Uhmuhni is a narrative through music, visual art, and words and is inspired by a Korean mother who wrote a letter to her dead 10-month-old daughter in 1795.* It was a common practice in Korea during that time to have a close family member write a letter addressed to a deceased person to be read publicly at a funeral. For women, the reading was often the only public account of their lives. Despite living in a society marked by deep patriarchy, the mother chose to write the letter in literary Chinese, rather than in vernacular Korean.
Aimee Lee, my friend and hanji artist, and I are both Americans who were born to Korean immigrant parents. Because of the shared experience of belonging neither-here-nor-there, our conversations often find their home in memory and longing. Aimee has traveled to Korea many times to study the art of Korean papermaking and uses hanji to create beautiful artwork. I have also returned to Korea to learn more about folk performance traditions and explore ways to express that communal spirit into my work in the U.S. as a performer, organizer, and composer. Our work will traverse the landscapes of Korea in the 1790s, 1950s, post-war period, and post-Hart-Celler Act USA, through the eyes of women who experienced them. Aimee and I will create a collection of visual and sound pieces to be performed by us that process the memories of generations of women before us. While these are not our direct experiences, these memories are our inheritance, which we seek to translate, transform, and fully embody.
We worked on the project in November 2022 in Cleveland, OH at Aimee’s new Hanji Studio (photo above). Our time together was made possible by the 2022 New Music USA Creator Development Fund.
Check out what Aimee wrote about our residency here.
*Written by Kim Samuidang and translated into English by Jahyun Kim Haboush in Epistolary Korea: Letters in the Communicative Space of The Choson, 1392-1910
GEORGE/MICHAEL (WORKING TITLE)
Hyeyung Sol Yoon is currently creating musical works for a project led by artists and dancers Michael Sakamoto (Butoh) and George de la Peña (Ballet), and her work “Garden of the Willis” choreographed by Sakamoto and de la Peńa had its world premiere in April 2022 performed by the students from the University of Nebraska’s dance department. She and her colleagues were in residence at Jacob’s Pillow in October 2022 to develop the work.
George/Michael” (working title) explores the embodied legacies of ballet and butoh dance in the real and imagined lives of its lead performers, George de la Peña and Michael Sakamoto. Conceived as a “subjective documentary” blending memoir, history, and fiction, this dance theater project traces connections between wildly diverse inspirations, such as ballet legend Vaslav Nijinsky (portrayed by de la Peña in the Hollywood film, Nijinsky), butoh creator Hijikata Tatsumi, exotic oriental fantasies in modern ballet, and fetishism around French literature and the body in early butoh. Sakamoto and de la Peña also reflect on paradoxes within their contemporary dance identities: what it means to be a male artist in the era of #metoo, queer politics, and racial reckoning with white supremacy, while maintaining dance’s potential to enliven and transform.