While teaching at the Rice University School of Architecture in the mid-1990s, Chinese-American architect Yung Ho Chang, AIA, shared an aspect of his life that unsettled him: Although he grew up in China, Chang attended university and graduate school in the United States, making him the product of two cultures. By the time he considered establishing his own architecture firm in Beijing, he said that although he identified with both nations, he felt that he belonged to neither. Chang’s mixed-identity phenomenon has become more common today as young professionals study and work abroad in increasing numbers. While that experience can offer many benefits, such as elevated cultural sensitivity and more career opportunities, it can also obfuscate the nature of one’s individuality and connections to a particular place.
For Korean artist Do Ho Suh, a similar multinational experience has transformed his attitude towards the notion of home. Suh was born in Seoul in 1962 and relocated to Providence, R.I., in 1991 to study art at the Rhode Island School of Design. “Leaving Korea to go the U.S. was the most difficult, and yet the most important experience in my life,” he wrote in the catalog for his current exhibition, “Do Ho Suh: Passage,” at the Contemporary Arts Center (CAC), in Cincinnati. “The experience of leaving home is what made me think and become aware for the first time of the notion of home as such. It could therefore be said that ‘home’ started to exist for me once I no longer had it.”