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Interview with Ji Sun


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MOLLY: Hello and Welcome to a podcast where we talk about creating experimental art and trauma-informed and sustainable ways that support artists, our communities, and the organization as a whole. I'm Molly and you're listening to Any Other Anything's. Alright Ji Sun, welcome to Any Other Anything's.


JI SUN: Hey.


MOLLY: Hello, would you like to start with a check in and just a quick introduction to you as a human and your roles within Grey Box Collective?


JI SUN: My name is Ji Sun. As a human being there are many interesting things about me. The first thing is like I've been living in Arizona for 6 years and I recently adopted a dog; her name is so Coco. Um, so I'm like a dog parent. I didn't know it's gonna be like this hard, but this is so worthy. Like, so cute. Um I am musician, uh I'm also theater artist and I think Grey Box Collectives made me, like, have more confidence in me like in terms of mover and performer, yeah.


MOLLY: Yeah, wonderful. Yeah um can we, I'll come back to that like mover thing in a moment. Um would you like to lead us through a grounding activity and or a warm-up? Whether it's your favorite or...


JI SUN: Sure.


MOLLY: Or, the one that you told from rehearsal has been in before?


JI SUN: I like breathing activity.


MOLLY: Okay.


JI SUN: Okay, so let's just sit or stand wherever you are and find your center, and feel the ground that supports you; around you all the other surfaces support you. You can close your eyes and you can open your eyes whatever you want. Now we're going to start breathing. Breathe in and breathe out, breathe in and breathe out. This is the time when you breathe out let's make some like natural sighs sound as though you are going to let everything you know every toxin from your body like go out breathe in, breathe out, one more time breathe in and breathe out. Okay, so since I'm a musician I'm gonna use this check-in this a little bit more musical.


MOLLY: Okay.


JI SUN: This time when you exhale, not only the sigh, but to pick one note. Any note you feel comfortable with. Um and make it as sustain note as possible just keep going as your breath goes and when it fades out, let it fade out. Let's do it. Inhale and let go. Mmmmmmmm...


BOTH: Mmmmm....


JI SUN: How does it feel?


MOLLY: It feels good. I felt that vibration in the middle of my chest. I never get my vibration that well. I normally feel it more in my throat.


JI SUN: That's great, that's great!


MOLLY: Yeah!


JI SUN: If you also noticed, like we kinda sinked our notes together.


MOLLY: Yeah, we did. Yeah.


JI SUN: It wasn't exactly the same note, but it was really like in the range that we did. That was really good.


MOLLY: That was cool! Thank you Ji Sun. Is that something that you use with the young people that you work with or is that something that you do personally?


JI SUN: Uh yes. Um, I use this to experiment with some kind of sound scape, so if I have 6 or 8 people, and like if they're not like professionally trained musicians, but you need to make some kind of like harmony. Um in your piece then I just ask them to find one note and just sustain it. And, your breath is like, um runned out. And, then find another note and sustain it and that's how you're gonna find that perfect harmony without knowing any kind of music knowledge.


MOLLY: Hmmm...


JI SUN: And, it's very natural way to find that sound, like without forcing some kind of like do re me fa so la ti do, like western background.


MOLLY: Yeah, very cool. Thanks for sharing that. Um would that be like your warm up in what you just explained of starting to layer it in with more individuals?


JI SUN: Mm-hmm, mm-hmm.


MOLLY: Nice, very nice.


JI SUN: When there's way more individuals I'm going to ask them to find a note that can go with others notes. But, I'm asking for adjectives rather than can you make lower, can you make it higher or lower, but can you find something like happy, or can you find something gloomy and then somehow even though they don’t know major or minor chords they just find it very unique combination with that emotion, yeah.


MOLLY: Yeah that's wonderful thank you, so continue with your work with music. How has your work with music influenced your work that you've done within Grey Box?


JI SUN: Uhhh..


MOLLY: Maybe, we need to start by recapping what you've done with Grey Box?


