Photo Credit: Pei Jung

Photo Credit: Pei Jung

KOOKERVILLE: the world where your inner child goes to when it has been lost... 

This world is manifested in the form of creatures, called KOOKERS, that playfully roam around New York City (and beyond), unaware of the social constructs we have created. Their large scale, bright colours, and monstrous demeanor create spontaneous moments of joy, human connection, and social disruption through play and absurdity, breaking people from their daily routines. Kookers have detachable parts such as instruments and masks to encourage public participation. Laboriously and lovingly crafted from found and recycled materials, this body of work explores the intersection between craft and play, art and accessibility.

The KOOKERS were originally created during my final year as a Fashion Design major. Fed up with the fashion industry, I wanted to explore how fashion could be an experience, rather than something merely consumed. This prompted my interest in creating work that explored performance, participation, public art, and sustainability. Over the course of eight months, the first five Kookers were born and brought on the streets, garnering joy (and, sometimes, confusion) to onlookers and participants.  

Since graduating, KOOKERVILLE has evolved beyond my own expectations! The Kookers have gone to schools, to parties, and even to a music festival. They have been exhibited as part of New York Textile Month and in a window of Saks Fifth Avenue. I have completed a residency at The Watermill Center and a fellowship at the MAD Museum, where I continued to manifest this world. In these spaces, I began think about environments, developing interactive soft sculptures, installations, and puppets - objects that would inhabit KOOKERVILLE. Using found and recycled materials is an important part of the work: transforming discard through handwork, intention, and site in its potential for new life.  I have also facilitated several “Kreate Your Own Kooker” workshops, which are material-oriented workshops aimed at creating a safe, playful, and creative environment that encourages participants of all ages to activate their imagination, self-expression, and inner-child. 

This is an on-going project, with the ultimate goal of creating a large-scale, interactive, joyful and playful world that would be accessible to the public.  The world is constantly evolving, and so are my thoughts surrounding it. What am I trying to “say”? What does this body of work “mean” during such a tumultuous political climate? How can I genuinely incorporate a “community” aspect to this project? How do masks and costumes relate to identity? What does “access to art” look like?

While I am still contextualizing the project, the essence of it continues to reside in joy, play, and unleashing the “inner-child."  KOOKERVILLE serves as a temporary escape - a world of healing through joy, colour and imagination, made with immense care and love. Alternative worlds provide opportunities to re-evaluate the world around us, and imagine new possibilities, albeit absurd or kooky. 

Welcome to my world!