Being a Queen – To be or not to be oneself

Being a Queen – To be or not to be oneself

Marie during the preparations for her photograph.

“You are not sitting in front of a camera, you are sitting in front of yourself”. These were the precise words from Korean artist Kyungwoo Chun when met him to discuss his latest project Being a Queen.

During his artists residency in Aarhus and Copenhagen in the past
weeks the Korean artist Kyungwoo Chun has been working on a
project entitled Being a Queen, a project involving people who
consciously or unconsciously reflect their identity either mentally or
physiologically with Queen Margrethe II. Kyungwoo Chun initially
records a sort of interview with the participants on video, and then
photographs them with the aid of a long exposure time. A method
that he has turned into his artistic signature.

Kyungwoo Chun: 1 Hour Portrait #11, 2002
Kyungwoo Chun: 1 Hour Portrait #11, 2002
Queen Margrethe II of Denmark
Kyungwoo Chun believes that many Danes have their own personal
and special relationship to Queen Margrethe II. The Queen
influences Danes in that she shows herself as an ordinary human
being with the same sorrows and joys as everyone else. This means
that she demystifies the concept of “Queen” and thus becomes a
real presence according to Kyungwoo Chun. “She could be anyone”,
he continues, “She could be your mother, your grandmother or your
mother-in-law”. It’s a social phenomenon, explains Kyungwoo Chun,
about the concept of ’Queen’ in peoples psyche, not about
Margrethe II herself. He wants to examine this interesting
psychological aspect of identity, from an artistic perspective, in the
project Being a Queen.

Real People
“I am not interested in copies of the Queen, but in each of you as
persons”, explained Kyungwoo Chun, on presenting the Being a
Queen project at an information meeting at Gallery Image in the
beginning of September.
So now, dressed in a light blue ball gown with full regalia, jewels
and medals, the participants sit in a darkened room in front of
Kyungwoo Chun and the dim light of the lens in precisely the
number of minutes that reflect the age of each participant. “Being
human one is constructed by the number of years you have lived”,
comments Kyungwoo Chun.
He explains that it will unavoidably create an inner tension for
anyone that is placed in such an unaccustomed and different
situation, both dressed as a Queen and with time for reflection.
To be allowed to withdrawn into silence in an apartment in Aarhus
for a half or whole hour and to be allowed use this time as one
wants is not something we are used to in our normal everyday life.
Kyungwoo Chun believes, that this artificially created situation will
enable the participant to reflect on the Queen, or the concept of the
Queen, and then to return to her own presence. ”You will return to
yourself”, he concludes.

”We always relate ourselves to time”
But the project is not about time per se. ”Because what is time”?
asks Kyungwoo Chun.
“For me the present is always in movement. For me there is no
present, only past and future”, he explains. “It is the beginning and
end of time”, that these photographs show in one simultaneous
He finds it interesting to create an image over time, to work with
time in the image and with the reflection that arises in the time
span of the image.
Kyungwoo Chun feels that he is always a part of the photograph as
it involves the time the artist and his sitter have exchanged and
spent together. Conversation is not absolutely necessary. ”Silence is
also a form of speech”, explains Kyungwoo Chun.
”We exchange something”, he continues, ”we all get a little older
and the meaning of our memories are changed forever.” The
present is always in movement, even in the relatively short time
that the encounter between the artist and the sitter. They change in
each other’s company.

Niels Peter and Janne during the preparations for the photo shoot.
Niels Peter and Janne during the preparations for the photo shoot.

A humanist project
Kyungwoo Chun hopes, that each individual can recognise
themselves in the blurred photographs that the long exposure time
will result in, in the as-of-yet unfinished project Being a Queen. “My
intention is to create a portrait”, he says. He cannot nor will not
control the sitters along the way. In other words it is each single
person themselves who draw so to speak their portrait during the
photo session. He wants the sitter to honestly reveal who they
really are.
Kyungwoo Chun searches for the Queen in each individual, but finds
the individual in every Queen.

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'Being a Queen – To be or not to be oneself'