Interview with Byron Kim by Joo Yun Lee
June 20, 2017 at Byron Kim's Studio
This interview has been edited for clarity.
AHL Foundation: It seems literature is an important inspiration for your work. For instances, in
Synecdoche (1991– ), the title itself has profound meaning, and your recent solo exhibition titled Mud Root Ochre Leaf Star showed a series of new paintings inspired from a Carl Phillips’ poem. Also, you studied literature at college before you started to paint and study fine art. What made your interest move from literature to visual art, while maintaining literature and text as an important inspiration and element of your body of work?
Byron Kim: I originally wanted to be a poet. I went to Yale University, a really competitive
college, and studied English. I felt quite insecure about taking up writing as my career because I looked at the other writers who were going to school with me, and they seemed so far ahead of me. So, I barely started writing and quit pretty much immediately, but I continued to read
poetry. During my senior year I took an art history course called “Art of the Seventies.” It was
the winter and spring of 1983, so the course was about contemporary art. I didn’t know anything about art then, although I had taken some studio art classes. I don’t think I know very much art history still, now, but I knew very little back then, just as much as a typical liberal art student knew about Monet, and I started to see artists such as Mark Rothko and Jackson Pollock. So, the class was really eye opening. We were introduced to artists such as Robert Barry, Eva Hesse, Sol LeWitt, Robert Smithson and Eleanor Antin. The Conceptual Art and Process Art that I learned from that course really got me interested in becoming an artist. I think I very naively thought that I could do something even more poetic by using visual art terms than I could do by writing poetry.
AHL Foundation: When did you start to be interested in being a career artist?
Byron Kim: I think it was 1986, just a few years later when I graduated from college and went
to Skowhegan’s summer art program [Ed. note: Skowhegan School of Painting & Sculpture].
That was when I realized that I really wanted to try to be an artist, really seriously. In a strange
way, lasted for twenty years - trying to be an artist. After twenty years, I realized that that’s my
chosen career and that there is nothing else that I want to do or can do.
AHL Foundation: What made you continue to make paintings since then? Did you meet any
important mentor or have a decisive moment or experience that directed you specifically to
Byron Kim: My art education, even though it was very small part of my art career, was
somewhat conservative. I didn’t go to a school like CalArts. Even though I was really turned on
by the class that exposed me to Conceptual Art, I was surrounded by pretty conservative contexts so my character is somehow conservative aesthetically. I don’t think I am politically
conservative, though. I did have a really great art teacher at college and he taught painting. He
took painting very seriously and I tried to learn how to paint. To me, painting is really quite
difficult. It has been difficult for the last twenty, almost thirty years. I tried other things but I
realized two things: one, that painting is difficult enough and, two, I can get as much as I need
out of painting. I would love to also be a video artist, sculptor, or installation artist, and sometimes I’ve ventured out into those areas a little bit, but there is no way I could do that. One reason is that I would not be able to compete very well if I spread myself that thin, to do my best, personally.
AHL Foundation: That’s really interesting and a very candid answer. I see that your paintings
seem quite abstract but they are not Abstract Paintings.
Byron Kim: In some ways I am more of a realist painter, although I think of myself as an
abstract painter. My subject matter is often very specific and my work is often very directly
representational. Despite the fact that we just said I remain in one category, it’s hard to pin down that category and that is why I said that painting is enough. I haven’t really explored that many different aspects of painting yet, and it’s still quite challenging. I realized a while ago that there are enough problems in painting to last longer than I have time for.
AHL Foundation: You have constantly worked on a series of abstract paintings that are very
conceptual, in a way, which talk to the history of Abstract Painting or attack it, while addressing
important social messages at the same time. Can you tell us more about that aspect?
Byron Kim: The subject matter that I am trying to present and painting’s problem that I tackle
are often both very simple and very complex. Sometimes, I’m even aware of how simple and
complex they are. It’s important that they go both ways, in my mind. I don’t often consciously
try to make them that way, but they are both simple and complex. It’s constantly in my mind,
that it’s not like the current President Trump for whom everything is just simple, and we know
that the world isn’t like that.
