Exoticized, 2017


Conceptual project in collaboration with Stephanie and Justine in Art center's Wind Tunnel Gallery during the workshop called, 'Different Tomorrow's.' 

The Exoticized is a speculative installation that cultivates a cosmology of gendered space for women who have been labeled “exotic” at least once in their lives. The space, inconspicuously tucked away from the male gaze and reminiscent of Korean spas and Hammams, offers a time away from time for women bestowed a Purple Card––find the door, push and release...



The Exoticized from won on Vimeo.

How does time transpire in this suspended space outside of the male gaze and in the company of fellow exotic women? The Exoticized plays off exoticness in order to entice conversations within and outside of its physical walls.

Before the performance, we asked every woman (and man) in the studio if they had ever been called “exotic”? For those who answered yes, we gave them a small, purple card with instructions for how to enter our hidden installation.

Intentionally using aspects of Eastern tradition by taking a page out of Edward Said’s On Orientalism (such as the veil, lit candles, and fragrant oils), we played up the sensual connotations of the imposed label using it to our advantage to lure and to tempt, to dispel its sexual assumptions, as well as to indulge in its sensuality. After the performance with the select group of women participants invited to the shrouded space, we discussed real testimonials from the select group of women participants as well as insights from those not invited.

Having been called exotic, the word is ours to use and abuse.




Reflection
How can we as women designers––previously defined as “exotic”––use this as a point of interest as well as departure in design?

Designing a gendered time space raises the question: for what kind of women are we designing? Although gender is one way to build community, differences within the categorization of “women” are complex. They are not universal. As three women designers from different ethnicities, our commonality of being labeled the same thing––exotic––was our point of inquiry in designing for this specific group.

It was difficult to get this granularity, because the question of excluding some was something we had to grapple with, especially in the context of showing this performance with our cohort. but having the specificity helped us dive deeper into the meanings of exotic and play off of our personal experiences as “exotic, women designers.”

The presentation of the project generated fruitful conversation in which we learned more beyond our own experiences with the word “exotic”. We discussed the other contexts within and outside of the U.S. in which the word is used, how the word relates to men (or not), and where we could go from here. This is certainly a project we envision taking forward into the future.

Personal Experience on the word 'Exoticism' and 'Gender'
When I first move to United States, it was surprising for me to hear that I’m ‘exotic,’ because no one told me that I’m exotic in my entire life before. And I couldn’t tell myself ‘exotic’ because it means that I’m putting myself far from the psychological territory that I reside in.

My home country, Korea has long been a homogeneous country because of geo-political reason. After globalization, people start to accept ‘other’ culture and the definition of ‘Exoticism’ in Korea is for American, European, Arabian and African people living in a specific village or mail ordered brides and foreign worker from South East Asia living in a country side to support farming industry. In Korean society, I was a girl in ‘default.’

After I come to United States to study, I started to be called from ‘default’ to ‘exotic’, which was very interesting experience for me to interact with people around me. How people talk, smiles and take gestures to me are obviously different from how people treat me in Korea, and my attitudes toward others are different as well. Even though my 'label' changed, my underlying emotion is always the same. What can I do for people to feel connected to each others who is physically and culturally different from oneself?

Spas in Korea is a place for gathering and get to know one’s neighbors through relaxation and conversation. Also, a very private place strictly separate people by one’s genders, which liberate oneself from sexual gaze and feel the time away from time.

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Different Tomorrows: Beyond Whiteness
Brings together writers, artists, designers and activists to explore ethnofuturisms (afro, chicanix) and the ultra unreal to explore forms of futurity whose politics, aesthetics, ideologies and cultures are centered beyond whiteness. The event repositions the design discourse beyond the eurocentric, techo-determinist normalities of the past/present and focuses on the framing of time as a profoundly black, brown and yellow experience. Setting up the linearities of history, unities of value and universalities of meaning as refracted through prisms of race, gender and inequality.

Brief
You are to make a Cosmology that decenters the normative. To do this pick a Time framework and a Quality of Time— You will use this to construct the logic of your cosmology. This logic is the vocabulary you will use to construct your universe. It should reflect the unique worldview that it comes from and/or is representative of...What are the invisible forces that control and create its behaviors and how does that impact how things are built, experiences and/or what material they are made of? (also for consideration: language, relationships (in families, romantic, inter-species, nation-state….)