Thread & Needle
- Kyuri Jeon
- 2021 Asian, Asian American, and Pacific Islander Artists Support Grant
MFA alum Kyuri Jeon will produce Thread & Needle a short film that explores how structural violence lingers on collective bodies through the lenses of tattoos. Jeon received a snake tattoo as a gift from a friend in the summer of 2019. While the act of tattooing remains illegal in Korea, Jeon was intrigued by the fact that tattooed bodies are no longer considered legal matters, but rather are the objects of a gendered, disciplinary gaze and call upon the social responses to women. She has spent the past year researching the history of tattoos in Korea, mainly focusing on the periods before and after the Korean War. In particular, she has examined: 1) DIY dot tattoos done by a group of young girls before the Korean War as a solidarity gesture when they were forced into marriage at an early age. These tattoos also acted as markers to reunite and remember each other during the times of war in the 1930s; 2) forced anti-communist tattooing of prisoners of war, North Korean and Chinese folks, whose bodies were captured and controlled by the UN Command at the Geoje-do POW Camp in the 1950s; 3) tattoos of sex workers for American soldiers around the Kijichon Army Base in the 1970s, of which no records have survived; and 4) the Samchung re-education camp of the South Korean military dictatorship, where tattooed bodies were considered criminal, therefore those with tattoos were captured and treated brutally in the 1980s
Thread & Needle Project is rooted in the relentless and continuing legacies of U.S. imperialism, but explores its entanglement with the objectification of women, enforced national identity, fascist dictatorship, and contempt and desire for Western capitalism. In doing so, the project will disrupt the binaries between public and private, self and other, individual and collective, immediacy and memory, and presence and absence. This project is in progress, with a deep belief that we all need to bear witness to incomprehensible but ever-present trauma, reclaim agency to recover and find a sense of belonging.