Yunjoo Kwak: Me and My Voice, Refugee

Mentor: Doreen Mende

Independent reviewer: Sarah Pierce

Arnhem, June 2011


In this essay I will try to write exclusively about my voice which has a multilayered structure that has been an ultimate pivotal fundament in the context of my work as an artistic practice. It deals with several issues which are voice, language, deafness, singularity and estrangement which has been profoundly amplified to me since I moved in the Netherlands in 2009. With these issues, the voice and the other elements try to combine with each other and construct their own controversial structure, penetrating with a concept of shame as a basis.

First of all, I try to describe about my linguistic condition which is an outset of this essay that needs to be informed beforehand. Most of my analysis comes from my personal experiences alongside with shame which have been propounding some problematic points for my artistic practice. I take shame as a dominant element for this essay and refer to an article; The Broken Circuit: An Interview with Sina Najafi, David Serlin and Lauren Berlant. Constantly, I try to expand this analysis to the concept of Refugee in the last part of this essay.

In the first part of the body of this essay, I try to depict my experiences that happened with my voice (or action of utterance), and try to further analyze Mladen Dolar’s term of acousmatic voice intertwined with a shamanistic perspective, and my social activity with my voice and its exploitation in economical terms.

In the second part of the body of this essay, I try to investigate the politics of lecture based on the precarious existence of presence in the lecture and the physical inability and linguistic weakness that are excluded from the institutional trajectory, that is, my experience and me. Constantly, I try to divide the meaning of Refugee into two meanings which are focused on the socio-political and ontological perspective. This classification is based on the progression of the refugee which is already articulated in the preface and the first part of this essay. Therefore, it is interesting to study how the multilayered voice intersects with Gilles Deleuze’s ‘marginalized sense‘ and also inevitably associated with the concept of refugee as intertwined with the socio-political, affective and ontological perspective.


I genuinely enjoyed reading this paper. What struck me initially is the clarity of the writing, and the immediacy, as though it was written as it was being thought or spoken. This use of 'first-person' pronoun (I) throughout is crucial to the essay's subject matter and a notion of 'voice' developed in the paper. The grammatical tensions throughout the text (some of which may be 'errors') work to evoke a sense in the reader that I am 'of' a place that is 'different' to that of the writer. This is excellent. I sense that the student is aware of these tensions and uses them to emphasize the complexities of 'subjectivity' through different realms of being, from the spiritual to medical, political to artistic. The choice of topic headings and the order of the sections is compelling.

The difficulty is that this type of writing, although deceptively open, requires precision – perhaps even more than academic writing. Otherwise it can to easily slip into a ramble, making the writing feel inconsequential, and, in this case, leaving the reader confused. This said, throughout the paper I appreciated the student's ability to convey a subject position by raising issues as they have been encountered in life. The sensitivity to description and the commitment to personal analysis is where the paper is strongest and where the writing is best.

Although it includes relevant choices, the bibliography is quite limited. In the last section on "Refugee", I am left asking: What does it mean to use refugee to explain your "affective subjectivity"? What does it mean to use refugee as a metaphor? Isn't the objectification of another person's status exactly what the paper sets out against?
I believe that the paper would have benefited from a deeper commitment to theoretical texts, which along with personal analyses, would have helped demonstrate the difficulties and ambiguities in the refugee that the student is so clearly interested in pursuing. S.P.

Sarah Pierce is an artist based in Dublin, founder of The Metropolitan Complex. In her research she investigates how knowledge can rebel, not in opposition, but in spite of inheritances that form us. She is currently completing her PhD at Goldsmiths College London.