Grant Recipients Robert Rauschenberg Award Music/Sound 2023

yuniya edi kwon

yuniya looks calmly into the camera. Her head is shaved and she is wearing medium hoop earrings, a black jacket, and a patterned scarf.
Photo courtesy of the artist.
  • 2023 Robert Rauschenberg Award
  • Music/Sound
  • Composer-Performer, Interdisciplinary Artist
  • Born 1989, Minneapolis, MN
  • Lives in Brooklyn, NY
  • Additional Information

Artist Statement

In my life I use sound and ritual to create spaces of intense presence and transformation. In all I do, I hope to be radically present with the ongoing, transformational miracle of life, and to share generously with others its resonances, whispers, and subterranean logics. I draw from, and am nourished by, the spiritual and cultural continuums of queer trans artist communities from around the world, and particularly the extraordinary history of trans Korean shamans active during the periods of colonization, occupation, and rebellion. Through a relational practice, I summon an opening through which I might access a creative, spiritual ancestry that can include, support, and (even) embrace me. To share this opening with others, then, is to cocreate affirming, inclusive lineages and families, and to reject limiting, cisheteropatriarchal ideas of bloodlines and biological ancestry.

- December 2022


yuniya edi kwon (also known as eddy kwon) is a violinist, vocalist, and interdisciplinary artist. Her practice connects composition, improvisation, movement, and ceremony to explore transformation and transgression, ritual practice as a tool to queer ancestral lineage, and the use of mythology to connect, obscure, and reveal. As a composer-performer and improviser, she is inspired by Korean folk timbres and inflections, textures and movement from natural environments, and American experimentalism as shaped by the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians (AACM). Her work as a choreographer and movement artist embodies an expressive release and reclamation of colonialism’s spiritual imprints, connecting to both Japanese Butoh and a lineage of queer trans practitioners of Korean shamanic ritual.

kwon’s UMMA-YA (2021), which premiered at Roulette Intermedium in Brooklyn, NY, tells the story of a young boy who learns she will be a mother. A solo interdisciplinary work for violin, viola, voice, and body, UMMA-YA draws from the dense, spiritual matter of Korean folk and shamanic performance traditions and the extemporaneous sonic invention of American experimentalism. With dance and movement inspired by Japanese Butoh and Korean shamanic ritual, and storytelling that blends myth and autobiography, UMMA-YA explores transformation and transgression, queer ritual and ancestry, and the spiritual legacies of colonialism.

kwon has performed throughout the Americas and Europe at Jazzfest Berlin, Berlin, Germany (2021, 2018); Festival Sons d’hiver, Val-de-Marne, France (2020); The Kennedy Center, Washington, D.C. (2019); Big Ears Festival, Knoxville, TN (2019); SESC Pompéia, São Paulo, Brazil (2019); Barbican Centre, London, UK (2019), and many other venues and festivals. Her work has been commissioned by Roulette Intermedium, Brooklyn, NY; Contemporary Arts Center Cincinnati, Cincinnati, OH; National Performance Network, New Orleans, LA; Bang on a Can, Brooklyn, NY; and Creativity & Innovation at Colorado College, Colorado Springs, CO.

She has collaborated with Du Yun, Holland Andrews, Tomeka Reid, Kenneth Tam, Isabel Crespo Pardo, Lester St. Louis, Mariah Garnett, The Art Ensemble of Chicago, and International Contemporary Ensemble. kwon is also a member of the artist collective Juni One Set with Joshua Kohl, Senga Nengudi, and Haruko Crow Nishimura. As a violinist, violist, and/or vocalist, she has performed alongside Roscoe Mitchell, Lesley Mok, Moor Mother, Mary Halvorson, Nicole Mitchell, Cory Smythe, Susan Alcorn, Carla Kihlstedt, Jessika Kenney, and others.

She is an Arts Fellow at Princeton University (2023), a Civitella Ranieri Fellow (2023), a Johnson Fellow at Americans for the Arts (2021), an Andrew W. Mellon Artist-in-Residence at the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center at Colorado College (2021), and a United States Artists Ford Fellow (2016).

kwon was born and raised in Minnesota on the ancestral land of the Dakhóta and Anishinaabeg. She has a B.M. from the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music.

eddy kwon sits illuminated in the center of a dark stage half-buried beneath a heap of circular objects. Three other performers are scattered across the stage around her. Behind and above her head, a face silhouetted against a sky at dusk is projected onto a stretched screen. Behind the projection, strips of fabric hang from the ceiling.
Performance still from Boy mother/faceless bloom at Colorado College, Colorado Springs, CO, 2022. Photo by Bruce Tom.
eddy stares intently toward the right side of the image, her head bowed slightly. Her left hand is clenched into a fist in front of her, her right elbow bent slightly to the side, the muscles in her shoulders and arms tensed. Her head is shaved and she is wearing a white dress with red threads hanging down the front.
Performance still from UMMA-YA at Asia Society, New York, 2022. Photo by Christopher Pelham.
Two stacked film stills of eddy kwon standing with her eyes closed in front of sand dunes and a clear blue sky. She wears a white skirt, an orange bandeau top, and is draped in a pink scarf that is blowing in the wind. In the top still her arms are by her side and she is leaning slightly to her left. In the bottom still she stands straight, her left hand lifted by her head and her right hand held slightly out from her hip.
Film still from Boy mother/faceless bloom, 2021. Photo by Leo Mayberry.
eddy kwon plays her violin, her bow poised on the strings, her eyes looking down and to the left. Her head is shaved and she is dressed in black with a microphone headset and medium hoop earrings.
Performance still from There is a pattern/slow at MATA, New York, 2022. Photo by Steven Pisano.

Excerpt from UMMA-YA, at Roulette, New York, 2021.

Excerpt from There is a pattern / slow, at MATA Festival, The Clemente, New York, 2022.

Excerpt from Improvisational Friendship Ceremony #9, online via The Wire magazine, 2022. Performers: eddy kwon and Lester St. Louis.