Moon Jar / 2006

Artistí»s note for the 32 Moon Jar Installation

for the Korean Mission to the United Nations, NY

Ik-Joong Kang



Traditional Korean ceramic, Moon shaped jar (í░Moon Jarí▒), is my story of the sky.

Ití»s the sky with floating clouds I remembered from the valley of my hometown.

Ití»s the orange-hued moonrises seen from the plane window as I come into JFK after a long trip.

Ití»s the happiest sunray slipping into my studio while Ií»m eating 3-dollar lunch combo from Chinatown.

The Moon Jar made in Chosun dynasty (1392-1910) was simple and plain like the sky, but it changes in hue and shade, when looked upon with different emotion and in different time. The shape of the Moon Jars is not as perfectly round as a full moon. Whatever the final product by the masterí»s hand, it stays with its imperfection and it is better left as it is. Making Moon Jar shares similar approach to making Bibimbap.  Traditional Korean dish, Bibimbap is supposed to be mixed rice with bits of meat, fish, vegetables, seasoning - whatever was on hand. Although the numbers of transformations of this dish are infinite, the underlying constant rule is rice. The cook who makes Bibimbap exhibits a flexibility and openness to everything, within a given structure. When the food is done, people share the dish, like a master who makes Moon Jar.

The Moon Jar is formed by creating two parts of clay, the bottom half and the top. Then the two semi spheres are connected by hand, glazed and fired in the kiln, often resulting in a visible joint mark near the middle and slight irregularities in the overall form. It becomes one body and it starts breathing air into the sky. The Moon Jar exemplifies oneness from this connection.  

The process of making Moon Jar influenced í░100,000 Dreamsí▒ my first major outdoor installation with public in 1999. I was trying to connect the divided country by childrení»s dream. Sixty thousands of drawings fro South Korea were displayed inside a one-kilometer-long greenhouse near the DMZ, borderline between North and South Korea. It was lit up at night, as if to invite North Korean children on the other side to come out and play. Though North Korean children did not participate as planned, this project has grown into the í░Moon of dreamí▒ In 2004 I used 135,000 childrení»s drawings from 135 countries to create a 45-feet tall sphere of art, which was floated on a lake near Seoul.  I called it í░Moon of Dreamí▒.  

A Korean video artist, Nam Jun Paik once said that the moon was the earliest TV. Everybody was watching the moon, which features rabbits.  It was the place of imagination and a playground.  Chinese poet Li Bai drowned when, sitting drunk in a boat, he tried to seize the mooní»s reflection in the water. The moon was the place of immortality and connecting station to the other world.


Upon my arrival in New York in 1984, I developed 3 x3-inch form, recording momentary thoughts, fantasies, observations, and reactions to the events of everyday life. I thought it was too painful to look down at the ground with mundane things, which are represented by the square, so I decided look into the sky, round shape.  I soon followed this project with another project, í░Amazed World 2001,í▒ an installation composed of 34,000 childrení»s drawings from all over the world and displayed at the headquarters of the United Nations in New York.  Drawings came from the mountains in Tibet, street corners in Hong Kong and from the war zone in Iraq. One drawing said, í░A wall of dream can break down the wall of hatred and ignorance that separated us for a long time. It was the process of connection. I was the weaver to fabricate the fishnet.


I believe the Moon Jar contains unlimited potential for connection to the outside world through the spirit of sharing and openness.  My Moon Jar cannot be the Moon Jar from Chosun dynasty. It might share the spirit of Chilsung Mudang (seven shamans) in Cheju Island in Korea, who worshiped seven-stat god, simply performed her ritual dance before only the Seven Star Cider.  She was able to do her performance without formal preparation.  She knows how to connect with outside force and doesní»t need a formal process or protocol.  As is similar to the master who created the Moon Jar, the shamans were not focused on the end product so much but more on its process.  


I recently heard one TV show host asked Hank Aaron what he thinks about when he is at the plate. The great homerun hitter replied that his mind is not at the plate during these crucial moments; rather, it is in the stands watching him at the plate. My main concern is trying to get away from what I am doing, like the creator of the Moon Jar.  Maybe my Moon Jar is a TV to see myself better and clearer, traveling in the journey of immortality Li bai dreamed of 1,200 years ago.


The sky is blue before the Full moon night and it wears the bright new dress on the morning of New Yearí»s Day.  Right before the storm the sky is mild green.  And it seems layered before winter blizzard comes.