Faking it

Alice  H.  Jung

“Who am I?” is one of the most fundamental questions human beings have always been asking.  The question of who you are and who you can be are the main questions I have been asking myself ever since I was a little kid. I used to play by “dressing-up” like an adult or a cartoon character and enacting that character. Imagination was unfolded during the play as if I were an actor on a set. I created a world that didn’t exist all by myself or with my playmates. We played different identities, became different characters, and changed roles; We repeated this play again and again until we all had taken turns for different characters. Becoming someone other than who you are and swapping identities: We all do that. Plus, using imagination for such things seems to be a human nature. But why do we do that? Why do we ‘waste’ our imagination for such things? It’s probably related to the fundamental question of ‘who am I?’ I was born in Los Angeles, California, raised in Tucson, Arizona, and grew up in Seoul, South Korea. I received my undergraduate degree from Rhode Island School of Design and worked in India and Korea for five years. Now I am back in Los Angeles, the city of my origin. I’ve travelled to different parts of the world,  and I become malleable to each person I meet and each environment I encounter. Each time I visit a new place, I felt like given a new character just like when I was young. I tend to forget who I originally was and play along with a new character I created. Sometimes a new character develops as the dialogue does along with people around me.
Being an Asian American woman living in a multicultural society has raised the following questions in my mind: what does it mean to be “me”? What does it mean to be a woman? It may be a simple answer, but to think about it, Being a woman biologically is different from being a woman in a social context. I have tried to be ‘feminine’ to fit social images of a woman. It has been interesting but frustrating at the same time. Simone Beauvoir, a French existentialist, explains explicitly that “being” a woman is not about the biological (sex), but about being gendered according to a role a society impopses as upon a woman. I was so used to “faking” myself into something I was not that I decided to talk about these issues. There is subculture called ‘cosplay’ which developed in Japan. The word is a shortened form of ‘costume play’. In cosplay, people dress up like characters of games, manga, animation and even novels. I was heavily involved in cosplay for a few years when I was a teenager. I wanted to escape from reality. I dressed up like nearly one hundred different characters during this time period. Transforming to someone else each time. Soon after I grew out of it, I became interested in molding myself in real life. I used to go to bars or clubs where I could meet complete strangers and disguise as someone other than who I am. I introduced myself as Jane and made up my age, school, major, and even where I was from. This became a habit and addiction. It was a way of escaping from myself in real life.

“Why do I exist? What is the point of existence? Why live when you’re going to die anyway?” Struggling with these ideas for a few years, I started to accept my depression and who I am as a person. However, I felt that the society that I was in required people to have a goal, which is to be happy. I therefore acted as though I was happy. I forced myself to smile and to pretend to accept people.  Unfortunately, I hated it.
I hated myself for “faking it”. So I thought to myself, why don’t I become somebody else (again) and forget about hating myself? I started to stare at people and take notes: I practiced becoming like them when I had chances. I ended up mimicking other people as an art practice and it became my major project. The more I got into their characters, the better I realized I noticed differences between me and others.  It is not about how far I become similar to other people, but about how different I am from other people: I felt the differences between myself and other people makes me who I am. These gaps define who I am. Since I realized this I have begun to explore the fundamental gaps that separate me from other people. What makes me “me”? And what makes you “you”? How do we differ from each other even though we are of the same human species? Gender, race, cultural background, sex, gestures, the food we eat, lifestyle and so many other things need to be explored if we want to understand a human being. We are all different in our own quirky ways. It’s differences among people that excites me.

                  Alice H. Jung

Rhode Island School of Design
Sculpture (BFA) 2006-2010

University of California Los Angeles,
Design Media Arts (MFA) 2015-2017