JI SUN: Sure. Um, okay I think my first experience, not with Grey Box, but Grey Box Method, was probably April 2016. When I was a part of Women of War, um scripted by Anya Hernandez. I really liked that show and I really liked the way she directed her show with Kara. Um, because my background as an artist, theater artist, is um it's very traditional and very like meister, you know, like master and like I'm the like apprentice. Like, absorbing everything and the way my teacher treated actors was, how do I say? That it was effective, but at the same time was a very...um harmful in a way. Um, because like we did a lot of the tragedy and that I was able to witness that like she...she actively decided to neglect some of the actors, like a very hurtful journey to get to certain character, and she...she used it as a as a tool to make the real, like authentic art.


And, when I first when I just, like, you know began my career with that kind of approach I thought that I was like, that...that was it like we need to just cut our flesh like...


MOLLY: Yeah.


JI SUN: ...to bring them to your art, like to an audience like that. But, as time goes I can see how many actors were really like, felt damaged or like you know a lot of trauma and like couldn't get out of it really easily and, then what I experienced with Anya and Kara, um and with the the show Women War, we explore a lot of like a lot of trauma, but at the same time like they're really they're really like attentive to...to make all of us like feel safe.


MOLLY: Mm-hmm.


JI SUN: And, I was really impressed by it and, then I noticed I learned after that, that Anya was trained by you. Maybe, she could, like correct me, if she was not. But, like, yeah she I think she mentioned that like she learned it from like Grey Box, like Molly.


MOLLY: Ohh, okay.


JI SUN: Whose this person? I'm interested.


[BOTH LAUGH]


JI SUN: Um, and, then I had an opportunity to work with her, with you again; Out of Hiding it was November 2018.


MOLLY: Yep.


JI SUN: Yeah, and, like it was...it was really fun. And, you opened...you opened like my mind that I could move, even though I'm not a dancer. Like, all my life I always couldn't understand why you cannot get this or like why cannot you move your right arm this way or like you're not supposed to move right leg or right arm like this way. There are many rules that I cannot even follow and, like my body type is not, you know it is not appropriate to like to put stage answer those kinds of things, but with all this work that I did with you. You taught me that everybody has their own move. [inaudible] Should I go back, like somewhere?


MOLLY: Um, if you want to just recap, maybe some of the movements that you did with Anya. Um, that really helped, to um open up to...to feeling more like a mover.


JI SUN: So, I never..I never participated in any performing piece as a mover. Um and I was not even sure whether I could, I just auditioned for it; but I like the theme of the show and when they say well, hey I was like, really like, really you're you're sure? That you're not gonna regret. Uh, but she taught me how to bring my openness. Things I already have and hone it a little bit more in a dancing way and, like communicate like with through bots.


Um, and, then like after that, Out of Hiding taught me more, I will say more vocabulary. Now I can see that like um, how I'm going to, how I can organize some thoughts like with my body; which was a totally foreign. Like, you know, like for me if I for myself like four or five years ago this kind of constitutes, like totally foreign. Like, what are you talking about? If I went like meet myself, like three years ago, like what am I talking about? But, now I can understand some kind of like grammar and like vocabulary like with my body and that..that is just like mind-blowing and it's very liberating. I wish I knew or learned these things like you know when I was a teenager, like it would probably helped me like to-to appreciate my body more.


MOLLY: Mm-hmm. Thanks for sharing. Um, and like I think about the work that you just did with our first ever film that like hasn't even been released at the time of this recording. Um, and, and how I think it was in our first rehearsal you were like 'well I do sound, I do music.' Got it cool. Check that box and, then it was like, maybe the last rehearsal when we were like, okay I think we're almost done like filming, and you're like 'maybe I want to do something with-with movement'. And, the way that you approach the movement on camera I found I like, we can see your music coming into play. Um, but just the-the choices you are making, um it would not occur to me that that movement wasn't something that you um, was something that you had to have a long journey with. That make sense?


JI SUN: Yeah. I just want to say thank you Molly.


MOLLY: Awww.


