We had the good fortune of connecting with Jisun Myung and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Jisun, can you tell us more about your background and the role it’s played in shaping who you are today?
I am a food performance artist who leads community based food projects with 2 cups of love and a sprinkle of humor. My research interests are authenticity, identity, and how people practice these two things through food (cooking, eating, purchasing). I think being a Korean woman in AZ led me to those topics. I often introduce myself as ‘someone who escaped from patriarchy to find racism’. As a girl who was born in the year of red tiger, I was always told I was stubborn, opinionated, loud, difficult, too fat, not pretty, ‘it’s going to be hard for you to find a man who can handle you’, ‘you should do more 애교(Ae-gyo: acting cute with certain manner of little girl)’ etc. After I moved to the USA, I FELT SUCH LIBERATION AS A WOMAN! Nobody talks about how my body should look like, how I should talk in order to make it more feminine – rather my never-ending questioning attitude was highly recognized in grad school.
However, I also noticed that my Korean-ness is more intriguing than my artistry to my fellow AZ residents whether in academia or in other places. But how can I explain that I was not happy living in Korea as a woman? And all my education was super colonized and westernized. And as a result, everything I learned about theater/music back there was almost the same as the US art education curriculum? (For example, in a music class in Korea, you would learn Bach and Beethoven. There is a separate term to call traditional music as 국악(guk-ak) and it takes up less than 30% of curriculum) How can I explain the history of colonized education in non-western countries in 1 minute to those who are expecting something ‘different’ from me? I was thinking, the only Korean stuff that I know of, and I love, is food. Aha..! Finally, I embraced that and led a food exploration workshops & cooking show for my MFA degree completion project. Four young people from different backgrounds shared their stories using a dish related to their identities and interest in Korean food/culture. I think that performance was the first stepping stone for me to grasp the idea of starting my career as a food performance artist.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
Aren’t we all suffering from imposter syndrome? Whether it’s minor or severe.. I guess my biggest challenge is my own judgemental voice. And how I perceive monetary reward as the only meaningful standard of success. And on top of that, the global pandemic made me feel useless – no theater, mass gathering, let alone sharing food with people. After a few weeks of depression, I was like ‘that’s it. I need to change something.’ I decided to learn something new- baking! Fortunately, one of my friends was generous enough to share some sourdough starter that her mother made in 1986. The same year I was born! Once I (kind of) mastered the artistry of sourdough bread, I thought this loaf of bread is a perfect tool to give thanks to who deserve my grateful heart. It was a metaphor of me creating something beautiful with my skills and US American cultural origin. That’s how the ‘Appreciation Bread’ project started. My second project is ‘Miyeokguk project – a performance of Identity of Korean women diaspora.’ Miyeokguk is a seaweed soup that you eat when you give birth to a child in Korea culture. You also eat this on your birthday to celebrate your birth and commemorate your mother. When you were young, Miyeokguk was just a warm soup that you eat on your birthday. As you get older, especially if you are a woman, it carries different layers of connection with your mother, the burden you are expected to carry, social norm, joy and pain of childbirth etc. I’ve been interviewing dozens of Korean women living in North America and Europe to listen to their stories about their lives and journeys. I want my 6-month-old theater company to grow as a place to accept and feed people. I believe feeding people with good food – whether literally or metaphorically – is an act of love. My main goal is to encourage people to be creative and curious about themselves and about others through food. This is not necessarily about exquisite cuisine or cooking class (it could be sometimes, maybe). This is rather a place where to acknowledge mundane dishes and meals as cultural artifacts and see meanings behind that ritual.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
I’d take them to Matt’s big breakfast. And then, we’d visit the desert botanical garden and the musical instrument museum. After that, if time allows, watch a beautiful sunset near the superstition mountain.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
ASU Theater for Youth and Community program. Faculties, All my US friends who proofread my papers, offered me collaborating opportunities, jobs, taught me weird American English slang that I was never able to learn with my TOEFL and GRE exams. My husband who loves and supports me through thick and thin
Dragonfly photography (Stephanie Tippi Hart), Jenny Gerena,