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Dreaming Birds Know No Borders

Video presentation by Jin-me Yoon

Dreaming Birds Know No Borders 
Video presentation by Jin-me Yoon
at the Nature House at Maplewood Flats 

May 8, 9, 15, 16 – Open for viewing during Vancouver Bird Celebration. 

May 13, 7pm – Online Discussion: Public Art and Conservation at Maplewood Flats. Get Tickets

Artist Jin-me Yoon’s video presentation of Dreaming Birds Know No Borders will be launched at Maplewood Flats on World Migratory Bird Day, May 8, 2021. This looping video for the Corrigan Nature House combines reworked images from a VHS copy of a North Korean film with contemporary footage of figures at Maplewood Flats. The installation runs during Vancouver Bird Celebration May 8-16.


The Nature House will be open to the public on May 8-9, 15-16 from 11am to 3pm on a first come first serve basis. From 3-6pm, we will be holding reservations for 30-minute safely distanced bubble groups to view the exhibition. Visit our Calendly scheduling page to make a reservation. Upon registration, you will receive additional instructions for your visit.


The North Korean film that found its way from North Korea to Toronto sometime in the 1990s melodramatically tells the true story of an ornithologist who was left behind in North Korea while the rest of the family went South. The family in South Korea finds out he is still alive through tagged birds that can fly over borders – in this case, the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ). 

Rather than recounting the particularities of the human story, I wanted to focus on the birds and the degraded footage as a poetic residue of the longing for all that is lost, especially for those separated during the Korean War as well as all that is carried of this experience through migration. It is also an acknowledgement of the loss of biodiversity highlighted by the paradox that the DMZ is now the most biodiverse habitat on the Korean peninsula. The original film score is played backwards as well as slowed down elegiacally underscoring the loss of life as well as the loss of habitat; yet at the same time, contemplates the capacity for regeneration and resilience of people and birds alike.

Along with this found footage, the video presents slow meditative movements on the mudflats. A young Korean man moves gracefully, evocative of the traditional Korean Crane dance – originally inspired by cranes – while being fully present to his ecologically sensitive surroundings. Through a diasporic lens, treading lightly on delicate ecosystems and politics, Dreaming Birds Know No Borders connects two sites: the mudflats on the unceded lands and waters of the Tsleil-Waututh Nation and an estuary at the 38th parallel that divides the Korean Peninsula. 

A Korean woman raises her binoculars. What is she looking at? Perhaps the figure in the landscape, birds, the film?  Perhaps she looks for the future now – a future tied to a past and a present, and one entangled in ecology, cultures and geo-politics in an interconnected world. Unlike walls and borders, the birds first and foremost remind us that these boundaries are temporary, provisional and permeable. 

 — Jin-me Yoon April 14 2021


Jin-me Yoon is a faculty member at Simon Fraser University’s School for the Contemporary Arts and has had many solo and group exhibitions in North America, Asia, Australia and Europe. Her recent project Mul Maeum, of which this video is a part of, is the fifth in a series that explores place and entangled histories in the context of colonialism, tourism and militarism. Her current work, Pacific Flyways will be filmed and photographed at Maplewood Flats. In 2022, Jin-me Yoon’s recent work will be presented in an exhibition organized by the Vancouver Art Gallery as well as featured in an online monograph by the Art Canada Institute.  


The artist acknowledges the generous support of the Canada Council for the Arts in funding Mul Maeum and Pacific Flyways. Video production acknowledgments: Ian Barbour (Videography, editing, sound); Chris Son (Performer); with special thanks to Byeong Sung Lee, Dongwoo Kim, Young-hwa Won, Seungho Kim (DMZ Ecology Institute); the Wild Bird Trust of BC and the Tsleil-Waututh Nation for generously permitting me to film on the mudflats.

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