Jin-me Yoon Scotiabank Photography Award
Korean-born, Vancouver-based artist Jin-me Yoon reflects critically upon the construction of national and diasporic identities in relation to her personal experience and broader geopolitical contexts. Winner of the Scotiabank Photography Award (2022), she repurposes visual stereotypes and dominant narratives to explore gender, culture, and citizenship in a globalized era, reframing some of today’s most pressing issues, including the impacts of colonialism, militarization, displacement, and environmental devastation.
The following is an excerpt from Ming Tiampo’s “Reworlding and Repair for a Future Tied to Past and Present” in Scotiabank Photography Award: Jin-me Yoon (Göttingen: Steidl, 2023; pp177–8), and explores some of the vital issues addressed in Yoon’s work.
Jin-me Yoon’s work took on new urgency with the COVID[-19] pandemic, which made manifest the interconnections between extractive logics, economic inequality, land dispossession, environmental devastation, racial injustice, and populist nationalisms. The prescience of her work examining flows, interdependencies, and connections became clear, as we became terrifyingly aware of how one breath was carried to all four corners of the world, and the inevitability of our interconnectedness as one planetary organism. In this context, Yoon began making the photographic and video series Long Time So Long. […]
Long Time So Long considers the possibility of regeneration in the face of devastation. The photographs, taken on Iona Island in Richmond, B.C., are informed by the site’s history of environmental remediation: polluted lands are gradually being transformed there, and a sewage treatment plant built in 1963 is now being replaced as part of its ecological restoration. Ironically, […] the sewage plant and its negative impact on human settlement attracted birds to Iona Island, and it has been reclaimed as a bird sanctuary to protect the birds, lands, and waters, opening the possibility of new futures.
Yoon considers the site as a microcosm for our existence on this planet and captures the critical importance of understanding past, present, and future as connected when she poses in costumes and masks that juxtapose the archaic with the futuristic. […] Masks that combine emojis and Tal masks (for satire and shamanistic practices) used in a Korean folk dance called the Talchum tell stories of social rebellion against a dominant order. Activating a palimpsest of temporalities and epistemologies from multiple cultural traditions, Long Time So Long posits other ways of knowing and being beyond the logics of colonial existence. Cajoling the viewer through tragicomedy, Yoon’s characters act out in exaggerated fashion, satirizing our current ecological and social inaction and suggesting the need for a transformation to sustainable futures.
One character in particular embodies the project’s evocation of time at a standstill and the possibilities that this new temporality opens up to deworlding the past and reworlding the present in order to create more hopeful futures. This character’s mask is marked with two holes for eyes, and three trumpet-like flutes that evoke both the spikes of the COVID protein and the warring truths that emerged during the pandemic. We see the mask in a photograph of this character lying prostrate on the ground in front a massive cement tunnel structure, as if dead or unconscious, embodying a present tense in crisis. In another photograph, Yoon wears a mask on the back of her head, its schematic eye holes and square mouth cut into a spherical mirrored surface that reflects everything around it. Seemingly facing both backwards and forwards at once, she stands at a metaphorical crossroads where the lands, standing in for the past, must be remediated and repaired, opening the possibility of reworlding futures.
Curated by Gaëlle Morel
Organized by The Image Centre, presented by Scotiabank, in partnership with CONTACT
Jin-me Yoon’s work has been presented in over 200 exhibitions across North America, Asia, and Australia, as well as select institutions worldwide over the last three decades. Most recently, one of the Korean-born, Vancouver-based artist’s films screened at the Venice Biennale; her work was presented in a solo exhibition at the Vancouver Art Gallery; and a touring survey was organized by the Musée d’art de Joliette. Yoon is represented in 20 public and corporate collections; she received the prestigious Smithsonian Artist Research Fellowship; was shortlisted for the Art Gallery of Ontario Grange Prize; and was inducted as a Fellow into the Royal Society of Canada, recognized for her research contributions in art.