Media: Black glutinous rice, salted egg yolks, and removable double-layer wooden box.
Space: Da-an Park
Today I am Free is a work for “On The Way: ArTrend International Performance Art Meeting. Literally speaking, it is a work “on the way.” It does not have a specific destination. Unlike most of the artists who have to “stand still” to make their art, I was allowed to “move around” while I was making Today I am Free. Moving allows us to adjust the distance from others. In the International Performance Art Meeting, I made myself a vendor to provide free art in Daan Forest Park. I walked around the park and kept installing or dismantling my stand to make some “food” for everyone.
I held a removable double-layer wooden box in my hands. One layer was for cooked sweet rice and the other was for salted egg yolks. Around the park, I was making “art balls” for people to eat, and I greeted them with “free art!” An old nanny was trying to pay me after she ate one. Several kids kept running back to ask for more. Some curious foreigners stood around me to see what I was doing. At one place, people were lining up and waiting for me but I left after making five balls. From the beginning to the end, we kept confusing each other.
Vendors are like guerrillas. They move around and build up a strong and close relationship with each other. They station on the side of the streets, where they can be close to people. They don’t need an entrance to show up in front of you. They are outside of your plan, attracting your attention in a way that you don’t even notice it. They don’t stay at the same location. It takes some luck to meet one. The fascinating thing about them is that when they intrude in your ordinary life, you have something to “expect for,” because you know these people who are “on the way” are always interesting, full of fun, skilled, and surprising, just like the street artists who are ready to have a go in New York Subway.
For those people “on the way,” they are the active ones. In my opinion, one of their attempts is to open up the relationship with others. It is also how Today I am Free worked. When I saw people sitting and chatting in one place, I held my wooden box and walked toward them, setting up my stand and cooking the rice ball with egg yalk. I shared the free art/food with them. They were surprised and confused, overwhelmed by the favor, but they still ate the art balls. When they said “delicious” to me, they probably still had no idea what the artist was trying to do. But they ate the balls anyway, trying to give me some response through emotions and physical expressions – “it is delicious!” If they wanted to have some more, I would be long gone. Our relationship remained in their sense of taste. The memory of “eating” became a way to possess my work. Meanwhile, the action of “eating” transferred the power of interpretation to viewers so that they could speak it out with “honesty.”