Jae Hoon Lee

Chiang Mai Family

Chiang Mai Family by Jae Hoon Lee

Artwork Detail

Jae Hoon Lee has developed a reputation in New Zealand as a digital video artist, and more recently branching into digital photography and installation practice. However it is through his video works that he has gained a reputation. When his work first came to prominence it was for a cluster of videos in which he manipulated imagery to create a kind of moving-image wallpaper, typically focusing on close and medium-range shots of the body, imagery from nature, and urban scapes. The works are devoid of narrative and are looped on a short cycle to create the appearance of a image-atmosphere in the space.

Second to this work has been a cluster of important works which depict the artist in what he refers to as his ‘nomadic’ condition. Jae Hoon Lee is a Korean artist who has variously lived in South Korea, America and New Zealand. He continues to travel extensively, and his video recordings often function as diaries of his physical and intellectual relationship to place. In Chiang Mai Family Lee travels on a well-known tourist trail in the hills of northern Thailand. In these trails, participants are encouraged to spend the night with local people who live in the highly volatile area of the Burmese/Thai border.

Using handheld digi-cam, Jae Hoon records a sequence from his voyage in the morning following his stay in the village. He attempts to set up a family portrait in front of the camera of the people with whom he has stayed, using broken Thai. We cannot see the artist, but his presence is recorded in voice and bodily gesture through the movement of the camera. His various interactions with grandparents, parents, children, have all of the sentimentality of a long-history of tourist and anthropological image making, albeit this time recorded by a tourist from a neighbouring region of South East Asia. For Western audiences the interactions between artist and family have an assumed intimacy precisely because we are isolated from the exchange because of language.

The dramatic moment in this otherwise light nostaligic video comes in the last minutes of the work, when Lee’s camera captures a group of western tourist emerging from the right of the scene. In this instance, the image of peace, seclusion and intimacy is broken by the reality of the existence of both the peoples depicted, and the nature of the artist’s own relationship to his subjects – he is as much subject and tourist within this scene.

Chiang Mai Family
Jae Hoon Lee
Production date
single channel video, standard definition (SD), 16:9, colour, stereo sound
12min 24sec
Credit line
Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki, purchased 2011
Accession no
Copying restrictions apply
New Zealand Art
Display status
Not on display

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