Hyun Jin Kwak

Born in 1974 in South Korea, Lives in Stockholm.




The ongoing project Girls In Uniform started 2003 and it consists of different series of staged photography, sculptures and video works in plan. In the beginning of the project I focused on the changing mental states and patterns of behavior in the Korean society. These fluctuations relate to the rapid economic growth and ethical pressures in recent Korean history.

The schoolgirl uniform as such is allowed for an investigation into the process of socialization, where different aspects of the power structures, oppression, transgressions and an awakening sexuality were staged and forced to confront each other. These aspects reflect the varying degrees and the breaking points between the sternly authoritative, repressive system and the country's recent openness during a time of strong economic and technological development, which also allowed for an individualistic consumer culture and expanding cultural life.

In the later stage of the project the girls may function more as a metaphor for someone in transition, something incomplete, unstable and highly charged. In Girls In Uniform the subject of the young female is not the commonly reproduced, powerless or passive subject, but rather an activated, empowered and responsible subject. The subject is testing her forces within a social sphere, or submitting herself to the collective power of the group. The rituals, exercises and power struggles between the individuals occur in isolated or peripheral locations, which are chosen to underline and contrast with the ambivalence of the transitional character and stages of adolescence. The choice of the location became more careful in later part with research, and history of its own became an important element to contribute to narrative as much as visual of the spaces. These spaces can be seen as parallels to the commonplaces and many of my locations/scenes can be read as heterotopian spaces.

They are primarily spaces of otherness, which are neither here nor there, and simultaneously represent

the physical and mental.

From a media point of view I here try to utilize the paradoxical ability of photography to both involve a fraction of authenticity and a frozen, emblematic, and hyperreal document. I want the photographs to

possess a theatrical quality at the same time as they refer to documentary (or psychological portraits).


The Island – A Case Study of a Collector’s Mind (2008-2010) is blending staged and document photographs and a video piece, as well as a book with essay and fictional literature with site-specific

investigative work.

The title of the project is a description of the place that is not geographical, it is rather opposite, but a state of the place. The Island is about the total isolation of the place from outside. When I found the place – Casa Barbieri – I was overwhelmed by aesthetic of the place, strikingly painful and tragic.

It was a badly run down house with a large iron fence and a padlocked gate, with a sign warning people to stay away. The house seemed abandoned also was the common opinion among those who lived in the city. I came to use this run down palace to portray how a place can challenge a town’s structure, architecturally and socially. I am also interested in this palazzo in contrast to strict organized structures, such as what the Uniform represents – a link that I express by staging photographs with elements of uniforms on location. What became even more important was the biographical contents within the sociological and psychological investigation of the project. As in the earlier project I here focus on mental and social aspects of spaces and their conflicts and relations. The Island – A Case Study of a Collector’s Mind involves a discussion about documentary and staged photography, fiction and non-fiction, the visual vs. the written text, and the meaning of narrative/storytelling not only though my photos but also by working together with authors who share the same interests of working in different field of practice. In this project I commissioned two writers – one wrote an essay based on 2 research at site and the other wrote a short story based on provided visual material from the location.

In the book my aim was to weave these elements together in a seamless way.


Hyun-Jin Kwak