by Ariana Martinez, summer, 2022
Perfect Love is a response to the text and moving and still images generated by the artist Taehee Whang in their work, Walking to My Grandfather’s Mound.
This work’s origins—virtually visiting their grandfather’s burial site in South Korea via Google Earth when faced with the impossibility of a physical journey—is itself a kind of attempt at correction. It is an attempt to do what feels spiritually and emotionally right even under increasingly complex cultural and practical circumstances.
Walking to My Grandfather’s Mound also grapples with gendered expectations in traditional mourning rituals, and the complexities of diasporic experiences. How do you honor your ancestors when your own experience of your culture and your family is fragmented, often forcibly, by circumstances beyond your control? I love that Taehee’s answer to this question was to use their own multiplicity—their expansive notions of gender, memory, place, technology, travel, story, time and love—to create a distinct and eternal path for reconnection.
I’m not your eldest son.
Taehee’s artwork is a document of that search for a path that they could endlessly travel, a path that is illuminated by love and made navigable through imagination.
When creating Perfect Love in response to Taehee’s artwork, I questioned what audio could do that the existing printed zine and video artwork were not already doing. I realized that Perfect Love could pull the curtain back to reveal the process and the impetus for Taehee’s work, that it could be a document of their familial love, their longing and their determined search for a way back.
Perfect Love weaves factual interview tape from Taehee through Taehee’s readings of their own poetic texts and descriptions of visual material. In this way, Perfect Love functions both as a kind of artist profile—a record of who Taehee Whang is as an artist and as a young Korean American person living far from their family’s place of origin—but also as an audible representation of the voice Taehee invented to guide themself and viewers through memory, across land and sea, back to their grandfather’s burial mound.
Perfect Love’s many layers—the factual, the remembered, the reconstructed, the dreamed, the poetically imagined—result in a work with a kind of crystalline structure. If you were to turn this story into a physical object, hang it in a window and watch it turn, my hope is that it would throw ever-changing patterns of light on the wall. It is not meant to be read as one, singular, narrative. It is meant to convey and, if I have succeeded, to honor, Taehee’s multiplicity as a person and the infinite dimensions and depths of their love.
Ariana Martinez is an artist making images, objects and audio documentary. Ariana has created original radio features for BBC Radio 4 & Radio 3, WFMU and KCRW. They worked as the sound designer and engineer for Immaterial, a podcast produced by Magnificent Noise for the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Ariana’s artwork has appeared at the Barbican Cultural Centre, the Open City Documentary Festival, the HearSay Audio Arts Festival and elsewhere.