Shinbyeong: Artist Statement

Shinbyeong (신병), or "Self-Loss" is a Korean shamanistic tradition of being possessed by a higher power. Characterized by hallucinations and a loss of appetite, the possessed cannot be cured by medicine but by fully embracing that which possesses her.

Shamans in Korea were both male and female, but they were prominently the latter. This series focuses on Korean-American women who identify with both cultures and heritages. The subject sits in a classical, Western-style portrait. Collaged on top of her image are Korean objects, particularly Korean food, which are representative of that side of her cultural upbringing.

Each image is titled with a Confucian proverb. Korea has a rich history attached to various belief systems, including shamanism and Confucianism. Koreans are subconsciously tied to these traditions and ways of being, such as thinking collectively as a society as opposed to thinking with the American “I.” Many superstitions also exists within the Korean culture - an attribute which strongly clashes with the American approach of rationalizing the unknown with logic and reason. These conflicting cultural traits, among many others, are what create shinbyeong for each of my Korean-American subjects.

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