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Q&A: The Xijing Men

Gim Hong-sok of Korea, Tsuyoshi Ozawa of Japan, and Chen Shaoxiong of China have been building a fictional city through video performance works since 2007.

Written by
Michelle JY Park
Chen Shaoxiong and Tsuyoshi Ozawa worked as a duo before. Why did you decide to bring in Gim?
Ozawa Working as a duo for two years, we started to run out of ideas. So we asked Gim, who took part in a group exhibition with us at the time. 
Does communication ever become an issue?
Gim To have a decent conversation, we have to meet in person. The meeting in itself becomes a sort of trip, so it’s exciting. Depending on the situation, we meet in South Korea, Japan or China. 
Ozawa Language wise, it’s always difficult. But it has gotten better with more conversations, like a habit. 
The three of you all work on independent projects. Do you have any difficulty working together as a group?
Gim I love the fact I cover a wider range of works that I couldn’t do as the sole artist. An idea may strike as embarrassing at one point, but when the three of us come together, I feel that it’s okay to carry on. 
Ozawa I agree. Three is less embarrassing than one. 
Gim Oh, I remembered one thing. Chen only likes healthy food, like seafood! It’s so hard to decide on a restaurant for dinner. 
Your works definitely hold an element of humor. Why’s that?
Ozawa We never tried to inject an element of humor on purpose. But when the three of us come together to perform, the works naturally evoke laughter.
Gim The demand for contemporary art is still big in London and New York. It receives the most attention, and is expressed strongly. Serious art is important, but the three of us laughing amongst ourselves—within the parameters of our work—is one of our natural dispositions.  
Then is it fair to say that this natural disposition is your charm?
Gim Yes. But I think it’ll be the Asian viewers who will discern the real “fun” parts of the work. As western people come from different cultural backgrounds and history, it’ll be harder for them to connect with the Asian-influenced elements instilled in the work.  
In an interview, Chen said that he wanted to buy a plot of land to build the real Xijing, and grow its own food.
Gim Actually, buying a piece of land for the city was my idea. I thought that the three of us could find a place where we could live together, and build a sort of “amusement park” to make a profit. But we don’t have money to buy that kind of land. 
In “I Love Xijing,” you talk about building the world’s smallest airport. When’s the expected completion date?
Gim We don’t really plan on building the world’s smallest airport. It’s more of an open suggestion. Someone may see our video and feel the inclination to build this airport. If this were to really happen, I think it’ll be much more interesting than building the airport ourselves.  
What lies in the next chapter for Xijing?
Ozawa I think we could confront our internal issues. And if a sponsor does appear out of the blue, we may be able to build Xijing for real.  
Gim Speaking of the last chapter, Chen sent me a text message about it yesterday. If we are going to fulfill the last chapter at one point, he said he wanted it to be about religion. We both like the idea, but nothing’s set in stone.
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