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Heejung sent me this photo of our friend Kaya jumping on my hopscotch board at the Asian Students and Young Artists Art Festival (ASYAAF 2013), which ended last week.

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I’m neck-deep in climate change articles and meetings with a lot of brilliant people, so this was such a nice email from the life I just left. I love that beam of light on the right. It looks as though Kaya was beamed there from space.

Thank you, ladies! And I miss you, Korea!

(Written last week, posting only today!)

It’s hard to pack when one hasn’t unpacked, I tell myself as I examine my suitcase whose contents have not been voided in the past four weeks of transience in Manila. I had left Korea and am now en route to Singapore for another project.  I chide myself, because the reality is quite the opposite. As the ninth (?) move, I realize my luggage hold the memories of my most immediate past. There is little to give away, and little to buy. Everything I need is in this big red bag that has traveled the world with me.

It is a suitcase that has known many stories, from its first trip more than 10 years ago, when I visited Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory as a potential graduate candidate. (I didn’t get in, but it was amazing seeing Barbara McClintock’s lab!)  This bag was with me in the interrogation room in the train station in Barcelona, when security, in their amusement, told me I was not allowed to bring training sai during my trip. Outraged, I pointed the blades to my neck, took a stab, and cried, “Mira! Mira! No sangre! Estan no peligroso!” (Look! Look! No blood! They’re not dangerous!) They let me take them in the end. I brought this bag with me again to New York, with my Fulbright bag tag on the strap (I figure if potential thieves think it’s just full of nerdy books, they will never take it.)

A few weeks ago, a couple of well meaning friends asked me where is home? It’s in my heart, distributed in pieces, all over the world, I gamely quipped. It was midnight, and I was working like mad on my computer, beating another deadline. I stopped thinking about this question in recent times.

These past few weeks have been a sharp change from the constant busyness and preoccupation in Korea to the downtime and quietness in Manila. From mowing a mountain in a monsoon and getting swept up in the flurry of goodbyes, I finally had a lot of time for thinking about how things might be in the next few months. And I realized I didn’t have a clue.

When one starts out with the mentality of an explorer, of going into the unknown (and the fearlessness of a child with that nagging curiosity of sticking her finger in an electric fan) it is difficult to discern where one will end up. In between the lives I’ve led, I found it necessary to have moments of reclusion—of, as I recently coined to a friend over dinner, my “armadillo mode,” to refer to the shell I have to ensconce myself to have time to process what just happened.

There are few things one can take with her when the airline only allows for baggage weighing 20 kg. I suppose we leave part of ourselves behind with the people we love and take only what is necessary for the next life.

My friend Kate Kirkpatrick, who also serves as producer of my Seoul43 project, has been working making sure that its extension project, Pyeong Chang Mobile Garden, a piece currently in the 2013 Pyeong Chang Biennale, is finished. This weekend, she reported back to me (I’m currently in Manila in transit to my next project), with these photos.

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I smiled when I saw this photo with Pyeong Chang Biennale curators, Mr. Hyunchul Lee (left) and Mr. Yoonkee Kim (right), who helped finish the job. Kamsahamnida!

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View a previous post about the installation and another piece here.

(SEOUL)—The Asian Students and Young Artists Art Festival (ASYAAF) 2013, co-organized by the Chosun Ilbo Daily and the Ministry of Culture, Sports, and Tourism, is currently happening at the beautiful Culture Station Seoul 284. It features 500 art students, post-graduates, and professional artists. It runs until August 18.

If you are in town, go hop on one of my Mondrian Hopscotch boards, and check out art from all these vibrant artists 30 years old and under.

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View the ASYAAF 2013 website here.

With thanks to the awesome people at Gallery LVS, especially Ms. Dain Oh for the photos.