AHL Foundation: We could talk more about the dynamics of being both simple and complex
regarding your work, with an example of your Belly painting that in part prefigures
your Synecdoche (1991– ) project which is arguably or admittedly one of your most well-known
Byron Kim: Belly painting directly led to “skin painting.” I made those paintings very much
thinking of 1970s’ Process Art and I wanted to simply make a painting with too much paint on it. I wasn’t thinking about the human body at all at first, but everybody who came to my studio and saw the work said, “That’s “belly painting,” which was really annoying to me. One thing that I learned quickly from that experience was to put aside my stubbornness and annoyance. If one person says that, and they are a little weird, that’s one thing, but if everyone who comes in says the work is this, even though I thought of it as that, then I have to stop and wonder why they are all saying that. So because I was wondering that and taking it seriously, I ended up deciding to make a painting of a friend’s skin color, just to see what that would be. I made a dozen of them, and then a couple of hundred of them, and it went on and on like that, developing into Synecdoche. It is a really good example of what is seemingly simple. I didn’t have an extremely complicated subject in my mind when I started to make those paintings. I wasn’t thinking about a political statement but that came to the work, somehow. Just like what I said about the belly painting gaining meaning through people’s responses, Synecdoche did so, but in more subtle and complex ways.
AHL Foundation: Synecdoche is seemingly abstract paintings that consists of hundreds of
monochrome panels that represent different human skin tones, but address a critical social
message about ethnicity. It seems this piece was derived from your response to the 1990’s social and cultural issues. In that sense, it seems that the inclusion and exhibition of Synecdoche in the 1993 Whitney Biennial was very important for your artistic oeuvre, given that the 1993 Whitney Biennial is often considered a watershed in the biennale’s history since it dealt with critical issues of the 1990s and made special effort to include works by a diverse range of artists regarding their gender and ethnicity.
Byron Kim: About the 1990s, I don’t quite understand it actually. I mean, I see what happened
but I don’t understand exactly why it happened. The reason why I am saying that I’m confused
about is that I think we are going through a moment now that is related to the 1990s. But it
seems quite different now, it feels the same but also really different. What I am trying to say is I
am not sure why it happened, but both times—the 1990s and now—were and are very serious
times and probably that’s why we are going through this again. People want to affect change and people want things to get better. Some people think that art can help with that. I don’t know if it’s possible. It is possible, but it’s very difficult. It’s not an easy solution. When I look back on being included in the 1993 Whitney Biennial and look at my work, it seems very naive. It seems really simplistic. It is very complex, like I said before, but I wasn’t thinking it through
completely. I don’t know how that happened. That is, on one hand, it’s very simple: I looked at
somebody’s skin color and tried to copy it closely as possible, made a small painting and put it
on the wall next to all the other ones that I made. Something else happened once they were all
together like that and I didn’t think about that in advance of doing that. I never saw the whole
thing in my studio. Once it went on the wall, it became some other thing and people responded
to it in different ways. One could say it’s very powerful but another person could think it’s even
more naive than I think it is. It was a very simple idea that happened to be about this country’s
obsession. That work has some point of tangency with this country’s obsession, which is its
strength and weakness. Honestly, I wasn’t thinking about all that when I made it. It’s just there
somehow. It’s so simple but also all encompassing in a strange way.
AHL Foundation: Do you think people sometimes take Synecdoche too politically?
Byron Kim: Yes and no. My gut reaction is to say yes, but that is not a very honest answer,
because if they didn’t take it politically, that work would be almost nothing. That dimension is
important. I always demand that my work be meaningful in some way. It doesn’t have to be
exactly this way or that way. In that case, the work is meaningful in a certain way, in a way not
so much that I didn’t intend but didn’t anticipate. That’s actually the best situation, if you make
something. There was a long time during my career where I kind of got a little allergic to
Synecdoche - it’s still the case that I am known so well for that work. I kind of downplayed it for
a long time, but I started to realize pretty recently how useful that painting can be. It’s such a
great way of starting a discussion. I don't even know what the end or result of the discussion is. I think many people would think that my point is about the wonderful diversity of the colors of our skin, which is true. But the thing that I realized while painting that work, is that people
categorize each other so instantaneously. If you look at somebody, you put that person in certain categories in less than a second. Skin color is part of it, but there are lots of other parts. The category you put somebody in according to her/his skin color often actually has very little to do with their skin color. Because first of all, people’s skin colors change so much from one part to the next and according to the different seasons. You can make a large painting of color panels like mine with just one person’s skin color. It doesn’t make a very simple statement. That work is not as clean as it appears to be. It’s full of all sorts of contradictions, including the artist’s inability to paint very precisely.
AHL Foundation: To make Synecdoche, which consists of hundreds of color panels, the work
process seems important. To depict human skin tones for each version, you work with
participants or “sitters”—including strangers, family, neighbors and your fellow artists—and it
seems an on-going process to compose the color panels.
