- PARK Youngsook and Arario Gallery will donate a portion of the proceeds made from each sale to the "Vision & Justice Book Project"
As one of Korea's most important first-generation women photographers, PARK Youngsook has played a major role in the Korean feminist movement. Through portrait photography, the artist aims to reestablish the notion of womanhood, which has often been a target of subversive exclusion in society. Arario Gallery presents an overview of PARK’s practice, illustrating the artist’s enduring passion for bettering human rights as both a woman and an activist.
All quoted text below has been extracted from PARK Youngsook's artist statement
PARK YoungsookImprisoned Body, Wandering Spirit #1, 2002
"The everyday space occupied by women, that daily living space by its virtue is considered ordinary. But that everyday space is far from being ordinary.
For women, certain parts of their daily life are tedious, terrifying and horrible.
They feel that their daily life is oppressing, exploiting, and isolating.
It is not certain what is the very thing that makes them feel this way; nevertheless, they feel it instinctively.
There are times when they want to reject, avoid, and ignore that very situation. And they did.
No, for too long they have endured; for too long they have tolerated; for too long they have forgiven.
But one day…
She could not endure anymore and attempted an escape.
Just for an instant, faraway, in the abyss…
And she chooses space and time that belongs only to her.
That chosen space and time is the “Space and Time of Mad Women.”
That space and time is transformed into “image space,” barring anyone from entering.
There she feels warm, soft, snug, and secluded.
She is immersed in the situation.
She has absolutely no desire to wake up.
There numerous layers of memories are stacked up and numerous stories entangled.
The memories and stories are at once sad and beautiful.
There she stays for a brief…no, for a long moment.
Why are you doing this? What are you doing? Are you crazy? You are mad, aren’t you?
Everyone is at a loss.
Yes. She is crying silently, bearing deep in her heart the layers of memories and entangled stories.
As she strikes down at the fish on the cutting board, as she sits on the bed next to window with dripping sunlight, as she gazes at herself in the mirror, as she waters the plants, as she drenches herself with water in the shower, for a moment the women are locked in that situation. IT IS COMFORTING.
An instant, a moment, that situation.
Spurred by that space and time, the woman becomes one with That Space. That Time. Unknowingly.
I snatch away all those things that lead to madness.
Because the women who went mad about the situation is “I” and “We”…
At that instant, the numerous layers of memories stacked in that space and time, the layers of stories, the very “stories of the memories” are staring back at us now."
PARK YoungsookMad Women's #1, 1999
"We. women, have suppressed ourselves.
A culture, institution, and ethic have forced us to modify our identities. This is our 'good girl complex'. But there is a whisper coming from women's deep inside; it says, "This is not me".
My heart breaks.
My body cries out in pain
Old thought are uprooted.
At last, we can discard our 'good girl complex for 'madness'.
People call us 'Mad Women'.
Only then do we realize that we had been seized by wrong thoughts.
We are liberated."
PARK YoungsookSexuality is Lost for Women #1, 2001
"Sexuality is sexuality per se. And so it should be.
But that sexuality is grossly distorted.
I'm startled that the very sexuality is a socially constructed
What is worse? When talking about "female sexuality," it is constructed
in a male-centered way. This shocks me even more.
Its ghastliness. Its gravity.
It is such a reality that I want to talk about.
So that invisible sexuality, women's sexuality in particular no,
about sexuality that women must know that sexuality is what I want to talk about.
Sexuality is lost for women.
No. It is oppressed.
No. Perhaps it exists only as a fantasy.
Or it may be just an illusion.
Or something offensive.
She accepted marriage as a fantasy. But that fantasy was shattered on the wedding night. After just one night with the rich older man, she knew that everything was just an illusion. Her parents made sure that she did not learn about sexuality. It was forbidden. It would just get in her way of becoming a successful musician. They told her. Selling her body was share itself. She had no self. How could there be sexuality for her?
The women can neither go mad nor become mad. Abandoned, discarded, isolated, these women have lost themselves."
PARK YoungsookA Flower Shakes Her #1, 2005
""If earth is not mad"
If earth is not mad,
How can it bloom flower.
The madness rising from woman's body
Is flower rising from her body
Madness bloom flower
This is the most beautiful birth
Opening of soul
Hidden, oppressed under Earth
That is opening of flower
If woman is not mad,
How can she sing and dance
That woman sings and dances
That flower is blooming
From the madness of the Earth"
PARK YoungsookA Flower Shakes Her #5, 2005
"Every flower has its legend.
But the story flowers have is sad.
A western flower, 'myosotis' is a 'forget-me-not'.
The name of a 'forget-me-not' derived from the story;
Loved one died and a woman missing him kept the flower for her entire life.
In Korea, there is a legend of a 'forget-me-not', too.
A brother and a sister went out to find medicinal herbs for her sick mother.
However, the sister had an accident to death on a cliff and a flower on the spot didn't fall of after summer.
It made the flower to call a 'forget-me-not'.
Moreover, there is a story about a kind of 'Rose Cowwheat';
One soul with deep sorrow was reborn to a flower.
A woman ate two pieces of fallen rice on the ground for a sacrificial day and then, her mother-in-law saw it and severly smashed her for 'sacrifical rice.' She died there and her soul went up to heaven. She became a kind of 'Rose Cowwheat'.
These sad legends made me to think what kind of suppressions the women had.
Why do all flower language have to be sad?
Generally flowers are compared to women. Weak. Said flowers made someone else happy...
I am uncomfortable the culture dealing flowers and women to a certain comparison structure.
I wanted to turn over the concept of flowers.
I thought I have to transform the concept of flowers newly.
These thoughts are the work 'Flowers Shake Her'."
PARK YoungsookWOMAD-Goddess of Mother Earth and Fertility, 2004
"What is a "WOMAD"?
One day, an article from the Women's News caught my eyes. The article introduced a book, "WOMAD, a new code of women's age" written by Kim, Jong-Rye, an economist from Samsung Economic Research Institute. There was a new logic which suggests the alternative economic concept for the 21st century. I got a hint there.
I affirmed a "nomad" and his lifestyle fit for the very 21st living and its economic structure. First, the nomads travel from place to place rather than living in one place all the time and roam around whole world and venture into the unknown and survive anywhere. Second, women's wedding leads to her new and strange life tuned in to her unfamiliar married world and they all learned to survive from her own wilderness.
I catched a point between the nomads' life and its nature and women's. Also I could read off a worldwide economic structure multinationalized and that gives way their own national borderline. There was a "NOMAD in the 21st century" theory. And then, I develop to another theory, "WOMAD in the 21st century" from another worldwide women's married life and its structure. I say, "I adopt this WOMAD as a Goddess of the 21st century, from WOmen and noMAD."
Vision and Justice Tribute: PARK Youngsook: Frieze New York 2021