Fragments and Borders: (re-)constructing South Korean identities through patchwork (1948-present)
This work explores the (re-)construction of the Republic of Korea (ROK, 1948-present) through Korean women's patchwork culture, recording and recovering neglected stories of women's domestic labour. Written histories of the patchwork handicraft, chogakbo, began to proliferate during the 1970s, coinciding with South Korean institutional reforms of cultural heritage politics. Reiterating qualities of frugal tenacity and constructive minimalism, such narratives trace the cloths in a linear trajectory to the Choson dynasty (1392-1910), where they were and are said to act as the representational voices of forgotten and unknown women. Such linear histories serve to reinforce notions of authentic 'Koreanness' during a period that sought to differentiate ROK's national identity from the Communist regime of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK, North Korea).
Deploying feminist, postcolonial and decolonial methods that explore the varied iterations, perspectives and experiences of Korean women's patchwork culture, I trouble linearity and the boundaries of authenticity. Through archives, souvenirs, worn fashions and the skin, I aim to explore the boundaries between objects and bodies, utilities and functions and moreover, cultural identities and representations. Patchwork is an amalgam of different pieces, reflecting an accumulative temporality through mending, piecing and stitching. My research presents the potential of patchwork, while questioning the mythologies that come to define Korean identities and subjectivities that were constructed through neonationalist agendas of cultural reform.
School of Arts & Humanities
History of Design, 2017–
Christin Yu is an AHRC-funded (LAHP) PhD researcher and visiting lecturer in the History of Design programme at the RCA, in conjunction with the Victoria & Albert Museum (V&A). Her work explores identities, nationalism, mythologies, gender histories and cultural imagines during the post-war (re-)construction of South Korea (1948-present) through Korean patchwork traditions. Her practice as a textile and print designer for Alexander McQueen (2012-2017) and Peter Pilotto (2011-2014) inform her lens of material analysis through making. Through her own transnational and diaspora journeys and experiences, she grounds her politics and methods through feminist, postcolonial and decolonial agendas.
Christin is the co-founder of the 'Memory and Borders' initiative, which saw its first iteration as a workshop at the V&A in February 2019. Its upcoming iteration is presented through the form of the podcast (Autumn 2021). She is also an associate lecturer in Cultural Studies through the BA Fashion, Textile and Jewellery Programmes at Central Saint Martins, University of the Arts London.
Christin was awarded a BA (with Honours) from the University of Toronto's Cinema Studies programme and an MA from Goldsmiths College, University of London. She was awarded the Norman Jewison Fellowship in Film Studies from the University of Toronto in 2008 to complete her post-graduate studies at Goldsmiths.
Her theoretical interests include East Asian Design Histories, specifically through textiles and fashions, Gender Histories, Postcolonial and Decolonial perspectives through Cultural Studies.
- MA Digital Media, Goldsmiths, University of London, 2009; Honours BA Cinema Studies, University of Toronto, 2007
- Visiting Lecturer, History of Design, RCA/V&A, London, UK, 2020-present; Associate Lecturer, Cultural Studies BA Fashion, Textile, Jewellery Programmes, CSM, London, UK, 2020-present; Womenswear Print Design Consultant, Ellery, Paris, FR, 2018; Menswear Print Designer, Alexander McQueen, London, UK, 2012-2017; Womenswear Print Design Consultant, Peter Pilotto, London, UK, 2011-2014
- Design History Society: Conference Bursary (2019), Outreach & Events Grant (2019), Student Travel Award (2018); ELLE Decoration British Design Award (Shortlist) 2013
- 'The Patchwork Archive' Design History Society Conference 2019: The Cost of Design; 'Exorcising the Archive' The European Summer School for Cultural Studies 2019: The Afterlife of the Object; 'Fragments and Borders' British Association for Korean Studies (BAKS) Conference 2018: The Agency of Women; 'Heterochronic Objects' Courtauld Institute of Art's Modern and Postgraduate Colloquium 2018: Worlding Art History: Negotiating the Global and the Local