Interactive art. Painting. Jewelry. Sound installation. Drawing. Graphic design. Cora Kobischka is the Jack-(or Jill)-of all-trades when it comes to immersing herself into Seoul’s art scene. As a multidisciplinary artist and part-time creative director, Cora doesn’t close herself off into one medium of art, but dabbles her way into creative projects that goes far beyond just a pretty picture. Cora and I met in Gangnam, where she let me dig inside that intricate mind of hers. She spoke about mixing religion with her art, never being quite Korean enough, and how eating McDonald fries can mean more than just breaking your diet.

Chincha: You’re a part-time creative director for a school during the day and the rest of your time goes to your artwork. Do you mind telling me more about your creative director position?

Cora: Sure. I do set design, costume design, and any type of project the principal has in mind. I do a lot of creative assistance for parties for the students. We usually have a couple events per month. There are two large windows in front of the building so I do a lot of window installations. On one side I do the party theme, and on the other side there’s a calendar that I create a mural on. I also graphic design for brochures and newsletters. I love being around the kids; children can be so creative and it’s always fun. Every month there’s something new to do.

Chincha: You have so many different mediums of artwork, it looks like it can be quite a handful. Where exactly do you create your art?

Cora: I have an art studio in Seoul, so I’ll go to my studio. I’m sharing it with two other Korean artists. They’re both painters. It’s a really big, open basement space. I try to go there at least three to four times a week. It has a lot of lighting with high ceilings, concrete floors, white walls. I do anything that I can get dirty with there. I only go to the studio when I know I have my idea, my plan, and I can just get straight to work. I would never go to my studio and just hang out there. It’s not a place I go to feel the inspiration. I get inspired outside of my studio, when I’m out and about, or on my own.

Chincha: When you’re working on your art do you have a certain aim?

Cora: Well sometimes I’ll have an idea and it’ll be strictly just for me. I just want to see it finished. I really have to just see it through. I don’t know if someone will be interested in showing or exhibiting it while I’m working on my art. I just have to do it without really knowing what can come after completing it.

I usually try to find a venue or a show for where my work can fit. Curators will put out a call for work and they’ll put the theme up and then you create something and send it in. It’s kind of like a sample, a test.”

Chincha: As an artist, it sounds like you’re consistently “applying for jobs.” There’s a constant overlapping amongst being inspired, working in your studio, and finding galleries or shows to display your work. You do this all without solid direction. It seems quite chaotic.

Cora: Yes, it is! And I love it. I love my life like that. It’s really exciting. and that’s just me. If I was just sitting in the office, I would be bored to death. This is the lifestyle that I love. The lifestyle that I chose. And I thrive on it.

Chincha: Where do artists find galleries or shows if they want to display their work?

Cora: Well first of all, you really need to plug yourself into the art community. If you go to shows, you will meet artists and curators. Curators are always looking around for new artists to recruit, they always have an eye out. You always want to try to network with them.

It’s important to make the one-on-one effort. Yes, your art should stand alone, but a lot of people are buying the art because of the artist or whatever the artist’s back story is. People want to meet the artist, know the artist. They see the work but they also want to see the face that matches with it. They want to link the two together.

Chincha: Whether you’re a filmmaker, writer, musician, or in your case, an artist, I believe every creative mind has a particular focus they concentrate on. What is your focus?

Cora: All of my work is extremely personal, there’s always a story or something behind it. I like to explore people’s behaviors. I’m interested in religion and bloodlines, people’s ethnic backgrounds and how globalized the world is today. I grew up in a very rural area as a biracial girl. I lived in the Midwest and my mom is Korean. I always felt like I was on the outside. I am very intrigued with social norms because of the environment I grew up in. What exactly is normal? Why do people behave a certain way? I felt like my only outlet was my art.

I came here to Korea to research a culture. But also to understand my mother. Who exactly is she? What’s Korean culture? What’s my mother’s religious dogma? I try to break it all down, to break her down, and then it comes back to me, to understanding myself.

