‘Migrant Instability’: Korean Montreal artists explore leaving your old life behind in new exhibit

“How do we deal with the migrant instabilities that live inside us?” says artist Kevin Park Jung-Hoo about the question that led him and his partner Jin Heewong to create an art exhibition around the theme of migration. Brittany Henriques reports.

Leaving Korea behind and immigrating to Quebec turned into something of an identity crisis for two artists.

Jin Heewong, a first-generation immigrant, says the transition from Seoul to Montreal was difficult. He left his life as a well known and respected artist in 2017 to become an immigrant in a country where the main languages were not his own.

In Quebec, the father of two struggled to get his footing and get access to making art and presenting it again.

Kevin Park Jung-Hoo, who was born in Toronto but raised in Korea, eventually came to Quebec with an uneasy feeling. That morphed into battling with mental-health issues and thoughts of suicide.

“I never wanted to die,” said Jung-Hoo, a filmmaker and visual artist. “It’s just that I wanted to live a better life moving forward. So I started to really think about what’s going on in my life. And I started to really dwell on this idea of what does it mean to be an immigrant, especially as someone who has both sides of the first and second-gen experience.”

Artists Kevin Park Jung-Hoo (left) and Jin Heewong at their exhibit “Migrant Instability” in March 2023. (Credit: David Wong/provided)

Those feelings – the possible alienation of a new home following migration – is at the heart of the artists’ new exhibit “Migrant Instability.”

“How do we deal with the migrant instabilities that lead inside us?” said Jung-Hoo. “And if we think about migration or immigration as a whole, we think about things that life is going to be better even within that community. But the reality is we’re actually leaving things behind.

“We try to concentrate on the idea of movement itself and the precariousness, anxiety that comes with it.”

The exhibit is a collection of sculptures, installations and video works that explore the act of migration – and what’s left behind.

Heewong, who was born into the middle class in Korea, was shocked that he felt like a minority once in Canada.

“It’s kind of a journey of being a minority, and a little acting on my life too. So that’s put into my sculpture,” said Heewong, a sculptor and interdisciplinary artist.

“I was basically in privileged societies, like I didn’t need to think about who I am. I just was a human being. But here when I moved, I had to be conscious that I’m l Asian and I’m not the same as anybody else here.”

The duo brings their similarities and differences together to combine their individual and personal works. They also created a zine together called “Luggage Bags: Moving from Point A to B.”

“What is this idea of migration in general and how can we share that experience to the individual level and really start building a meaningful discussion?” said Jung-Hoo. “Instead of making it an academic topic, but more of a wealth and caring conversation among the people in their community.”

The project hopes to give Montrealers a glimpse of the life of a migrant, including the impacts of restarting from scratch.

“I hope people start contemplating on after watching this show and hopefully at the very least find a sense of consolation that it is not only you who experience that kind of… feeling,” said Jung-Hoo.

“It’s a shared experience.”

The exhibition is open to the public at the multidisciplinary cultural organization “Montréal, arts interculturels” until April 1.

Artists Jin Heewong (left) and Kevin Park Jung-Hoo at their exhibit “Migrant Instability” in March 2023. (Credit: David Wong/provided)

Top Stories

Top Stories