Byron Kim: The process is important maybe because I educated myself with 1970s’ art. 70’s art is open-ended like that, so it doesn’t seem unusual to me that a work could be on-going that way and never really finished. I like that it is not finished.
AHL Foundation: Another important aspect of your painting since Synecdoche is “referencing
the whole by representing a single part.” What made you make a representation of the whole
that consists of individual parts?
Byron Kim: In relation to my answer to the previous question, both the part and the whole are
both simple and complex. I find that the more I study everything. Nothing is really easy. That’s
why, in my mind, everything takes so long.
AHL Foundation: In that respect, in similar way to Synecdoche, another important project,
Sunday Paintings (2001–), also consist of small parts and each individual part that comprise the whole. Over a long period of time, you painted the sky on each small canvas every Sunday and inscribed your personal notes like your journal on top of it. It seems a more temporal application of the relations between the parts and the whole.
Byron Kim: Synecdoche and Sunday Paintings are my two biggest projects by far. In some
ways Sunday Paintings is one piece, while Synecdoche is one piece but is serial just like 70s’ art. It is serial but broken into pieces and it can be seen in many different ways, as the term
“synecdoche” actually means a part representing the whole. In some ways, it’s simply a way of
tricking myself into making a big, complex work, because any individual element of either of
those projects is almost nothing in itself. Sunday Paintings are different from skin paintings
because they are so personal. In order to do one every week, the process has to be very easy. It hardly takes more than a couple of hours to make, and that’s the way I could make over 800 of them, otherwise it’s not possible. Obviously, Sunday Paintings are influenced by On Kawara.
AHL Foundation: It is interesting the ways in which Sunday Paintings embrace the elements of
landscape, abstract painting as well as personal notes of your own life.
Byron Kim: Sunday Paintings are not abstract paintings because they describe the sky and
clouds, but they look like abstract paintings if someone looks at them without a reference. And
the texts I wrote on the paintings are about what happened that day, like my kid’s soccer game, or something like that. It’s like note-taking about what happened. Often it was about the
weather. Very rarely am I trying to write something to make a statement. Usually that’s not
interesting. ‘Interesting’ is beside the point in a way, because this project is about one very
insignificant life in relation to everything else. In a way, it is an analogy to my whole practice. I
don’t need to be famous, wealthy, or competitive. I think I used to want that when I was younger a little bit more, but now I hardly want to have any of that. I just want to come to my studio and make a good painting.
AHL Foundation: Even before I heard what you just said, I got an impression that living your
life is more important that being a successful artist, although you are already well-known and
Byron Kim: Painting is really hard, but living is harder. Living well is really hard. Not many
people do live well. It’s not about how many airplanes you have.
AHL Foundation: Maybe that’s why you included lots of traces of your life in your paintings,
like your family, children and childhood memories. Your catalogue Byron Kim: Threshold
1990-2004 published in 2004 includes ones where you painted your children’s hair whorls and a turtleneck you wore many days because your elementary school teacher complimented it.
Byron Kim: During the time period that the catalogue covers, my work was more personal. I
think my work was always somewhat personal, but it was more personal back then. In some
ways, it was my little joke about how Modern Art looks so cold and impersonal. I love Agnes
Martin’s work. I don’t particularly like Robert Ryman’s work that much, although I appreciate it
and I agree that he is a great artist, exactly for that reason because it’s very cool, while Agnes
Martin’s work is really hot, warm. But if you try to explain it to my mother, she wouldn’t get it
at all. They are just white paintings and there is nothing on them. It’s like a game we all
understand, to different degrees.
AHL Foundation: From that catalogue I also found another interesting project where you
Byron Kim: That one seems very simple to me. My father found a celadon at a garage sale and I still keep it. I have another celadon which I painted, but I dropped it while I was painting it and my friend glued back it together for me. What I found interesting was that the signature of this cultural product is its color. [Ed. note: Goryeo Celadon, celadon from Goryeo period in Korea]. I was thinking about New York School painting like Rothko, and its first-generation artists and how their subject matter was always something too big for words, like the sublime or some other very philosophical subject matter which “you needed to paint because you couldn’t say it.” My subject matter tended to be kind of the opposite in a way, like the shirt that I was wearing that my teacher liked. But I thought that this color, it is not one color, there are so many different colors from one pot to the next was such a beautiful and very deep subject matter. It’s a very narrow greyish-green. I thought it was a really good subject for painting.
