Ji Su Kang-Gatto’s VLOG #8998 | KOREAN KAROTTENKUCHEN & OUR MAKEUP ROUTINE examines her experiences growing up in Germany as the daughter of Korean immigrants, and the parallel story of her sister Ji Hoe’s childhood in South Korea. Diaristic and instructional vlog aesthetics highlight topics discussed with onscreen floating words and punctuation, infographic style definitions with illustrations and graphics, and multilingual subtitles. Visuals include family photos, ID cards, food sharing and makeup application sequences, sites with personal and sometimes-traumatic significance, and walking PoV (Point of View)-Shots, some at street crossings, with the painted lines indicating in-betweenness.
Questions of belonging are raised by both sisters as they ponder what would have been had they grown up in reversed childhood settings. The video navigates Ji Su’s experiences of racism in Germany; the video also analyzes a horrific racist and misogynist attack on Ji Hoe while the sisters were filming in an unnamed German town. Ji Su unpacks acts of xenophobic aggression toward her as a child, which ranged from verbal slurs to thrown rocks, followed by the perplexing response of her >appa< (father), to ignore and avoid these: an attempt at safety through invisibility. With adulthood, sexualization and objectification are added to the list of incurred hostilities, along with anxiety resulting from the increase in anti-Asian hate crimes globally during the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as the ineffective and lacking response by the police. Alongside navigating these realities, Ji Su reflects on feelings of in-betweenness, on being most comfortable speaking in German, and relearning Korean through films and television, with occasional corrections on behalf of her sister. Ji Hoe relearns German, and attempts to remember her life before moving back to South Korea at an early age.
In a hotel room, the sisters discuss cosmetics while getting ready to go out. Ji Su’s voiceover reflects on her complex relationship to double eyelid surgery. The first shot of the video shows the same hotel room and frames Ji Su and Ji Hoe on their beds, curled up and facing each other, forming a near mirror image. The numerical sequence in the video’s title, 8998, refers to Ji Su’s year of birth in 1989 and Ji Hoe’s in 1998. Despite 8998 being a palindromic number, only the eights remain symmetrical, while the nines change direction: a pointer to the contextual differences that shaped each sister’s life. (Erik Martinson)
Commissioned by Academy of Media Arts Cologne (KHM)
Supported by Academy of Media Arts Cologne (KHM)
Images: Ji Su Kang-Gatto, Vlog #8998 | Korean Karottenkuchen & Our Makeup Routine, 2021 © Ji Su Kang-Gatto & VG-Bildkunst