It all began with ACC’s grant notification letter: “Dear Ms. Bae, we are pleased to inform you that…”
Those ten words set into motion South Korean interdisciplinary artist Minkyung Bae’s six-month ACC New York Fellowship and her exploration of contemporary art in the U.S.
Minkyung Bae’s work centers around time, the senses, and the relationship of small elements to the larger whole—from the individual to society. Her exploration of these themes takes the form of durational performances and kinetic installations, often incorporating light and sound. Minkyung, in recent years, has expanded her practice to collaborate with new media artists, electrical engineers, computer scientists, instrument makers, sound artists, composers, and performance artists.
Minkyung Bae's 2014 piece "The Song of a Walking Turtle Act 1_Scene 1 The Sea and butterfly"
During Minkyung’s fellowship, ACC invited current grantees to request access to historical files from Rockefeller Archives Center. Taking this opportunity, Minkyung began to research video art pioneer Nam June Paik’s relationship with ACC (then JDR 3rd Fund). Nam June Paik’s first ACC fellowship in 1965 was a one-year grant to continue his composition of electronic music and visual composition. At the time, ACC also provided funds that allowed Nam June Paik to purchase a video tape recorder, newly made available to the public.
Minkyung was drawn to a series of letters between Nam June Paik and Porter A. McCray, first director of the JDR 3rd Fund (ACC’s predecessor), which contextualized her own experience within the 55-year history of ACC.
During staying here, I could see and experience that I never expected before. It was such a precious time for me. I read letters between Nam June Paik and Porter A. McCray in the ACC office. From their special relationship based on respect, I could think about the meaning of art and exchange, again. After reading their story, whenever I met ACC people, I could think that ACC's history and existence encouraged me, a lot. I guessed that many great ACC artist stayed in my room.
From this, she drew inspiration for a week-long, open room exhibition An Envelope in Cloud at her ACC apartment.
And so, once again, it all began with a letter:
Dear ACC Friends,
Hi, I'm Minkyung Bae, from Korea, who arrived NYC the end of the April. Now my 6-month exchange program is almost done. I have only 16 days. I have several events before leaving, and I'd like to invite you. If we can see each other, I'll be happy….
I'd like to invite ACC people to this exhibition, first of all.
Could you visit my room during the exhibition?
I'd like to share my experience and listen to you.
Minkyung opened the door of her apartment to an all-encompassing sensory experience. Pressing our ears to a glass table, we heard the field recordings of her life in New York. Turning to the TV monitor, we saw clips of her dance performance through the city. Flipping through her album, a bursting catalogue of programs and ticket stubs, we viewed the galleries, exhibitions, events she had visited. And sitting around in a circle, eating Minkyung’s homemade mattang (candied sweet potato), we shared stories and laughs and maybe a few tears. In a room that has been passed down from person to person, artist to artist, there is something transferrable. Sometimes, it’s physical—artists have left each other notes or poems—and sometimes, it’s just a feeling. Minkyung Bae has certainly left an indelible piece of her bravery and optimism nestled in a studio apartment in New York City.
Left: ACC staff listen to Minkyung’s field recordings, transmitted to glass table and conducted by holding hands; right: Minkyung and ACC staff share stories and food seated in Minkyung’s apartment; below: Minkyung Bae (front center) with ACC staff