AHL Foundation: That says color is important to you.
Byron Kim: Yes, color is the most important thing to me. It’s funny that I just realized that
recently. I went through my whole life, thinking about color. I think it’s good that it took so
long to realize that what I am interested in those two things in Synecdoche: the relationship
between the part and the whole and color. If I were eighteen years old and someone assigned
that to me, I would have made mechanical kind of work. But I didn’t know that that was what I
was making until now, or that was what I was really interested in, so I am now turning to
studying color methodically. I guess it’s a good thing, better late than never.
AHL Foundation: You have constantly worked on your on-going projects, but you didn’t
develop that many number of projects comparatively, so some people might wonder how you
have sustained a career as an artist with such a small number of projects.
Byron Kim: For some weird reason, I like to give people the impression that I don’t make much
work. But there are 800 Sunday Paintings and I make fifty-two of those paintings every year.
And there are a series of black paintings I am working on. I made about 80 paintings for an
exhibition in San Diego, with the same technique and material but a different subject matter – it
was about ceramicist Maria Martinez. There is another series about the night sky in the city and I made lots of paintings about that subject matter. I am working in my studio by myself without any help or assistants. If I have assistants, they could make better works but better doesn’t mean skilled. I am not very skilled at anything. I mean I don’t have a such a great hand for drawing.
AHL Foundation: We talked about s earlier and I also found that it showed your delving into
painting’s “materiality,” reminding me of Eva Hesse’s Post-Minimal work. In some ways,
regarding materiality, I find a connection between Belly Painting and your “stain painting” series exhibited in your most recent solo exhibition. Those new paintings have the texture and feeling of skin and bruising, showing your exploration of the materiality of painting in a different way.
Byron Kim: Yes, in some ways I lost the concern for the material that I had when I was very
young and a little bit lost and not knowing how to make things. And in the middle of my career,
I still didn’t know how to make things, but I had to just respond to some pressures of being an
artist and just make things, and then the sensitivity to material go lost a little. Back then, I just
started to make things with art material without thinking about it that much, without questioning
it enough, maybe. After 25 years, I’ve started to question it, just as much as I did then,
concerning materiality when I made Belly Painting and maybe more, because I became older and had time to reflect.
AHL Foundation: Then, as aforementioned, your “stain paintings” exhibited at the Mud Root
Ochre Leaf Star exhibition are inspired by a Carl Phillips’s poem. Your abstract paintings this
time are very subtly powerful with tones, traces and textures, reminding us of bruises on the skin. Some people said they felt trauma from those paintings. What did you want to communicate with the viewers with your paintings in this exhibition?
Byron Kim: Mostly, the colors are inside the fabric, because it’s dyed in, not applied on top. It’s
a different process to get colors. The colors turned out differently according to the different
fabrics, like silk or linen. I didn’t think about the trauma so much when I made those paintings.
When I read Carl Phillips’ poem, I felt that it’s such a beautiful poem with very complicated
imagery. The poet is thinking of his lover waking next to him in the really bright autumn light,
his lover is still sleeping and he noticed a bruise on her body. He has to close his good eye, so
he’s using his bad eye and looks out the window as the leaves are falling in order to imagine the color of the bruise that will change as the leaves will in time. I thought that the subject of the bruise is a perfect subject for me. I was going to make a painting that was within the bruise, without the context of skin actually, but it didn’t really work. There came to be the context of skin, and then it became related to my old work, then the whole bruise thing became read in the context of today as in the Black Lives Matter movement, Trump being so mean and everybody read it in a completely different way.
AHL Foundation: Yes, as you said, there seem to be similarities and also differences between
this new series and your previous paintings.
Byron Kim: There is the intersection of being about the human body, but I think this series is a
little bit more sophisticated because I am thinking about material in a more sophisticated way.
As I said earlier, I kind of lost that track about the material, because maybe it was at the part of
my career where I did worry a little bit about producing something significant. I think I have
produced a few things that are significant. But those things don’t come because I am thinking
about the need to do something really great. It doesn’t work that way. Those pieces came out of some process that was really strange and complicated.