JI SUN: Yeah because I, I don't think I will be, I wouldn't be able to like to do that if it was like me like four years ago. I, yeah I will feel really like embarrassed or like what, what oh what I'm gonna do like, like that. But, like the-the way you appreciate um various types of body and various types of movement and, while keeping the core value of bringing arts with body, really empower a lot of people. And, I don't know it depends on your definition of what dance is. But, in my opinion you really make dance um accessible for everybody and that's-that's one of the legacy that you are building with Grey Box Collective, I think.


MOLLY: Thank you Ji Sun. Um, I appreciate hearing that um through the screen and I don't think it's something that I'm conscious of. Uh, so, thank you for like making that pop a little bit more for me. Yeah. Um, let's talk about this most recent piece that you've been a part of. Um, maybe start with

I guess just to give listeners a bit of some context around it it was our first, one of our first digital creations courtesy of COVID.


JI SUN: Mm-hmm. Mm-hmm.


MOLLY: Um, and..


JI SUN: The first film.


MOLLY: Yes, first dance film. Um, and it was also the largest group that we created with. Um, maybe I don't know how much I shared. It's the largest group that we worked with this summer and, it was also, the um the group with, the most the...


JI SUN: ...strangers?


MOLLY: Like, yeah! Like the group with the most strangers. Yes! Um, like there were loose connections um and, and some familiar faces. Um but for the most part it was...it was the group that I was...I was aware that there wasn't as much common ground going in. Um, and, so it was in the first few rehearsals it was like, okay, well who knows how this is gonna work and, by the end everyone's like we're friends. Like, this is great! Uh, so could you talk about that experience?


JI SUN: Yeah. Like the first few years I, yeah I could tell that everybody was testing water and just like you know staring there like Zoom square and others face.


MOLLY: Yeah.


JI SUN: Um, and I also noticed everybody was like very cautious about how they're going to present themselves about what kind of artist they are. Like am I a mover? Am I a dancer? Like am I, like a musician or a filmmaker? And it kind of makes everybody a little bit shy and who I am and what can I bring here? But, as we spend more time through zoom and there are so many check-ins we did and we shared all this, like, you know big and small life events. And, that kinda made us feel like very connected and like I’ve never met them, you know, personally. I hope I can meet in the future in person.


MOLLY: Mm hm.


JI SUN: Um but from this whole stranger group that we don't know what to do to a safe space, I’m quoting from one of our members who said that like they felt really safe in this space, so that they can like share something very private. Um it was like a journey, but we did make something really beautiful. Not only like our product, but also like that we could prove we could connect people in the midst of Corna through art. And through our liking.


MOLLY: Yeah.


JI SUN: So, we didn't have any like key words or themes at the beginning. We just like um, like making some kind of salad with a lot of veggies in your refrigerator, we just put everything in it, I don’t know like you have cabbage, I like cucumber and like bell pepper and put it in and, then we wanted to try and um like some dressings. Okay, like what kind of format we want to use umm and then we...hmm let me remember. So, we talked about blackout poetry and some images and then we collected some sound and this and that, uhh videos and it really felt like some kinda group work, everyone brought everything, but yeah. And, I also noticed like your role as a um director there. Uhh, I also noticed there’s a little bit of a power relationship too, because you're the instructor, right, and they're like we are the students. So they kinda like, well this like is the outside of the classroom, but like they treated you as a fellow artist. But, at the same time you're kinda a formal instructor.


MOLLY: Yes. yes. That is definitely in there too. Umm and I think about like, Lauren who has been with Grey Box since before Grey Box was a thing is also a former student, as is Preston. There are a lot of former students. I feel like I need everyone to talk to each other and be like okay here's how we navigate moving from student to like we are collaborators. That could be like a whole separate workshop.


[BOTH LAUGH]


JI SUN: Yeah, yeah that yeah well, I think you need to make a performance out of it. It’s like a very, it can be like a comedy, you know?


MOLLY: Yes, yes, I think comedy would be the right path to explore with that.


