1. What is 교환(Exchange)ER?

‘교환(Exchange)ER’ is a personal project which was developed into the project ‘Dominating in the alley’ in 2010 from ‘Ars Project’. The title is a compound word of ‘교환(Exchange)’ and the suffix ‘-ER’ which is added to the end of a noun to make it the main agent of an action. It is a kind of cultural exchange project. I collect things which contain ones’ own characters or Korean culture from Koreans and take them to the UK or other cultural areas. Then, I barter them for items of local people who I meet while living there. When I return to Korea, I give the items I bartered for to those who gave me their belongings.

2. Why 교환(Exchange)ER?

a street stall in China in 2008

This project started off with a simple question. Why a can of soft drink I drink now is 800 Korean Won? I thought that it was too expensive and started to doubt whether the prices of all the goods selling in the market were fairly appropriated. So, I divided some of them into two categories of ‘expensive’ and ‘cheap’. A visual medium that I used for the purpose is advertisement that people are most familiar with. In general, to emphasize exclusivity and youth, modern and simple western images are often used in ads.

Moreover,I was intensely curious about the reason why Koreans like western images. For the full-scale access to the theme of ‘Western taste’ Koreans are crazy about, I decided to go to the UK which forms an important part of Western culture. Cultural difference I found while studying English to understand the British culture drew my attention. The first thing I came to take an interest in was sound. 

According to a friend of mine who studies music, Westerners speak through nasal cavity. Based on this information, I observed native speakers of English with attention and felt that their faces were vibrating when speaking. It is said that except for few vowels almost all Korean consonant sounds are not found in English. Like that we Koreans are not familiar with English articles, native speakers of English are not familiar with the use of Korean consonant ‘o’ before a vowel, which is an unvoiced sound. However, such difference between Korean and English is also often found in pairs of Korean and other languages.

If language affects thought, there will be a big difference in the way of thinking between people whose native languages are different from each other. The book ‘The Geography of Thought’ by Richard Nisbet scientifically explains the linguistic difference between Asians who focus on vowels and Westerners who emphasize nouns. According to him, such difference affects their views of the world beyond the simple linguistic difference.

Differences of thought between people, different values between items, and the change of values by the intervention of national images have been linked with one another and created one big thought. I felt that I could visualize such difference through the process of talking with people and carrying out cultural exchange with them. If there is modern art in the process of visualizing invisible things, before talking about the rights and wrongs of the process, I think that when it makes us take a look at our life, it can be accepted as art. This is the reason why Ars Project sets about the project ‘교환(Exchange)ER’. In the preparation of it, 

what I came to know was that luckily the UK is a multiracial country.

Collected items in Korea

Bartered items in the UK

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