And is it true you have a special episode related to Sir Namjune Paik (a prominent figure of video art)?
After my college graduation, I left to study in Germany, mainly to hear lectures from Sir Namjune Paik. But he ended his lectures before I entered the school and instead sent me a hand-written recommendation letter for the Stuttgart State Academy of Art, where Bill Viola (his student) was expected to hold a class there. Sir Paik probably thought it was another good option I could take. But as Bill Viola gained his fame in a flash, he resigned from school, so I ended up being taught by another professor for 5 years. I was finally able to meet Sir Paik when there was an installation going on in front of the new annex building of the Stuttgart Academy. In Germany, other than scholarships, the universities offer students the right to speak through voting on a number of issues. Out of the three nominated installation works, Sir Paik’s received the highest vote. He came to check on the installation and I was able to have dinner with him, where I showed him my works. He advised me to find the place that could bring my ideas to life at a fast speed or else to go back to Korea and become an artist representing the country. He meant if I were to be invited as a national guest, people would be drawn to the messages of my works a lot more intensely. A week later I got rid of all of my works and flew back home. That was 1996 when I was 31.
You bravely chose to walk the path of an artist at a young age, although it didn’t ensure success.
I wasn’t a bit interested in succeeding. I was rather relaxed, thinking it’d still be okay even if I don’t get much luck to succeed. I was 41 when I first sold my work, which I suppose didn’t happen so early. Until then I worked as a part-time tutor and a filming producer to keep my works going on the side. I had produced a documentary of a ceramic biennale, interview footages of art museum directors and even a couple of shoots for the TV program <Animal Farm>. I made money through my practical skills and used it to make artworks that didn’t sell, but I still think those were the happiest years of my life. And since my first sell, I’ve come this far as an artist, solely with my work for the last ten years.
In 2011 you were selected as the national participant of the Venice Art Biennale.
I was lucky but for some reason I was sure that one day I’d be presenting myself out in the international art world. Rather than being selected or not, it was the timing that mattered most. If an artist gains fame at a young age with a particular artwork, it’s more likely that the artist gets bound to that specific piece, because it sells well. But in my case, the timing was right after the years I’ve been running away, searching for the things more original since I tend not to like what others like. And thanks to myself, I think that part of me helped.