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Elizabeth A.Sackler Center for Feminist Art

Chang-Jin Lee

New York, NY
USA

Chang-Jin Lee is a Korean-born visual artist and lives in New York City. Her multicultural background and experiences have provoked in her an interest in investigating the diverse cultural and social/political issues in our current era.

She has exhibited extensively including at The Incheon Women Artists’ Biennale (Korea), Bo Pi Liao Contemporary (Taiwan), The Queens Museum of Art (New York), The World Financial Center Winter Garden (New York), The Lower Manhattan Cultural Council (New York), The Asian American Arts Centre (New York), The Chinese American Arts Council (New York), Van Brunt Gallery (New York), Elizabeth Heskin Gallery (New York), The Peekskill Project (New York), and The Bronx River Art Center (New York).

She has received numerous awards including The Asian Cultural Council Fellowship, The Lower Manhattan Cultural Council Grant, The Asian Women Giving Circle Award, The New York Foundation for the Arts Fiscal Sponsorship Award, The World Financial Center Sponsorship, The Puffin Foundation Grant, The Lower Manhattan Cultural Council - Creative Capital Professional Development Workshop, and The Lower Manhattan Cultural Council’s Manhattan Community Arts Fund.

She has participated in artist residencies internationally including The World Financial Center Artist Residency (New York), The Youkobo Art Space (Japan), The Bamboo Culture International (Taiwan), and Taipei Artist Village (Taiwan). She had artist talks at The Bamboo Culture International, Taipei Artist Village, and The Taipei Women’s Rescue Foundation.

Her artwork has received national and international broadcast media attention from New York 1 TV (New York), Yue-Sai Kan’s World (Shanghai), and Tokyo FM (Tokyo). Reviews include The New York Times, Time Out New York, The Daily News, Public Art, New York Arts, The Los Angeles Times, The World Journal, Metro, New York Press, The Tribeca Trib, The Korea Times, The Korea Daily, The Washington Journal, WTOP Radio, Lower Manhattan Info, San Diego Union Tribune, and The Associated Press.

Feminist Artist Statement

Since 2007, I have traveled to Asia, (including Korea, China, Taiwan, Japan, and Indonesia), meeting “comfort women” survivors and a former Japanese soldier from W.W.II.

COMFORT WOMEN WANTED explores the history of 200,000 young women, known as “comfort women,” who were systematically exploited as sex slaves to serve the Japanese Imperial Army in Asia before and during World War II, increasing awareness of sexual violence against women during wartime. Exhibited at the Incheon Women Artists’ Biennale (Korea, 2009) the audio, mixed media installation includes a series of advertisement-like billboards and audio recordings.

The title is a reference to the actual text of advertisements which appeared in newspapers during the war. When advertising failed, young women were gathered from Korea, China, Indonesia, the Philippines,Thailand, Vietnam, Malaysia, and the Netherlands, and forced into sexual slavery. Most were teenagers, some as young as 12 years old, and were raped by as many as fifty soldiers a day at military rape camps. By some estimates only 30% survived the ordeal. The “Comfort Women System” is considered the largest case of human trafficking in the 20th century.

In the advertisement-like billboards, the text is in black atop a red background. Surrounded by gold leaf, the portrait of a young comfort woman, (taken during her enslavement) is juxtaposed with the silhouette of an aged comfort woman appearing against an actual photo of her current home. Most of the survivors could never return home because of their “shameful past.” Their sense of home was forever lost.

“The voices of the kind of people comfort women represent - the female, the impoverished, the colonized, the illiterate, and the racially and ethnically oppressed. These people have left few written records of their experiences, and therefore are denied a place in history.” - Suzanne O’Brien, historian

The emphasis of the audio is on the everyday hopes and dreams of these women. This presents the women as individuals rather than as victims and highlights the experiences we all share, in order to put these monumental events in context. The stories and songs of the women contrast with the voice of the soldier.

