Kam-sa-ham-ni-da About


When you’re traveling, being able to say thank you in the language of the country you’re visiting seems like a minimum requirement. Yet for westerners, Kam-sa-ham-nida is quite a mouthful. At Ssamzie Space, my assistant, Kim Kyung-jin, was the first person to try to teach me the correct pronunciation. For a few days, I walked around mumbling Kam-sa-ham-ni-da, Kam-sa-ham-nida, Kam-sa-ham-ni-da, under my breath. This project, a sound installation, was initially born out of my own concern about how to say thank you properly. With the assistance of Kim Kyung-jin and Kim Jungyeun, I interviewed hundreds of tourists in Insadong. We asked if they knew how to say thank you in Korean, and if they didn’t, we taught them. We recorded interviews with tourists from all over the world. They thanked us for teaching them to say thank you. In this installation, the recorded interviews are played back on mp3 players. Twenty-five individual ear buds with extra long cables hang down from the ceiling, connected to the hidden mp3 players, creating an effect like rain. Each ear bud plays a different sequence of interviews. The ear buds are a visual reference to raindrops (it was monsoon season while I was visiting Korea) and also a response to the popularity of mp3 players in Seoul. It seemed like a nice irony to deliver a message of thanks using a device that usually keeps us apart, in a private world of music. The installation creates a pocket of space, both intimate and anonymous. The viewer must step into this altered space and move between the whispering ear buds to listen, to receive each drop of sound. Within this soundscape, even the surrounding space appears altered, as viewers look out through the white cables raining down. Only Koreans will be able to appreciate the range of mispronunciations as the tourists in the recordings learn to say thank you. The travelers might sound awkward or funny, but they are trying, and this humble, sometimes humbling, attempt to reach out across cultures is at the heart of this project. THANK YOU!