What makes you who you are? It’s a deceptively simple question that takes on new layers of meaning in an increasingly global world. As we crisscross through cultural, economic and geographical boundaries like never before, who are we becoming?
In Korean-American artist CYJO’s latest exhibition, “CYJO | Mixed Blood,” she asks us to consider the personal effects of an intercultural world, shrinking down the perspective to those of families of mixed ethnicity and the individuals within them. How is one’s identity forged when one’s roots are spread through multiple places? What does ethnic and cultural identity mean to those who have more than one influence?
“Mixed Blood” is a series of photographs of families with different ethnic backgrounds who live in the cultural mosaics of either Beijing or New York City, accompanied by short interviews with the members of each, in which they ruminate on their own notions of culture and identity.
From artists and designers to restaurant managers, small business owners and yoga instructors to diplomats, the range of lifestyles is wide, and the list of cultures involved too long to list here. The majority of the interviewees tick off the boxes of the obvious benefits of having multiethnic identities, everything from the advantages of being multilingual and having an intimate understanding of mindsets on both sides of the cultural fence, to enjoying a wider variety of cuisine.
This isn’t the first time that CYJO, aka Cindy Hwang, has delved into issues of identity in her work. Perhaps her best known work is “KYOPO Project (2004-2009)” in which she used text and photographs to explore the intersection between immigration to America and identity from the perspective of those of Korean ancestry. In China, she also took a look at the effects of domestic migration by documenting the lives of 50 migrant workers from across the country living in Beijing for “China, Substructure (2010).”
It’s a necessary thing in the times we are living in to continually revisit the question of identity, as it is being redefined in new and fascinating ways.
What: CYJO - Mixed Blood
Where: Today Art Museum
When: Through June 18
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