Featured on the fader, format magazine and pulp, Toronto based artist Dahae takes the canadian art world by storm with her deconstructionist art. We sat down with her to discuss who she was, why she does what she does and searched for anything else she let us find.
SKYN: Dahae! Thank you so much for taking time out of your schedule to interview with Skyn Mag. How are you feeling right now?
DS: Exhausted, I had a mental breakdown yesterday and I also have a fractured rib from having far too many anxiety attacks…*laughs*. I’m feeling more self-reflective than normal and I can’t tell if I am living in the present or living vicariously through my past.
SKYN: No way! Those sound like some serious anxiety attacks, I trust things are better for you. Upon reading up a bit about you I was wondering whether you are Canadian but ethnically South Korean or if you came to Toronto for school but home is South Korea?
DS: Yes, my family moved to Toronto for a better educational system. Currently all my family has moved back and resides in South Korea except for my brother and I. I consider Toronto as my home now, even though every day I dream of a home that is close to my parents.
SKYN: Wow it must be hard to be that far away from your family like that. Aside from photography, what else are you into?
DS: I am not much into photography for my own practice actually, I do use my cellphone to obsessively document my life, but its purpose is to serve as records or artifacts of the present for the future. This is everything I am obsessed with, cathartic self-documentation, in different forms.
SKYN: Yes! we can see that in your Instagram, it’s definitely super interesting to go through. What was your University experience like at OCAD?
DS: I am still currently attending OCADU, with my final Thesis year coming up next year. It has been wonderful. I’ve met the best humans, including the ones I now call family at this school. I always say I had a re-birth or a second puberty when I came to OCAD and was given the opportunity to re-live my youth. I found myself and my home here. It is my safe space.
SKYN: That’s real that you feel so connected to your school like that, not many people have that kind of connection with their schools so it’s nice to see that kind of thing being alive. Touching more on your work, you have stated some of your work deals with dissociative disorders I especially see it in your painting series PPP, why did you feel drawn to tackle that subject matter?
DS: I use the act of creating as an impetus for self-inquiry; it is a processing mechanism to understand the internal and external world of mine. Dissociative disorders and other mental health topics are not just a subject matter that I am tackling in my work; it is a state of being that I have to tackle in my daily life. So inevitably, it becomes the subject matter of my art as I exist and understand life through my own practice.
SKYN: Oh wow art really does imitate life in your case. Can you tell us a bit about your video that was featured on Format Magazine.
DS: The video “disconnect” is about the dissociative nature of cyber space and time. We no longer can separate or distinguish physical reality and virtual life, it is too interconnected. I aimed for it to be “interactive” between the physical and the virtual- if you full-screen the animation, you can see your own reflection in the black screen and the hands and heads always move around your face. Human existence and experience is pervasively embedded with and mediated by technology and I wanted to represent the digitization and fragmentation of human experience and existence, interaction and relationship.
SKYN: That’s such an remarkable way to explore that connection. What inspires you to continue creating?
DS: I don’t know if it’s “inspiration” that makes me endlessly create. Its more something I simply cannot stop doing. I exist through my art and most of the times it is all I am able to do. Sometimes, I literally cannot do anything, but paint. What else is there for me to do? I don’t understand myself or my life without it. This is how I reflect on life, this is how I learn, how I mature. Life forces me be to in a constant state of flux, so there never can be an end to creating.
SKYN: Hearing your answer really reinforces the reason I love hearing artists answer that question. Share with us some challenges you have faced through you career?
DS: I have been very lucky so far; I’ve been immensely supported and shown so much love. I also have not faced much racism or sexism in the field, which is sadly quite common. My challenges are more personal relationship problems and mental health issues. I’m super emotional and sensitive and I let it completely rule me. I will bask in my own sadness and ignore life for a period of time. I also used to have a problem where I used to let my love life control my life, and live through the life of the person I am in love with and forget about mine. A few times, I’ve done absolutely nothing for months, believing that I don’t need art, I just need love. This has been such a big dilemma in my life. I’ve smartened up a bit but, not really. I would do it again a thousand times more. It gives me really good content for my art! The worse the heartbreak the better my work *laughs*.