[BOTH LAUGH]


MOLLY: So, okay with this group, one of the you really like stepped forward. Oh, I also just want to say it was this group in this project about umm halfway through after seeing how, how those connections were able to really happen among strangers um over zoom and a piece was able to to come forward. Uh, it was because of all of that that I was like okay cool I feel comfortable going all virtual for Grey Box for this year. So, it was very much like there's also that, that like background noise for myself umm and I think...


JI SUN: You, you wanted to see like some kind of potential for that vision.


MOLLY: Mm-hmm and I think from when we started creating to when we were done, is creating, um I think the world just had changed so much, um that it also felt like going virtual made sense um like we had tested it, it was successful and I think it's the only way we can move forward right now. Umm and at the very beginning...hmm?


JI SUN: Maybe, maybe like you know for this year.


MOLLY: Yes.


JI SUN: Hopefully, hopefully, we can go back. You know in person?


MOLLY: Yes I know.


JI SUN: 2021.


MOLLY: Yes. I hope, what I'm envisioning is maybe at the end of the season we can all finally like it together and meet everyone um.


JI SUN: Then do a watch party!


MOLLY: Yes!


JI SUN: Just, like get together and watch all the older shows and..


MOLLY: Yes, right, share some space. Actual space. Um at the start of this creative team and this um project; I feel like you came forward very early on as someone who is like ‘I want to do sound, I want to create a score, um want to create the music for this’ and you did it with found sounds. I'd love to hear you talk through that process. Um...


JI SUN: I think partially it speaks of like a kind of sensed that like many of the participants were like you're former student, so, like, I kind of felt like some, I wouldn’t say pressure, but like how I say pit-full urge. As I come forth guys it's okay! I got this! We can do this! You don’t have to be like what's going on, and I also noticed I had more experience in Grey Box with the creative process. So, yeah I just feel like okay. I feel comfortable with step forward and they said that. Um the reason I asked to um make sound beforehand and the other images it was because-it because I also like to have my director's brain there too. Like, I wanted to have like one, at least one thing we could just grab, right? Like, everything was so frantic and chaos, okay and let's make one thing that is the center and put other things, like we could decorate or go with that center. So, um yeah I really wanted to experiment with some random sounds, um you know like a chopping board sound or dryer or like a ringtone and what if all those sounds are in our daily lives and at home and raise some kind of coincidence one. And, Angela shared her beautiful poem and when I heard the poem, it was a really beautiful, and I kind of, I kind of felt the musicality and like how-how we're going to make some kind of arch with it, umm yeah. So, that was a really fun project and I was really encourageD by all of this supportive feedback from our team members. I think, I hope and I think it's going to be a really really great opportunity for them to grow um as an artist. And, now I sound like super old now.


[BOTH LAUGH]


JI SUN: But, it is true. I think I’m like 12 or 13 years older than like most of them. Like, as they keep going with their journey as being an artist and collaborating with others. I hope this was a good opportunity for them to remind me how to be kind but it was how to be effective people, how to be punctual and, um how to be supportive and make great art, but without drama.

MOLLY: Yeah.


[BOTH LAUGH]


MOLLY: Mm-hmm yeah. Um, it was definitely a group of a lot coming from a very traditional world of the arts whether it's dance or theater. Um, or, even if they're not fully, like, Angelica comes from that traditional um background of the technique from dance. Um, however, moving into this more experimental world and I don't know if you as a classically trained musician also, kind of feels this like push and pull and exploration of from one world to another?


JI SUN: Mm-hmm, mm-hmm.


MOLLY: Yeah.


JI SUN: Well one thing I noticed was um the reading the poem was more about directing than you just a music thing, it wasn't really like more of a voice acting. So, that was, that was really interesting um moment for me to realize um what kind of direction or instruction I should give whenever, like, whenever I want to use recorded text.


MOLLY: Mm-hmm. Mm-hmm.


JI SUN: Um, yeah. I realized I um I mispronounced her name Angelica, you know, I, I, I think I called her Angela. Angelica, sorry.


