Unhee Park, born and raised in Korea, is a photographer and video artist who brings a fresh and unique approach to expressing identity issues and social reality through art in contemporary North America. Her deadpan comedy approach in her work has a hint of absurdity and naivety. Her persona and status as an outsider allows her to ask blunt but profound questions that lead to her idiosyncratic approach to expressing issues in reality and fiction. She received her Master’s in Fine Arts (MFA) from the School of Visual Arts (SVA) in Photography, Video, and Related Media.
Before moving to New York, Park studied Glass Art and Art Therapy in Korea. Her exposure and experience with photography and art in Korea paved her way to her MFA in 2013 and a certificate from the International Center of Photography (ICP) in 2010. Park is currently involved in art projects both in Korea and the US.
“Host” addresses and explores the coexistence of fiction and reality.
When I moved to the States, I was an outsider who came from a different culture and used another language. I realized my identity shifted by the environment and how I was categorized by people regardless of who I am. I had to be an Asian woman and a foreigner who with a Korean name. I have tried to fit in even though it did not feel natural. In this project, I explore my experience as an outsider and how I aim to be in the “local” social category by taking on a different identity in a foreign environment.
My experience staying at others’ homes and apartments I rented from an online homestay network led me to discover the disparity between the descriptions and reality. Hosts portray themselves and their places through their profiles and pictures, but the reality I experience when I personally visit their places is uncanny.
In this project, I use an online homestay network that people use to rent their homes or rooms to visitors. This online network requires hosts to upload their profile pictures and post pictures of their space to inform potential renters. Most of the hosts provide a short bio of themselves on their profiles, which may or may not be true and complete representations of who they are. When I visit these places, it is always hard to meet the host in person as if they are trying to hide themselves to avoid bothering visitors.
As a “stranger” invited into their lives and most personal places, I obsessively started collecting these memories and experiences between what I call fiction and reality. I experienced two spaces coexisting during these visits. One that is presented through the images and descriptions from the internet, and the “backstage” space which is physical and real without any modifications or staging.
In this project, I imagine and construct the host’s identity by creating images of the host and their identity from the pictures and descriptions posted online, and from the various facets I observe and experience when I visit the actual place. I observe and discover my subject (i.e., space, host). Then, I attempt to create the host’s identity by posturing as the host myself hiding behind a photograph of the space. The photos are printed from the internet (i.e., fiction) and displayed with the real physical space (i.e., reality) as the background.
To view more of Unhee Park’s work please visit her website.