Haena Yoo

As an artist, I’ve been making installations constructed with found materials, video, sound, and smell, exploring themes of labor, identity, and global capitalism. My process is driven by the question of where ‘familiarity’ comes from. I, as an immigrant, foreigner, Asian, female, am given this relativism by my position in society. With my experience of moving from Korea where I was the majority, to the United States, where I am now a minority, I became interested that those who are judged to be part of a minority in one place can be in the majority somewhere else. In this way, the comparison of cultural artifacts has always been my interest: the moment when familiar becomes unfamiliar, based on relational positions.


My work also starts with tinkering process. When disconnected things are tinkered together, it creates a new odd affect, allowing amateur-ness. Bricolage makes its own urgency by materials being limited to what is at hand, showing the archeological and socio-political status of the maker.  In choosing ‘tinkering’ strategies of bricolage, as opposed to assemblage, I use a variety of different materials borrowed from minority cultures such as Latin American and Korean communities in Los Angeles, in contrast with the dominant culture of Westernization. Tinkering provides an element of defamiliarization and savageness, and also signals my interest in real-world concerns, such as rights for foreign workers, undocumented immigrants, or local communities.  Furthermore, it gives me the chance to take on those cultural forms, to show the structure of how they create mean within society.


In my recent project Guttin’n Out, the installation is conceived as a street market in Los Angeles. The three umbrella tables are DIY sculptures made of found and purchased materials from the Alameda Swap Meet, Chinatown, Koreatown, and South L.A. Each table embodies its own narrative as represented by three grains: rice, corn, and wheat. A mound of wheat (flour) on the table covers a Monopoly game board and samples of packaged foods. Rice Krispies as a culturally transformed form itself, are mingled with the fetishization of westernized beauty products. Blank California driver’s licenses printed on tortillas bring up questions about illegal immigrant issues. Why do we want to immigrate whether it is illegal or not? Accumulating, mingling, co-existing, tackling is the currency of our market. Meanwhile, a heap of fresh popcorn puffed out of the popcorn machine is ready to be eaten, to be a part of (real) body of viewers, as like innocent capital submerged in individual. I want my work to imply the levels of the classes, the urgency of circumstance, and people who struggle to survive day by day. Local street markets have been universal throughout history, but are now becoming more specialized for tourism or are in decline due to the expansion of big corporate supermarkets. Overtaken by global franchises, we’ve become more familiar with packaged food and invisible laborers. As Mike David says, we’re witnessing an accumulation of objects and people becoming surplus in the late capitalism, as we wander, trying to find the access or exit. In my own market, the flow of people, capital, and pure ideas is present, yet there are also exists instability. Left behind the scenes of street market, unpredictable market forces overwhelm us. In the midst of this we sometimes feel estranged and alienated.