I first encountered Seunghee Kim’s work in her latest piece for The New York Times, Tiger and Ox, a riveting op-doc about her relationship with her mother, aptly represented by a tough-headed tiger bashing heads with an introspective ox. Coarsely penciled sketches stringed by a soft interweaving narration of two speakers talking past each other, the short film is like revisiting a time-capsule, filled with mulled secrets, now revealed to the world.
A film that was initially made only for herself as an means to uncover and burn away the past, Tiger and Ox took a life of its own, helping Seunghee rekindle her previously fraught relationship with her mother. On what appears as a series of personal anecdotes underlies a hefty social commentary on the taboos of divorce, single mom shaming, and cultural discrepancies.
In our nearly two-hour-long interview — which is almost the length of Seunghee’s recorded dialogue with her mother for her eight minute film — we shared our thoughts on the practice of animation as Buddhist repetitions and meditations, her mother’s first-time-ever reaction to Tiger and Ox, as well as her vow to pry into stories of cross-national social intersectionality as a proudly independent female Korean animator.
This interview was conducted in Korean and subsequently translated into English.
Woojin Lim (WL): How did you start out as an animator, and why were you drawn to the particular medium of animation?
Seunghee Kim (SK): Roughly 17 years ago, I enrolled in a fine arts school, where I learned the basics of sketching and drawing. But at one point, I realized that the medium of painting and printing wasn’t a fit for me. Whereas painting captures a single moment, animation is comprised of time and images moving, performing together. For every artist, how they want to express what they want to express makes their work…