I was two and a half years old when I made the 18-hour trip from Seoul to New York on an early spring night in 1974. I don’t know who helped me dress that morning, but what they chose for me – a simple, a-line dress – has been the only tangible link I have to the country of my birth. Two years ago, when I discovered that I had misplaced this dress, I decided to re-make it as an act of reclaiming my own cultural lineage.
“(Re-)Dress: One for Every Thousand” is composed of 200 individually-made white dresses in a symbolic attempt to re-dress the estimated 200,000 Korean children adopted abroad. The dresses are made from recycled domestic linens – tablecloths, bedsheets – as a way to foreground the unknowability of their prior domestic life. The color white is traditionally associated with mourning in Korea, and this piece shifts the adoption narrative from the “happy ending” for the lucky orphan to a more complicated meditation on what is lost – for the child, for the culture, for the nation.
This piece was first installed as part of CON/TEXTILE/IZED, curated by Brooke Erin Goldstein, at the Jamestown Arts Center from March 9 - April 28, 2018.
As part of the installation, viewers were invited to contribute cherished childhood memories on white cards which can then be pinned to the dresses themselves. With this gesture, memories are gifted to the adoptees, who might not have such memories of their own. Visitors to this site may also contribute a memory through the link below.