Bottari: what comes next?

Sooja Kim‘s Cities on the Move – 2727 kilometers Bottari Truck (1997) is an eleven-day performance piece where the artist fills a truck with bottari (bundles), and travels all over South Korea. The word bottari in the Korean language is defined as bundles wrapped in large cloth, where non-breakables items such as clothing, household utensils and books are kept. A Korean critic Airung Kim suggests that bottari is a symbol of not knowing one’s direction. This is significant in a country like Korea where a great number of people were obligated to leave their residences for reasons such as war or unemployment.

Today, Koreans leave their country to immigrate to North America in order to obtain better education and life. Therefore, bottari historically symbolizes both the refugees and tradesmen, transferring their belongings from one place to another. Furthermore, it represents mobility in an unlimited space, yet it remains as containers for what it holds. As the song in Laurie Anderson’s performance Empty Places (1989) tells us “we don’t know where we come from/we don’t know what we are”, Sooja Kim utilizes bottari as her “medium” to exemplify the universal notion of transition in life. Whether moving from one place to another or one phase of life to another, she evokes the questions of- what comes next? 
Jen Lee