509 JungWoong Kim


Yellow butterfly from one of the victim student’s parents.

January 9, 1978, I am 10 years old. My ears grow huge as the words “he passed away” swirl around me. The corners of the yellow linoleum in my small room roll up, and enclose me.

June 5, 2013, near the corner of 22nd & Market Streets. I am on my bike when the building collapsed in front of me. I lose a sense of gravity—I fear I’m being swept into the clouded air.

April 16, 2014, in my kitchen in West Philly. I watch dozens of YouTube videos of boys and girls passively speaking their last words to parents as the ferry tilts and sinks slowly into waters near Jindo, South Korea. My body’s shaking. I can’t, don’t want to, believe these.

These moments are the starting point for SaltSoul, an exploration-through dance, voice, traditional music, and experimental sound and video-of how we experience sudden loss of loved ones and strangers.

How do we absorb and recover from the pain of unexpected loss? How is our grief affected by the ways that accountability is assigned and accepted? How can we build empathy and support for survivors within our intimate, local and global communities?How can art speak to all of this?

SaltSoul has been supported by the Pew Center for Art & Heritage, and created as part of a Performance & Multy-Disciplinary Artist Residency Program of Asian Arts Initiative, a community arts center in Philadelphia, PA.