SKYN: That’s why Taylor Swift and Adele are where they are, they live life through that very principle. What are three brands that represent you right now?
DS: This is such a hard question because I am very ignorant of brands, popular culture, etc. I don’t think I am or every will be comfortable having any brand represent who I am. I hope to not ever be represented by anything but my own sense of self and art.
SKYN: Wow that’s the first time I’ve heard that, do you have any people at least that influence your creative process in an unparalleled way?
DS: A professor at OCAD, Veronika Szkudlarek. I don’t think any of my best works would exist if she didn’t exist. I remember hearing her speak the first day of class, just giving an introduction to the course. She was so passionate and inspiring and every word that she spoke was so beautiful and made perfect sense. Ever since then, I appointed her (in my head, alone) as my mentor in not only art, but in life.
SKYN: That’s incredible that she touched you like that. What are somethings you love about South Korea that just can’t be found in Toronto?
DS: My family.
SKYN: Aww! That’s sweet. On your Instagram we see that you play with photography quite as bit, the way you mix digital artistry into it, polaroid’s, installations, just a lot of crazy creative stuff, you do everything, how are you just so dope?
DS: *laughs*, it’s okay, I really love myself and am very confident but I don’t look at my Instagram and go “oh my god I’m so fucking cool”. I guess it's become normalized and then I’ve become desensitized. I sometimes feel like my public Instagram is almost a chore- a certain aesthetic, certain content, a lot of filters. I have a private Instagram account for very select few people, of very personal non-art related things (mostly about my feelings) which I adore *laughs*. I know I live a privileged life, but at the end of the day I think, “my heart is still heavy, what is all this for in the end?” not “life is good because I got 300 likes on my selfie today”.
SKYN: That’s fair, it takes a certain level of maturity to not allow that kind of thing to validate you. Can you describe what 2015 was like for you?
DS: 2015 felt like a thousand lifetimes. It started with a horrible heartbreak, and ended with another horrible heartbreak. It was a year of huge of career related progressions and endless surreal moments, but I measure my life in heartbreaks and forget everything else.
SKYN: You mentioned heartbreak, so on the flipside what does happiness look like to you?
DS: Happiness are moments of peace when I reach an understanding about myself and my philosophy on life and existence. Moments of “resolved” existential crisis. I meditate and try to be tranquil and whole. It’s hard to recognize and understand exactly what your happiness is and harder to be a hundred percent emotionally aware of it when you are experiencing it.
SKYN: I think someone that seems to be having quite a few public existential crises is Kanye West, what is your opinion on him?
DS: I don’t really know much about Kanye, but I enjoy his music. Maybe I would love him or hate him if I knew more about his personal life choices, but I don’t. I like his music; I think he’s a great artist. He is more of a public figure than a musician so maybe I should have an opinion on him as a person, but I don’t. My attitude towards everyone is “you do you boo”. Everyone has shit in life that makes him or her the way they are, so I don’t care, everyone is trying to get through the day, even Kanye.
SKYN: Fair enough, you really don’t know a person until you know a person. Aside from him, what music do you like listening to?
DS: I really love techno, and lo-fi music. I use music to help detach myself from the concerns of everyday life when I paint, so that is something that I can use to zone out for 8 hours straight, every day, for a month, without getting sick of it. I usually listen to the same song or a set on repeat for the whole creation process of a series of work, which could be anything between hours, to months. If you asked me what music I listened to for any art I’ve made, I could give you a very clear answer.
SKYN: I’m sure a lot of people can relate to that. As human beings, we all have our flaws, what is a personality trait of yours that you aren’t a huge fan of?
DS: I am going to say nothing. Not because I love everything about myself and I think I am perfect, but I really don’t like to think that way. I would die from self-loathing! I don’t like to label or define anything as good or bad, like or dislike, etc. Who I am is what allowed for me to make the art I’ve made, who I am going to become is what is going to allow me to make the art that I will make.
