Steven Junil Park 박준일 is a multidisciplinary artist behind the label, 6x4, and is best known for his textile pieces which use traditional jogakbo and hand sewing techniques and recycled material.
Park has pieces on display at the must-visit Objectspace exhibition, twisting, turning, winding: takatāpui + queer objects and on stage as part of the production Scenes from a Yellow Peril.
As told to Eda Tang.
I went to the mall the other day, and it was like jeans, jeans, jeans, trousers, trousers, trousers, like a thousand different shirts, a thousand T-shirts. That comes from a very specific cultural lineage, and it's not ours, you know?
Being Asian and queer, I found a lot of those elements really hard to deal with and articulate or understand as a young person.
I was used to just constantly making stuff all the time. I think it was a way for me to sort of create space for myself when there was no space for me
Being in between two cultures and being in between lots of things, or not being able to fit into any definition of external value systems, I have actually found a lot of creative freedom in those sorts of spaces.
When you grow up in Christchurch where everyone wears puffer jackets and jeans, and then you see like a runway show, you're like: “Whoa, clothing can be so amazing, poetic, and considered."
It's just in a kind of sick, unhealthy place at the moment. With the way that things are made, all processes and materials are so alienated from one another. You don't know where your textiles are grown, where they’re processed, where they’re dyed, where they’re bleached, or where they’re woven.
The fashion and textile industry is one of the worst in the world, ethically, socially and environmentally. It's the second-worst pollutant in the world, creating around 90 million tonnes of waste a year, employing one out of eight people globally. So I'm trying to do stuff on a scale as one person and explore and honour those parts of clothing.
I think there's a lot of room for spontaneity in the making process and I think honouring that creates a lot of value. Like it's alive and living when I'm making something and then the thing I am able to have in a shop or exhibit is an artefact of that process.
I think hand sewing is like your handwriting. It's so intensely personal. Everyone has different hand sewing.
I used to go to opshops with my friends and alter clothing and that's how I learned how to sew.
I didn't train, but I think as I spent more time just with dressing myself and interacting with materials, I think those kinds of avenues have been the things that have determined how I make things.
There's no representation for anyone who isn’t white. Like you can't go to a store and find something that talks to experience that is outside heteronormative cis whiteness, which is like crazy.
It's shocking, but that's what people offer. How things are graded and made on a very certain body and size, like that's not how it works.
The status quo is a power structure that is cultural. The “neutrality” of what you can see in a store or mall is kind of fabricated.
In histories of colonisation, one of the first things they take away is people's clothing. That's not gone away.
Just because we live in the modern day doesn't mean it's disappeared. I can't walk down the street in traditional Korean clothing as people would think of it as costume and not accept it as regular clothing.
That’s because clothing is something we have to engage with every day. I think sometimes the power of it gets sort of forgotten.
This is a Public Interest Journalism funded role through NZ On Air