Chincha: It must be really interesting for you to live here based off of your focus because I feel that South Korea can be a whole study itself when it comes to social norms.

Cora: Absolutely. I like to push social norms and people’s behaviors because people are always going against their own beliefs. I love interacting with people through my artwork.

I did an experiment on social norms for the Aweh Block Party called Crosses Saves Us. It’s about what I see at night on the streets of Seoul. There were French fries, soju and cigarettes in this installation. They all signify something: they’re all vices. The fries signify capitalism, consumerism, and western ideology. The soju is there to highlight the heavy drinking culture in Korea. There are no drugs in this country. Cigarettes are the drugs. And the fact that I put them inside a cross is a juxtaposition of how people want to project themselves. At night we see all of these red crosses, all through out Seoul’s skyline. A lot of people are trying to show “Oh, we’re Christian” but everyone is just out giving into vices.

I did it because I want to push the way some Koreans think. They are constantly thinking about status. “How can I show people I’m a better person? How can I show people that I’m different?” But they talk the talk, and don’t walk the walk. They end up doing what everyone else is doing, what everyone considers “normal.”

It was very interactive. It was definitely a mix of both Koreans and foreigners taking the cigarettes, sipping the soju boxes, or eating the French fries. I’m not judging and I’m not saying don’t do it because there I was, offering it all to them. It’s not a project about “Don’t do this, you’re doing something wrong.” It’s a project about social behavior.

Chincha: What’s the project you’re working on now?

Cora: A painting experimental project that I did with two mentally challenged orphan Korean girls. This is in Ilsan. I have to travel there on the weekends. It’s a way for me to have a creative dialogue with a certain Korean demographic that I feel I’m on the same level with. I don’t strongly look Korean, but I have a Korean mother. I don’t speak Korean 100 percent, but I still have the capabilities to communicate. The girls I spent time with are physically and mentally inhibited. I have the capability to learn everything about Korean culture, whereas they don’t. It’s a project about “Who’s more Korean?” For me it was a way for me to have a conversation with them, to connect with them, and to do it visually.

Chincha: What would you say is the difference between the art world in Korea versus the art world in America?

Cora: Being an artist in Korea is not easy. Here in Korea, people see it as something …cute. It lacks a certain depth, a seriousness. But I do think it’s slowly changing, especially with the younger generation. It’s all just a part of the change and development of the Korean culture.

Chincha: When was the moment you realized you wanted to do art and this is what you needed to do?

Cora: I always did art, since I could hold a pencil. But I think I really realized it towards the end of college because I felt so much pressure from my parents. I was focusing on Industrial Design. And I stuck with it. And then I finished school and I didn’t want to do it. And I said, “You know, mom, dad, you wanted me to do something that would ensure me a career but I don’t even want to take any of these jobs.” I had an internship and I hated it, it was the worst time of my life. I just wanted to do art. Which meant I had to start from scratch again.

When you’re in school you’re not really living, you’re in a routine. And when you leave the school environment and start really living, you start to experiment. You start to do things you never even thought you would ever do. Then you realize, “Oh! I have this hidden talent.” I feel like that happens with a lot of people.

Above image: Screen shot of Cora’s sound installation interactive website called Found in Ecstatic. It’s based on transcribing ‘tongues’ into other native languages. Find out more detailed info about the project here, or go straight to the interactive website.

Chincha: What is your advice for our Chincha readers who want to plug themselves into the art scene here in South Korea?

Cora: I think I would have to give some emotional advice. Because everything, as an artist, is about some type of feeling. Always. [Laughs] Living in a different country that is not your native land, and trying to do what you feel like is meant for you can be very daunting. But what I say is keep at it and you can honestly do it. You can find people that want to help you. You can create the community yourself. It’s hard but possible. You can do it here in Korea, you can do it back at your native country. If you really want to do it, you can do it anywhere.

Check out more of Cora’s art work here. Cora’s work will be displayed at the I Gallery in Insadong between December 19th to January 1st. The opening night party will be December 22nd from 5pm to 8pm.

Interview and feature images by . All artwork featured is by Cora Kobischka.


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