MOLLY: All good, all good. I could edit that.


Um, so, okay we've talked about even this like performer role and, and moving and and creating music and sounds with grey Box Collective and, you've also done our workshops and you've also, done um gone through the like trauma and form creative practices kind of lens so, you you see both sides of it and is just over a year ago that you and Sarah and Chris led a workshop. Um, so I'm curious having had that experience kind of in the middle of these other two that we mentioned, how has that informed your work?


JI SUN: Um, I think that helps me to be a better human. Um, because I already shared my background like how I started my artist career and on top of that I'm very task oriented person than relationship oriented person. So, whenever I have like put any director's head or any kind of like roll, like ahead. I am really focused like we're gonna get there and, like yeah everybody come, like, and then we just run and like, then I look back and some injury happened. Like, okay that that was inevitable. I am sorry. I was that kind of a person. But, with this method, um, I learned that um as a team we can always get to the goal without having any injuries. Right, that's a possibility? Yes injuries might happen from time to time but, like you can always like to do some preventive actions and with with your um knowledge um and trauma informed practices that I learned through this Grey Box I think, I think I can make, I can make art safer not only to myself, but for my collaborators.


MOLLY: Mmm.


JI SUN: Um, yeah when I look back there are some projects that I did amazing, like I have very amazing fabulous product, but didn't earn any kind of like relationship after that work, like the project is just really good like got some reward or reputation but like nobody nobody called me after the show. Everybody's like okay we're done. Ji Sun, you're like you, you are a good, you know, it's good to work with you, but I don't want to see you anymore kinda thing.


MOLLY: Um, where, okay there is like so much you just said and I'm debating where I want to dig in a little bit more, because I'm thinking how you, where we kind of started around, around talking about previous experiences of, of being in rehearsal spaces that were more harmful and, then starting to experience with Anya that that sense of safety being in the room. Um, and, so how for you as like you as your individual self and also you with collaborators how are you thinking about safety when you enter into a creative project?


JI SUN: I think safety starts even before getting into the rehearsal room because you can make a safe space only when you know where you are and how you are. Cause without knowing that you might, you might get into something that like, oh I thought it was okay, but it is not. You need to know your limit and like you need to know how you are. Um, so I think that's the prerequisite to make a safe space in a rehearsal room. Um, also I okay, now I'm debating like how I'm going to rephrase this, I think there must be reason that there are some hierarchy like for director and performer, like it's not always like bad bad like there's a reason like for that, you know for that hierarchy to make-to get things done. But to make rehearsal rooms safe I think it is important to acknowledge there is power hierarch-power relation and understand there could be some mistakes um and always make some kind of like, um plan if things didn't work.


MOLLY: Mm-hmm.


JI SUN: I don't know. I think the most important thing is um to ask ourselves why do we create this show, like, why do we want to make this art. Um, for artists and if you're really passionate and committed sometimes it's it's really easy for you to put art first than life. Um, and there are some like misconceptions of that like, that's why you need to do-to make great art. Um, for some that could be true, that could be true, for some they need to destroy themselves to make great art. Yeah, but not-not everybody has to do it and like you cannot force that to others if you want to collaborate with others.


MOLLY: Mm-hmm.


JI SUN: Yeah...Does that make sense?


MOLLY: Mm-hmm, it does. Um, I think it's-It's like bumping up against this long history of like the sacrifice that comes with making art. Um, there's an image that goes around social media every so often that shows like a ballet dancer on point with the point shoes and then what it looks like without the points shoes um and just like the bodily harm that happens for that beautiful line. Um, and something that I think is quite embedded um in the arts and I'm really hoping that that can start to change and I think COVID might force a little bit of that change, and I'm hoping that like everyone now is like oh we should talk about like compassion and being empathetic and all this, this like stuff. Like, oh hey trauma and stress! Did you know people are like stressed out and there's a lot of trauma in the world? Like, yes we-we had that before COVID, we had that before the pandemic, and I hope things that people are doing to mitigate all that, like safe, because it just illuminated what was already there.