AHL Foundation: So, you began to get the colors by dyeing fabrics, exploring the material of
Byron Kim: I made those paintings (“stain paintings”) out of so many natural materials: like
fabrics dyed with sandalwood, indigo, gardenia and buckthorn. (Showing the beautifully dyed
fabrics hung in his studio) These fabrics are for a piece that I made for a show in Anyang that
Eungie Joo curated [Ed. note: Enshrinement (after Kim Chung Up) (2016) at the Anyang Public Art Project (APAP), Korea]. I figured out this project because Anyang had one of the oldest temples in Korea, and they had re-discovered the old site underneath this building which had been designed by a famous Korean modernist architect who had been an apprentice of Le Courbusier. [Ed. note: the Kim Chung Up Museum in Anyang was built on the lost site of a thousand year-old Buddhist temple called Anyang-sa. The museum building was originally the Yuyu Pharmaceutical factory designed by Kim Chung Up]. Actually, when they were demolishing the buildings, they found the site of the temple underneath. I wanted to make a project that emphasized the temple had been there. I found that there is a Buddhist ceremony called bulbokjang [Ed. note: bulbokjang, or sacred deposit ceremony, marks the enshrinement of a Buddha statue and subsequent inauguration of the temple] which initiates a temple and makes the main Buddha statue ‘come alive’. One aspect of the ceremony was that five pieces of clothes have to be dyed in five cardinal colors: white, black, yellow, red and blue. And each one has to be dyed with only one material, without using different materials to gain one color. So I made five different colors of fabrics dyed with only one material for each. I was thinking of the small building of the Kim Chung Up museum as the idol of the Buddha and then the painting made of these fabrics inside of building. It was just like the bulbokjang ceremony put the five colors of the fabrics inside of the idol of Buddha to make the temple begin. So, I found a small room—ten square meters wide—in the basement of the museum and put the paintings there. And in another building, I put many cushions and made a meditation room, not particularly Buddhist meditation, but about how to sit and be calm. Regarding your question about the material of the stain paintings, I also dyed fabrics in a similar way to how I made the colors of the fabrics that I made for the APAP project.
AHL Foundation: You are one of a few Korean American artists or Asian American artists who
have been constantly and actively working since 1990s. Do you think your own ethnic identity
shaped or influenced your work in some ways and do you want to make your voice somehow as a Korean American artist or an Asian American artist in art community?
Byron Kim: That’s really a complicated question which I’ve never known how to answer. I feel
two opposing ways about that. When I was in a college, one Asian American student came to
me and asked me to join their group and I didn’t want to join them at all. I think that I was
overly concerned with assimilating at that time, although I didn’t think of it in those terms. I
didn’t want to join that small group then, I wanted to be part of a bigger group, which was kind
of small-minded thinking. I did go back and forth about that question all the time, since I was
20, because I didn’t think about it before then. But I wasn’t in a context that forced me to think
about it because I grew up mostly in a community of white people, but in a very strong, Korean
nuclear family. When I went to a college and saw those Asian students – there weren’t that
many at Yale at the time, unlike now. I am being completely honest - I thought they were weak
and needed to be together in order to be stronger, and I didn’t need to do that. I feel a little sorry for having had that kind of attitude of condescension, because I think people have to stick together to survive sometimes, so what they were doing was necessary. I shouldn’t have looked upon that negatively. I haven’t been very strongly for or against this kind of issue in my actions or my statements. I’ve participated in group shows of all Asian Americans or all Asians. Mostly I’ve participated, sometimes I’ve avoided them for certain, particular not arbitrary, reasons. I feel strongly about it but I don’t feel strongly all the way one way, or all the way the other way. I can tell you one thing for sure, that I don’t want to be considered as a Korean-American artist in the big picture, because that’s not how I started off. When I wanted to be a poet, I didn’t think that I would be the best Korean-American poet there is. If I was going to categorize myself in such a way, that I couldn’t be in relation to all of poetry or all of art, then why bother? I don’t want to be the best painter who is under 6’ tall, or the best male painter with black hair. What’s the point?
AHL Foundation: Then, Synecdoche didn’t originated from your concern for your own identity
as a Korean American or Asian American?
Byron Kim: I don't think so. It came from my wanting to give a specific content to Modernist
Painting. It definitely didn’t come from being a minority artist or wanting to make the kind of
work that a minority artist would make.
AHL Foundation: I found that you were involved with the Godzilla Asian American Arts
Network (Gozilla), which was a New York-based Asian American arts collective established in
1990. Can you tell us more about that?
Byron Kim: I was involved with Godzilla probably just as much as most of the people who were
at the beginning, but I didn’t think of it as much as an activist organization as others did, mostly
because I wasn’t very politically involved. There were probably people who were involved more as activists back then and now as well and I admire those people very much. I think I am more political now.