SKYN: That is the power of positive thinking! I tend to ask many artists this next question because I’m genuinely curious about how women and even me identify surrounding this idea and label, do you consider yourself a feminist?
DS: No, I do not. I do believe in and wish for complete gender-equality and liberation of both men and women from their socially constructed gender roles, but I don’t call myself a feminist. I love and revere women but I am too passive to give myself that label, I haven’t actively done enough to do so.
SKYN: I think that’s a reasonable self-analysis. You seem to be someone that philosophizes on words actions and deeds, what is your style philosophy?
DS: Look like yourself. “What is worn is meant to be worn out”
SKYN: I’m going to assume that is an original quote. Switching gears a bit, could you walk us through your painting process?
DS: This question itself requires a separate interview! I’ll tell you that it mainly involves tears, dancing, emotional enlightenment, anxiety attacks and weed. Oh and it’s very very messy.
SKYN: Wow so many emotions! That makes me curious about how your best friend would describe you.
DS: She was sitting in front of me and this is the list she gave me:
Emotional. Sensitive. Fragile. Smart. Sexy. Delicate. Silly. Complicated. Paradox.
SKYN: You really are a fascinating person. I wonder what would you be doing if you weren’t an artist in the way that you are now?
DS: I think a psychologist. I am obsessed with the human mind. I would’ve pursued the more scientific and logical side of understanding the human brain. I would’ve attempted to try and understand my own brain through the exploration of others.
SKYN: That’s interesting because that is what I wanted to do when I went to University to. Great Minds. So if I’m being completely candid I find you incredibly beautiful, incredibly talented, are you currently in a relationship with anyone or are you in a relationship with yourself?
DS: The latter. But I would love for my heart to be held by someone.
SKYN: Preach boo! Is there anything you wish you could change in this world?
DS: I wish that emotions could be viewed and valued as something sacred. I place the most importance on feelings than I do in anything else. I believe that the only things that you can ever truly call your own are your thoughts and feelings. That is what I would wish for. Something that I am actively working to change in the world is to make the stigma attached to mental health disappear.
SKYN: Feelings guide us in so many ways and you’re right, mental health isn’t looked at in the right light. Wrapping up here, what do we have to look forward to Dahae?
I have an installation piece I recently completed. It’s called “How to Fill a Void” and it consists of over a hundred paintings. It is the exploration of the idea that every void must be filled with something and everybody fills their void differently. I question, what is a void? How do you fill the immaterial with the material? It will be installed in a gallery in collaboration with PIQUE in May. I’ll give you a fragment of the writing component of the work. It goes:
“[…]I can’t love you any longer. There is a hole where you used to be. It won’t grow back. I find myself walking around it, often falling in. I don’t remember your love anymore but I lose you over and over again[…] I had so much left to tell you. With every brushstroke I thought of you. I repeated in my head everything I wanted to say to you. Our souls were of different ages. Take care.”
SKYN: I can sense so much heartbreak in that excerpt. What has life taught you that nobody else has?
DS: That we are in a constant state of flux until the moment of death. Life is a series of progressive dialectical synthesis to bring dualities into a paradoxical unity. Nothing needs to be in a definitive state of existence, it is simply just what it is. So all there is to do is to accept, understand, and be at peace with your own existence.
SKYN: Damn fucking right. When next we get to your neck of the woods in Toronto, can we come by and kick it with you?
DS: Yes, I love humans! Warning: super moody sometimes so please come when I’m not too emotional
SKYN: We acknowledge the warning and we will take our chances. Where can our readers find your work and your social media?
DS: My website! www.songdahae.com, I update all my upcoming shows, interviews, etc.
My Instagram! @songdahae, I update my studio practice, works in progress, all art related things!
To catch more on Donhae head to: @songdahae
@sofxposh | www.sofxposh.com
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