of the uniform made, so that a series of fictional portraits of the famous namesake was created with the help of the costume.

Claudia Stein
Photography-now, Berlin
January 2008

Thousands, 2007 - 2008
1592 #4
1592 #4, 2007
1592 #5
1592 #5, 2007
1592 #1
1592 #1, 2007
1592 #2
1592 #2, 2007
1592 #3
1592 #3, 2007

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