Jeffrey Yoo Warren

Mechanism for healing oneself with water

“Mechanism for healing oneself with water,” originally imagined for my mother, takes inspiration from 자격루 / jagyeongnu, a self-striking water clock made by Jang Yeong-sil in 1434. It was part of a group show with the Korean American Artist Collective on September 9, 2023 in Washington, DC. It is dedicated to fellow Korean Americans, and to my mother.

Me, lifting a cup of water from a glass bowl on a large wood block, to a mechanism with a ceramic vessel at the top and a brass bowl behind.

Why do I create replicas? Or incorporate six hundred year old water clocks into my work? I am cultivating a kind of metabolism; decomposing the harms, the pain, and the exhaustion which accompany my process of re-connection, into nutrients for something new. When a tiny shard of knowledge makes it through, like a dandelion seed in the archives, I suspect it contains the knowledge to reconstruct the whole. I’m less interested in the whole mechanism or artifact – more the meanings encoded within.

A closeup of the singing bowl and a hanging wooden mallet touching it.

Could this object have had a healing purpose for our ancestors, and would it still work for us today? What might it take to reactivate it? Could it be the motive force of our own bodies, out here in the diaspora? What does it mean for water to be the carrier of both time and space for healing?

Looking down at the mechanism, which incorporates a hinged bamboo segment and a narrow brass tube.

Led by these questions, I imagined an object which is brought to life by an amount of water which you can lift, and which enables you to create an amount of space and time in which you can both forgive and love oneself.

(This work incorporates a ceramic vessel crafted by Joyce Wu)

A view of the whole mechanism. A diagram showing how to pour water into the top vessel to activate the mechanism.

Jeffrey Yoo Warren is an artist, community scientist, illustrator, and researcher in Providence, Rhode Island.