Among the fascinating people I have met or seen in Korea are the haenyeo, or Korean female divers. I encountered them in Jeju, an island in the south. The haenyeo dive for abalone, clams, and seaweed without any special diving equipment. The women are mostly old, as the younger ones do not want to become haenyeo any longer. I am told that the youngest is in her fifties. There are only a few thousand haenyeo left.

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In a diving show, the women sang before getting in the water.

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They could be mermaids, after all!

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To prepare for the Winter Olympics in 2018, Pyeong Chang is having a biennale from July 20 to August 30, 2013. As an extension of my Seoul43 project, I was commissioned to do a 1-day community planting project reflecting their theme, Earth Harmony.

Last week, I installed the first half. During the opening of the biennale, participants will be invited to plant seedlings and assemble them on the letters so that both artist and audience form the words of the biennale’s theme, Earth Harmony. After the event, people will be invited to take the plants to bring home, to plant in their gardens, or in any public area where planting is permissible.

I wanted to use a framework similar to Seoul43, where I create a piece that the public is invited to collaborate with to achieve one goal, and then disperse it to their local environment. In Seoul43, I bring a piece of all the mountains for participants to plant with and bring back individually to the mountains, giving them an opportunity to design their own experience.

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It was a grueling 2-day installation, with me having to mow the mountain with a sickle all my myself in a monsoon. But here I am in taekwondo pants, my American Museum of Natural History sweatshirt that I got as an intern, and my Korean ajusshi barbecue gloves.

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It was painful and hilarious at the same time. I’m a bit worse for the wear, but hey, no pneumonia!

Another piece commissioned is an 8-meter-long Mondrian hopscotch board. This is the fourth one I’ve made so far.

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Visit the Pyeong Chang Biennale website here.

For my Seoul43 project, where I hiked all the mountains in Seoul and borrowed soil samples from each mountain, the public was invited to plant using the mountain soil. Afterwards, people were invited to go on scavenger hunts to plant the soil back to the mountains of their choice. I have held two children’s workshops where participants planted using the soil, and together we went to a nearby mountain to do the scavenger hunt.

The scavenger hunt is designed to use small tasks that will promote positive hiking habits in the participants.

1. Greet and bow to the elderly.*
2. Give candy to fellow hikers.
3. Pick up trash.
4. Arrange fallen leaves or flowers into a sculpture.
5. Recite poetry.
6. Balance rocks.**
7. Use an exercise machine.
8. Write on a postcard.
9. Read official signs.
10. Plant!

* In South Korea, it is considered polite to bow to one’s elders.
** Many Korean mountains have Buddhist temples, and rock balancing is a common sight in and around them.

In addition, some people who previously learned about this project from my participation in the International Sculpture Festa in the Hangaram Art Museum at Seoul Arts Center this May signed up to participate. During the exhibition in the National Art Studio of Korea, they came to pick up a plant and hike a mountain. They told me the mountain they wished to hike, and I gave them their task list. Later, they will email me with documentation of what they did. Participants will be featured on the Seoul43 site with their permission.

The project website will be regularly updated, but here are some photos. If you are interested in doing a scavenger hunt even after this project is finished to join a community of city hikers here in Seoul, please email me at csgyoung[@]gmail[dot]com.

Hiking in Choansan:
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After greeting an elderly lady:
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Giving candy to fellow hikers:
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Rock balancing:
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Planting:
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Planting:
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The most hilarious moment during my weekend, a summer camp with the kids from my taekwondo class in Daehyeon Beach in Boryeong, was this 17-year-old personal mystery finally solved:

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Behold, the fate of taekwondo boards once they’re broken. The masters reuse them to fire up the barbecue grill to make bulgogi (Korean barbecue). Cycle complete.

Yesterday, this sweet couple came over to pick up a plant from my installation so they can plant it to Wausan, a mountain near the lady’s school.

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It’s lovely to be reminded why I did this project. Visit the Seoul43 site here. I’m still working on the text, but I’m glad the exhibition is done and I have no more mountains to climb. And eek! Look at the shelves on the right—lots of planting going on, eh?