I see my next series, "Words Become Indigenous," as a natural progression from my earlier work. Having come to recognize that power so often does its work through language, I turned from images to words, hoping to confront societal impositions from another angle. The foundation for these works consists of copies of Sixteenth Century Korean essays and poems detailing Confucian moral standards. They were written just after King Sejong's creation of the Korean alphabet. Most of the words are now extinct, but the strict Confucian ideologies they express certainly are not. My next step was to chose certain especially resonant English words and expressions and combine them with lengthy, dialogical ruminations of my own. These free-flowing conversations tend to concern the ongoing reconstruction of my identity, a process which I feel I must carry out consciously in light of my growing awareness of the social forces mentioned above.
An American Imaginary
(1997; 38 x 54)
By writing repeatedly over the old Korean words in several layers, I wanted to recreate the effect of words becoming meaningless through repetition. Both sets of words, then, become separated from their conventional meanings. This breakdown of language represents for me the diminution of the power of these words, of the power of language itself. As I made these works, I continually felt that I was turning the tables on language, wrenching free from its daily control to go to a place where images can take shape without the confining power of language defining those images before they even appear. I hoped that in this way, my work built upon Ludwig Wittgenstein's important insight that despite our impression of seeing the outline and shape of an object in front of us, we are actually seeing the frame through which we see that object. I wanted to free the viewer from these frames of visual reference by creating, with words forced into senselessness, the effect of imagery freed from the tyrannous habits of interpretation. The final effect I worked for is the creation of abstract shapes and images that exist beyond language, created through control over language.
(1999; 18.5 x 77)
Unspeakable Things Unspoken
(1999; 43 x 95)
Suk Ja Kang-Engles is an independent artist living and working in Urbana, IL. Some of her actual efforts are on display at Lowe Gallery in Atlanta. She can be reached via email by clicking here.