Hyun A Cho, 1974, South Korea

Cultureland artist March – May 2020

On the 2nd of March you arrived at Cultureland, not knowing the corona virus would be declared a pandemic and that two weeks later The Netherlands would be in a partial lockdown. How did this affect your residency period?

At the beginning the lockdown in the Netherlands gave me a shock. However, as time passed by I got adjusted to the situation and invented a different mode of working for myself. I am a solitary kind of person, so doing a self-isolation does not make a huge difference on a personal level, yet this whole situation which effects everybody and everything on this planet, made me question what the meaning of creativity might be. Can art and artists be useful in this catastrophe?

I moved to the ‘Buitenwerkplaats’ studio on the 16th of March and I really like being here because it is very quiet and peaceful. I can appreciate the beauty of the nature and I was able to focus on myself and my work face to face with a peace of mind regardless of fears and anxieties of the coronavirus. I am very grateful that I can still make a work at the Buitenwerkplaats and enjoy watching the sunset and beautiful stars in the night sky.

Is the crisis of any influence on your current project about The Black Tulip?

Yes, of course. One of my plans was to find a possibility to meet a choreographer or a dancer in the Netherlands in March, so we could work together on the Vodou dance movement research. However it was not successful. I also planned to visit the Keukenhof and Hortus Botanicus Leiden for my research on the broken tulips, but unfortunately it was not possible.

Even though some unexpected things happened, I began to have new perspectives in my ‘The Black Tulip’ project. For instance, I have made a performance video piece ‘A Slimy Swollen Sticky Eye’ in which I have become a black tulip by wearing black and colourful plastic bags onto my head and I felt that I was brave to do this. Eventhough the pandemic takes place in the world, which is beyond my scope and beyond my control, this difficulty and limitation have driven me to make much more personal and intimate connections with the theme of my ‘Black Tulip’. Having this particular experience has turned out into something special; I was able to break my old breaker to find my new breakers, in other words, a breakthrough.

Could you describe your daily schedule during your residency?

My daily routine was quite simple: work, rest and work again. I mainly worked inside. I made drawings, small objects and props for my ‘Black Tulip’. I have been producing props for a video because they create quite different visual forms and effects within the frame of a video camera. It is a preparation for the next stage, which will be a performance.

What could be the role of art (or the art world) in a crisis situation like the corona pandemic?

When I saw on the news that doctors and nurses volunteered for helping infected patients in Daegu in Korea, I experienced a sense of shame for a while because I strongly felt that art or any creative activity wouldn’t be able to help and improve this extremely difficult situation. I kept asking myself; “What can I do?” “What should I do?” “Is there anything I can do in this world?”

All I could do is just continue working. Striving to “maintain” a creative process at Cultureland in Amsterdam and Starnmeer has been built up a strong bond with people who are around me on positive and spiritual levels. I believe that artists will, perhaps it has already started, actually make works which reflects their thoughts and personal and collective experiences of this pandemic. The act of being creative and continuing this process no matter what, are solely my own battle for survival, and my awareness and experience in the corona pandemic will be reflected and contemplated through various audio-visual forms of my art and writing practice.

In which way will your project ‘The Black Tulip’ and your stay at Cultureland be of value for your future projects?

The way the beauty of tulips are validated through time inspired me in many ways. For example, broken tulips (such as the Semper Augustus or Rembrand tulips) became an obsessive hype in the 17th century because of their unique flames. Fortunes were spent on the bulbs while they are such a fragile item for collection and trade, as the bulb might rot and the flower itself will only bloom once. The broken tulip’s appearance even is the outcome of a virus. This virus is banned by the market, but in the United Kingdom there are groups of people who still allow the ‘Tulip Breaking Virus’ in their fields.

The author Alexandre Dumas, who wrote the novel ‘The Black Tulip’, is related to this topic as he is half European and half black, as his grandmother was a black slave from Haïti. In that sence, Dumas ís like a broken tulip; an interracial offspring of a master and his slave, which was a huge deal in his time. Ironically, millions of tulipflowers are now being cut off prematurelly to take away the attraction of the flowering bulb fields. Crowded roads are not wanted in these corona days.

To me all this drama suggest the desperate struggle between human and virus, culture and nature, master and slave (what I have meant is in Hegelian sense), domination and margin, furthermore post-capitalism and post-cultural industry. A broken tulip is no longer an object of objectification to me; I have realized that it is an amalgam of struggle and rupture in a broad perspective, not just aesthetical. I believe that this new awareness will drive and encourage me to develop my ‘Black Tulip’ further on in the future. For this reason I am truly grateful to have an opportunity to participate in the artist residency program at Cultureland.

Your Artist Talk will be on Saturday 9th of May. It will be a live-stream presentation instead of a social event. How do you prepare yourself for this artist talk?

It is the first time for me to do a live-stream presentation. I am not such a big fan of social media, I don’t even know how to do the Instagram, however this time I will count on it. I have been thinking lately what if we do not have internet in this paricular period of time. Do we get more easily bored? Are we feeling more lonely or isolated?

I am making a digital slide show, so people can see my work via internet and I am going to make some structure for my artist talk; 10 minutes for introducing my practice and 20 minutes for the Q&A session.

Your residency period will end on the 11th of May. What are your plans after this date?

I will prepare for my next journey to TOKAS (Tokyo Arts and Space) organised by the Museum of Contemporary Art Tokyo, Tokyo Metropolitan Foundation for History and Culture (September-November in 2020) so I can develop and refine the final stage of my Noh performance ‘NOHWA II’.