JI SUN: Mm-hmm....[inaudible]


MOLLY: Um, you said, huh?


JI SUN: What you just said. It's like it sounds like the title of our...


MOLLY: Yes, Reverse to Reveal. Yeah, yeah. I like that title. Um, you said something about like knowing yourself and your limit um, when you're going into a space. So, what are some of the things that that are indicators for yourself when you're reaching that limit?


JI SUN: Um, I'm not sure what is like the right answer to your question, but don't worry I know my limit for not eating rice. Okay it sounds funny, but like um as a as an Asian woman, um I can have like any, any cuisine, any food, but I need to have rice at least like once every three days. Like, if I don't have that rice I'm craving for that and, like I feel like something is wrong I need that, did that. So, it's like, it's like rice for me. Um, I don't know maybe that the rice indicates like something I was like putting too much energy to everything else. I need to go back to the food and like rebuild, like yes the bowl of rice and pop. Okay, here's pop. Okay, now I can do something else.


MOLLY: That's great, like meeting basic needs is so important. Um, and I love that that's your indicator. Yeah I think so often people are like 'oh my indicators, like I'm not sleeping or I sleep for 14 hours' or eat like something that seems like massive, and it's like 'oh three days without rice that that's it,' like that's a that's a quick turnaround.


[BOTH LAUGH]


MOLLY: Um, so are you up for maybe some rapid fire questions?


JI SUN: Sure.


MOLLY: Okay.


JI SUN: How does that work though? Like, I just need to like answer right away.


MOLLY: Yeah, in theory like, if-if you need a minute...


JI SUN: Like, a 10 questions in like 30 seconds. Boom, boom, boom, boom! Something like that?


MOLLY: Yeah it's only three, but


[BOTH LAUGH]


MOLLY: So, yeah. Here we go! Ready?


JI SUN: Yeah.


MOLLY: Okay. Okay, um, so within Grey Box Collective what has been your favorite prop that you've used and why?


JI SUN: [GASP] Oh, I don't remember. I don't think I ever used any prop.


[BOTH LAUGH]


MOLLY: You have been in some, yeah you've definitely been in like the least prop heavy pieces.


JI SUN: Oh yeah, yeah I use my hair bowl! Yeah, okay.


MOLLY: Is that the only prop you've actually ever used is your own hair?


JI SUN: I think so...yeah.


MOLLY: It's fascinating. These are really air quotes for rapid fire questions. Um, okay, second one! What is your favorite artistic risk that you have taken within Grey Box Collective?


JI SUN: Artistic what?


MOLLY: Uh, artistic risk.


JI SUN: Hm, hm just putting a bunch of strangers in the same room and and trusting the process. Um yeah.


MOLLY: Yeah.


JI SUN: But, like that is also very um beautiful faith, I guess? Because, like, yeah. You will, we'll know that like it is a risk, but we also trust the process we built is gonna work. So, yeah!


MOLLY: Yeah. Um, okay what's the weirdest thing that you've googled for show research or like the most bizarre rabbit hole of the internet you have gone down in the name of art?


JI SUN: Oh, hmm I don't know. I cannot answer. Maybe, I need to do more experimental art. Well, like I'm okay maybe I could answer with the recent um question.


MOLLY: Okay.


JI SUN: I was researching how I'm going to record my uh arpeggiator in logic x, because it sounded differently when I played and I recorded and, I didn't know I need to latch and like put and paste. So, yeah that was my recent youtube video that I was watching uh yeah, meaty all the meaty stuff.


MOLLY: Yeah.


JI SUN: Um and my next goal is to make um shepherd, shepherd line that ever ever left ever rising lines it is, it is not going up but, like sound like pulling up like effortless thing.


MOLLY: Oh interesting.


JI SUN: I think you already know that like, you will you know that, you will know when you hear it, you know they're kind of like so typical Hans Zimmer. [MAKES SOUND WITH VOICE]