AHL Foundation: Godzilla sent a letter to the director of the Whitney Museum, protesting the
fact that Whitney Biennial included very limited number of Asian American artists to the
Byron Kim: I remember that there was a biennial and we noticed that artists of color are
underrepresented, possibly and especially artists of Asian descent, and we brought it to the
attention of the Whitney. David Ross, the director of the Whitney at that time, surprisingly
invited us to the museum and had a meeting. I remember that meeting and Eugenie Tsai got
hired at the Whitney as the direct result of that meeting. There was another group of younger
generation of Asian American artists when Godzilla was disbanding.
AHL Foundation: Like any other occupation or job, paving the same career for ten years, twenty years and more is not an easy thing to do. What makes you constantly work as an artist?
Byron Kim: Being an artist is the best thing, because you get to do whatever you want to do, and it’s the worst thing, because you get to do whatever you want to do. What I mean by that is that it is really important to come and always do exactly what I want to do. That’s partly the reason I don’t have any assistants. Compared with my friends, artists who I came up with, my whole situation is maybe a little bit more modest, while their situations are a whole lot bigger. Part of the reason why I tried for that is I wouldn’t be able always to do something exactly the way I wanted to do it. But the downside of that is that I come to my studio and I have to be responsible for everything. Sometimes it’s nice to be told what to do. For example, I belong to a food co-op and I love going to work there because I just do a given job for two hours and forty-five minutes.
AHL Foundation: You also have been teaching besides making your own work. What do you
think is important when you teach?
Byron Kim: I have taught for about 25 years and I really enjoy teaching. To focus on the right
things is important, like not being distracted by having art as a career. It’s really hard now.
There are many artists who get into the field for that reason, although most artists realize it’s not a good thing to do if they want to make a living. There are some artists that really want to make a good living out of it. That’s just a small part of it. Just to take them seriously and to convey that it’s a really serious undertaking to be an artist. I don’t worry about encouraging them. I consciously chose to be an artist, whereas for so many of my friends, they had no choice: that’s all they ever wanted to do. It’s not bad to discourage students, because the ones who really need to be an artist will be an artist, no matter what. It’s like having a disease
AHL Foundation: The way you are describing an artist’s career is one that doesn’t have to be
acknowledged by the critiques and art history in a long term, nor commercially very successful.
But after the 1993 Whitney Biennale, you became an artist whom everybody knows. If you
hadn’t become an acknowledged artist after that momentum, what would be different?
Byron Kim: That is a really good question, and a tough question and really hard to answer
honestly. I would like to think that nothing would have changed. I am thinking that there is a
good possibility that I would’ve gone to medical school and wouldn’t be talking to you now. It’s
really not an easy life to be an artist. I don’t care about financial success, but at least
communicating to people is important, because all arts are about communicating. If it was an inbetween situation, I would still be an artist I guess, but if no one ever got to see my work, then I would have quit a long time ago. That’s just the honest answer, not the answer I would like to give.
AHL Foundation: Do you have another project you are working on besides your other on-going
Byron Kim: I am making a new work for a project Sunjung Kim is curating. There is the DMZ,
or de-militarized zone, crossing the middle of the Korean peninsula, and one of the military
checkpoints is in a county called Cheorwon. What I am making is going to be installed in one of the Japanese colonial buildings, which is a square building without a roof because it was
destroyed. It’s a square building about the size of my studio, not a rectangular shape. The
building was used to keep ice by the restaurant owner. It was an ice storage building. Now it’s
just a ruin, but it still has four walls with lots of holes in them from the war. I am putting a flag
with the color of the sky on a 10-meter height flag pole. To make the flag, I am going to use
Korean ramie cloth [Ed. note: in Korean, moshi, 모시] which is vegetable fiber, because that
particular fabric makes a beautiful sky-blue color. But what I want to do is to grow the indigo
plant on site or in a very small village nearby called Yangji-ri [Ed. note: Yangji-ri (양지리) is on
the north of the Civilian Control Line in Cheorwon county]. I want to have a color like sky-blue
so I have to cultivate the leaves and I’ve never done that before.
AHL Foundation: Thanks Byron for your thoughtful and candid answers.
Interviewed and transcribed by Joo Yun Lee, 2016-2017 AHL Foundation Research Fellow
Edited by Jeong-A Kim 2017-2018 Research Fellow and Suzy Taekyung Kim 2018-2019