VISIONAREA ART SPACE - present: Chan-Hyo Bae
"The sun never sets over the British Empire." The country of Queen, the country with pride in her history and tradition, still seems to be breathing in Great Britain. I try to become British just as a child pretends to be a mother by dressing in her clothes and making up with her cosmetics. The attempt to become British is to me what a child tries to do in dressing as an adult. Although the mother's clothes are unsuitable for the child, the child still tries to dress as its mother, trying to express its existence as another person. The language of a child.
In becoming a British lady, which may seem gauche, it is my language.
Gatwick Airport, U.K. 2004..
Having been finished my one year in Canada and after the twelve-hour flight I arrived in London. That was three years ago 2007, but I feel still a stranger here in England. The differences of culture and language aren't only unbeatable barriers but they also sometimes cause offence to strangers especially those from an entirely different culture. Through my camera I have tried to show my feelings of isolation and alienation.”
Everybody feels alienation. This feeling of alienation can be maximized in individuals due to rapid changes in the environment and when losing a group that one belongs to. Living in modern society myself, I feel the same senses of alienation. However, when the environment changes rapidly or when I fall out of a group that I belong to, I become even more confused. I am searching for my identity in the alienation I feel as a person of modern times and in the alienation I feel as a foreigner.
The difficulties of learning a language made from different social standards made me feel alienated. These circumstances made me come to think that there was an invisible wall stopping people from being absorbed into Western culture. Language was the wall and it created a frame around that me that restricted my behavior. Whenever I was unable to have easy and comfortable conversations, I frequently found myself running away to the cold and dark world of an alien. Whenever I felt alienated, I discovered in me a weak Asian man that became disappointed in the cliquish social structure of the West. I understood this as cultural differences. Differences in language and culture crept upon me as an act of violence. However, I learned that culture and language must be understood as two different things. When I first observed the Western society, to me it was a blind admiration. I believed that they had a superior culture and an advance social structure, and I began to want to experience and learn many things from this society. As an Asian wanting to live among Western Culture, it brought upon me confusion about my identity. I asked what significance my existence had, and who was responsible for the behavioral restrictions on Asians in the Western society. I continued to attempt to position myself within the Western culture, but every time I did so, I still felt like an alienated foreigner.
I had an admiration for Western culture. After arriving in England, I started to realize that the relation between Eastern and Western culture was not the upper and lower sides, which brought confusion upon me about my identity. What affected me the most was coming to realize that as an Asian man, there were many restrictions on entering the Western culture. First of all, I felt that the Western society had a sense of superiority over the East. Secondly, I felt that Asian men were not sexually attractive to Western women. This shows that because in Western societies, Asian men are understood to be in a lower social class and therefore they are excluded from interest among Western women. In addition, I also believe that there is an unintentional stereotyping that the East has a feminine image. That is why I decided to become a noble woman of England. There are different types of traditional costumes for each era. However, I do not possess the ability to identify them because I am an Asian and I have lived my life in Asian culture. All costumes of noble women in Western portraits are understood by me as the same cultural code. I studied the costumes, accessories and poses of each era and I made my portrait.
By Chan-Hyo Bae