Despite growing awareness of the issue of trafficking of women and of sexual slavery as a crime against humanity, this particular recent historical event has been largely forgotten. COMFORT WOMEN WANTED attempts to bring to light this instance of organized violence against women by acknowledging their place in history.

<p>COMFORT WOMEN WANTED</p>

COMFORT WOMEN WANTED

Exhibited at the Incheon Women Artists’ Biennale (Korea).

A reference to the actual advertisements in Asian newspapers during the war, COMFORT WOMEN WANTED brings to light the memory of 200,000 young women, known as “comfort women,” who were systematically exploited as sex slaves in Asia during World War II, and increases awareness of sexual violence against women during wartime. The ad-like billboard presents the portrait of a young “comfort woman” during her enslavement at a military rape camp, surrounded by gold leaf, suggesting the halo of a saint from Renaissance painting.

COMFORT WOMEN WANTED

Exhibited at the Incheon Women Artists’ Biennale (Korea).

A reference to the actual advertisements in Asian newspapers during the war, COMFORT WOMEN WANTED brings to light the memory of 200,000 young women, known as “comfort women,” who were systematically exploited as sex slaves in Asia during World War II, and increases awareness of sexual violence against women during wartime. The ad-like billboard presents the portrait of a young “comfort woman” during her enslavement at a military rape camp, surrounded by gold leaf, suggesting the halo of a saint from Renaissance painting.

COMFORT WOMEN WANTED

Exhibited at the Incheon Women Artists’ Biennale (Korea).

The text COMFORT WOMEN WANTED is in black atop a red background. Some of the billboards present the portrait of a young “comfort woman” during her enslavement at a military rape camp, surrounded by gold leaf, suggesting the halo of a saint from Renaissance painting. In contrast, a silhouette of an aged former “comfort woman” appears against an actual photo of her current home. There were very few survivors, and many of these women could never return home because of their “shameful past.”

COMFORT WOMEN WANTED

Exhibited at the Incheon Women Artists’ Biennale (Korea).

The text COMFORT WOMEN WANTED, a reference to the actual advertisements in Asian newspapers during the war, is in black atop a red background. A silhouette of an aged former “comfort woman” appears against an actual photo of her current home. There were very few survivors, and many of these women could never return home because of their “shameful past”. For these women, the sense of home was forever lost.

COMFORT WOMEN WANTED

Exhibited at the Incheon Women Artists’ Biennale (Korea).

The installation involves a series of advertisement-like prints and audio recordings of actual former “comfort women” from many Asian nations, contrasted with the voice of an actual Japanese soldier who witnessed the Comfort Women System. The emphasis is on their everyday hopes and dreams and who they are as people. Also, these women sing their favorite traditional songs in Korean, Taiwanese, Chinese, Hakanese, Aboriginal Taiwanese, and Japanese. This presents the women as individuals rather than as victims and highlights the experiences we all share.

COMFORT WOMEN WANTED

Exhibited at the Incheon Women Artists’ Biennale (Korea).

When people pick up the phone handsets they hear the voices of the former “comfort women” on one side and the voice of the Japanese soldier on the other. The emphasis is on the everyday hopes and dreams of these women and who they are as people. Also, these women sing their favorite traditional folk songs in Korean, Taiwanese, Chinese, Hakanese, Aboriginal Taiwanese, and Japanese. This presents the women as individuals rather than as victims. In contrast, the Japanese soldier talks about his everyday life, hopes and dreams, and also what he witnessed at military rape camps.

COMFORT WOMEN WANTED

Exhibited at the Incheon Women Artists’ Biennale (Korea).

When people pick up the phone handsets they hear the voices of the former “Comfort Women” on one side and the voice of the Japanese soldier on the other. The emphasis is on the everyday hopes and dreams of these women and who they are as people. Also, these women sing their favorite traditional folk songs in Korean, Taiwanese, Chinese, Hakanese, Aboriginal Taiwanese, and Japanese. This presents the women as individuals as opposed to victims. In contrast, the Japanese soldier talks about his everyday life, hopes and dreams, and also what he witnessed at military rape camps.

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