I’m moving out of NYC at the end of this month after twelve years of incredible friendship and collaboration. I’m moving to South Korea to be closer to my family and live a more sustainable life. I’m very sad to be far away from my friends, colleagues, and chosen family here. I don’t know if this will be a permanent move but I feel this is the right thing to do for now. Here’s my love letter to my friends and community in NYC.
Why am I moving out of NYC? Living here was never financially, emotionally, environmentally sustainable. I tried my best to root myself in NYC, build a better living situation and working environment for myself and others. At the same time, I have been experiencing burn out and losing hope for a while. I don’t think my professional and personal issues will be solved because of relocation. I will need to continue working on a better work-life balance and a more sustainable relationship with the habitat around me. I think moving to South Korea will be helpful to build inner strength to become a better version of myself.
Why now? COVID-19 experience was a wake-up call. I was sick in March and it was a devastating experience. I realize my fragility, mortality, and lack of support structure. I questioned, “How and why am I paying $1000/month on health insurance and still can not access the basic medical system?” During the lock-down, I felt isolated, sad, and hopeless. Although I have a wide network of friends and community, it was difficult to stay connected and positive. I felt responsible for my family members, who are mostly in South Korea. In the past, I tried to invite them to the U.S. after retirement in order to finally live my Korean-American dream, like visiting my folks in Orange County, LA on Thanksgiving. They came a few times and decidedly declined my invite. I am moving to be closer to my parents and extended family.
What will I miss and not miss about NYC? NYC is a really tough place to make a home. I honestly don’t know a lot of people who live here with a reasonable work-life balance. I don’t think I’ll miss the hustle, culture of overcommitting, and FOMO. I will definitely not miss the cost of living and high rent. I will miss amazing people who are nurturing the city, it’s politics, art, culture, and community to a better future for everyone. I respect the incredibly resilient and adaptive people who live here. I’m thinking about my friends who dealt with COVID-19 by creating hyper-local support groups, global solidarity, and community organizing in NYC and beyond. I’m thinking about my friends leading the Black Lives Matter, Anti-racism, and racial justice movement in NYC and the U.S. They helped me rethink my relation to privilege, white supremacy, implicit bias, and structural racism. My friends who identify as BIPOC, LGBTQ, Deaf, and Disabled, helped open my world through generous invitation and critical feedback. I think NYC is still one of the best places to grow as a creative person. I just think it’s hard to make a long term plan here. I can’t imagine myself as a chill middle-aged dude here. Everyone is hustling no matter how established they are. I also realized I need to spend time in nature to feel like myself. For example, if I had access and resource to spend time in Upstate NY, I would feel so much better here. For those who live in NYC, I highly encourage spending more time in the Catskills or anywhere with big sky and tall trees.
Living in NYC has been inspiring because of the people who live here and come to visit. I’m grateful to be a part of the School for Poetic Computation(SFPC), thankful to Zach and Lauren, who have been supportive of my decision, and taken on a lot of my responsibilities while I was away this Spring. SFPC has always been the highlight of my life in NYC. I want to thank everyone who I met through SFPC, and especially Taylor, Che-Wei, Seb, Tiri, Melanie, Zai, American, Max, Neta, Ann, Robby, Nabil, Mimi, Cori, Casey, Sara, Celine, Ashley, Adina, Galen, Ilona, Amit, Ida, Tega, Todd, Brian, BUFU, Yellow Jackets Collective, Morehshin, Caitlin, Chancey, Jerron, Alice, our teachers, TAs, students, steering committee, and community members.
I want to thank the organizations that helped me. It’s important to note there are always real people behind every single organization. I’m thanking them individually and collectively: Eyebeam for initially inviting me for a residency, Data and Society for the intellectual community, Pioneer Works and Tech residency for giving space, Westbeth for housing SFPC, BRIC for exhibition and program opportunities, New School for hiring me, NYU ITP for hiring me, LMCC for giving space, Strange Foundation for hosting SFPC, Orbital for hosting SFPC, Printed Matter for distributing my work, Recess for giving space, Harvestworks for giving space, La Mama for hiring me, The Whitney Museum for hiring me, New Museum for hiring me, MoMA for inviting me to be a part of somethings, NYPL for inviting me to do things there, NEW INC for giving space and community, The Public School New York, Light Industry and Triple Canopy for making space, Bushwick Open Studios for opening space, Knockdown Center for all the concerts, Dark Matters Manufacturing (33 Flatbush) for being so werid, Bubble_T for making Asian Queers cool, Google Design and Creative Lab for giving me space to be critical, IDEO for hiring me, and other spaces, conferences, venues and comunities that have been key to my creative life in NYC and the U.S. I also want to thank the assistants who worked with me, Emily, Shira, Livia, Adina, Christopher and Jet. I thank my friends (I’ll update this list throughout the week); Tricia, Kenyatta, Sha, Gaia, Christina, Stephanie, Maya, Chris, Richard, Ekene, Chino, James, Lisbeth, Nic, James, Andy, Bill, Janna, Mad, Mindy, Laurel, Alex, Hannah, Surya, Luisa, Dan, Ellie, Carmen, Molly, Tsige, Minu, Ritu, Cheon, Zeynap, Minho, Jonghee, Eunwoo, Aatchim, Nora, Maia, Kamomi, Luke, Molmol, James, Gary, Bomani, Olivia (Cyber Doula), Christine, Kyle, Lauren and more. Some of my favorite services were Takeo (ROOM SALON 210 Roebling St. Brooklyn), John and Jon at Atmananda Yoga Sequence (112 E 23rd St #200, New York) and so many more. I think my therapist (can’t disclose their identity but I can refer), physical therapist (Touch Of Life Physical Therapy, NYC 136 E 57th St #801a, New York), and CPAs (also can’t disclose but can refer) have also been key figures in my life in NYC.
At this point in my life, I need to be more present for my family, work and travel less, take up less space, and focus on my existing responsibilities as an artist and educator. I will continue to work on SFPC although my role will clearly change due to the move and organizational transformation. I will work on a research project on disability and technology in South Korea. I have exhibitions and projects in East Asia and South East Asia for the next few years. I’m going to live in Seoul and the rural areas near Mountain Gyerong where I grew up. I’m most excited about spending more time in nature, learning to farm and take care of the land and animals. I’ll continue to split time between NYC and Seoul for the immediate future, with a plan to come to visit NYC in early 2021. I don’t think I can meet many friends before leaving. I am having a studio sale (painting and electronics) near Navy Yard on 7/24 Friday afternoon and moving sales (books, clothes and furniture) on 7/26 Sunday near Parkside Ave Q station. Please e-mail me if you want to see the list of things I’m selling and giving away. firstname.lastname@example.org
Written in my favorite place, Prospect Park. I will miss the park, my friends and eating sesame bagel with my friends in the park. 7/21/2020