Kami by Elli Chung
The East-Asian philosophy of aesthetics, specifically from Buddhist tradition, is embedded in my cultural identity. At the core of traditional Japanese culture is the value of harmony in all things, engagement with the present moment, and grace in allusiveness. My project Kami seeks to locate the feelings aroused by the sensing of presence, or the “spirit” in visual experience. Kami is a Japanese word for god or essence derived from the Shinto/Buddhist belief in the afterlife that all humans at death become spirits inhabiting both the heavens and the earth -- the worlds of the visible and invisible intertwine in life, from the mountains, waterways and plants, to animals and the changing seasons. Deities and demons are close at hand to hear petitions or cause terror. Kami is a series of photographic images of domestic and nature scenes and objects that allude to legendary creatures and spirits in Japanese folktales. I title the images with the names of these characters to suggest narratives and their presence in the settings.
In this project, the interplay between fantasy and reality depends on how words interact with images to settle or unsettle the terms of engagement. Text serves as a starting point from which ordinary spaces are recontextualized as sites of subtle dramas. The allegorical potential and plausibility of the text and image pairing are spurred by psychological thought giving rise to subjective fiction and for desires to play out.
My Korean and Japanese heritage has played a key role in the way certain types of images have influenced my sensorial experiences of them. Kami is a contemplation on imagination and our intimate relationship to the way we see, read and experience images. Connected to and drawn from our own consciousness or search for meaning, images can serve as a holding ground for own personal mythologies.
Elli Chung lives and works in Brooklyn, New York.
To view more of Elli's work, please visit her website.