Hyun-Jin Kwak

Girls in Uniform
Study of Elements
Study of Landscape and Beauty

Hyun-Jin Kwak. Girls In Uniforms. Dig #2
Hyun-Jin Kwak. Girls In Uniforms. Dig #2

Girls In Uniform is an ongoing and long-term project where I work with staged photography, sculptures
and video works. The point of departure is the encounter with western culture – a way of analyzing the
past in order to understand the new. The series forms a narrative about transition by using the
transformative state from childhood to adulthood as metaphor, and all that which shapes an individual in
relation to society – from the Korean schoolgirls via the young girls in a Swedish or Italian landscape.
The project has developed into studies of elements in settings where the historical and architectural
aspects are of considerable importance.

The uniform has repressive as well as protective qualities. The uniform can be viewed as a “second skin”
which represents the norms, orders and collectiveness as well as a protection, shelter and harbor of
anonymity. This doubleness makes it possible to create stories about deviation from norms and
communities and about creating individual identities.

The uniformed girls are staged in different settings: in dark and arcane rooms, in landscapes and
abandoned buildings. In "Study of Elements" I use shadow pictures of the girls being as visible as their
bodies; placed like dolls in frozen postures.

The choice of settings playing an important role: these events take place in isolated or remote localities,
or in heterotopias – spaces that exist with their own set of terms, as parallel universes. These are
spaces of otherness, which are neither here nor there, that are simultaneously physical and mental. In
the last few years, the decisions for the site were, to a great extent, based on the location’s history in
relation to my theme. In Reggio Emilia I staged shoots in the Civic-museum, the natural history museum
built by scientist Lazzaro Spallanzani, who created his own fantasy hybrid animals, as well as in OPG
(Psychiatric Judiciary Hospital), a former correctional institution for the mentally ill. In my photographic
staging at these locations, my use of models, props, and the situations they are involved in – the history
of the site is both reactivated and challenged.

Hyun-Jin Kwak

Hyun-Jin Kwak
Girls In Uniform - Study of Elements

Study of Elements - Encounter #2
Study of Elements - Encounter #2

Hyun-Jin Kwak
Girls In Uniform - A Study of Landscape and Beauty

Hyun-Jin Kwak. Fotografi. Girls In Uniform - A Study in Landscape and Beauty. 80 x 100 cm.
Hyun-Jin Kwak. Fotografi. Girls In Uniform - A Study in Landscape and Beauty. 80 x 100 cm.

A Study of Landscape and Beauty, nr 1-5

 The motives and format of this series refer to classical oriental ink paintings, especially landscapes and portrait of immortals and beauty and women.
During the process of the preparation of this series I was thinking of and reflecting on how nature, the supernatural, the beauty, and women are described in these tradition of painting/philosophy. One of the thoughts: opposed to how men are depicted in this tradition – as active subject involved in refined activities as performing art, poetry and meditation – women are traditionally rather depicted as a passive, almost as parts of the landscape. Instead of being acting subjects, they are objects of desire and for projection of ideas about beauty and sensuality. In my work I have been trying to create a sense of ambiguity in terms of body gestures, placements of the models and the nature of their activities.
When one see my images, one might start to rethink the first impression of the title –that the title is actually not a celebration of the classical landscape and beauty but an attempt to critically rethink this imagery with the landscape and beauty, and to introduce some ambiguous and contemporary elements.
Another thing about this series: my approach to the found/existing space as a “staged” backdrop of story/images continues in this series. In the images there are elements that suggest a strange co-existence between nature and the urban life and the fact that nature or “the natural” in many ways is “staged” and modified by human hand. All five images are taken from a specific mountain in Korea, and it's also a widely spread idea among Koreans that this particular mountain have supernatural, and religious powers - and I somehow tried to capture the scenery of belief of supernatural power through the series, and it is quite clear in image nr 5, as an example.
Hyun-Jin Kwak, 2014