Code of Veggie Soup
Code of Veggie Soup is a project conceived in regard to the exhibition series, “Baneful Medicine”.
During his preparation for “Baneful Medicine,” John Seung-Hwan Lee visited South Korea. Although he’s made occasional visits, he hadn’t celebrated the Lunar New Year there in almost 20 years, and participating in ancestral rites made him reflect on family and death. With “Baneful Medicine” in mind as a ceremony for the living, he revived a ritual of drinking a “vegetable soup for cancer patients” prepared from a recipe written by Japanese researchers in the 1990s. At that time, Lee underwent chemotherapy for leukemia, and his mother made the soup so he could drink it every day.
While discussing the meaning of illness, his uncles talked about the process of aging and dying as comparable to how all things in nature and the universe change. Lee then thought about health in simple terms. Functioning and feeling vital. Accepting the consequences of choices. Staying connected to give and receive influence.
The text in Code of Veggie Soup is from the American Medical Association’s Code of Medical Ethics, extensively from chapters pertaining to “the health of the community” and “financing & delivery of health care.”
In the early 1900s, in order to minimize market competition from homeopathic physicians, the allopathic physicians group, the AMA, established licensure laws and restrictions on the number of medical schools in the US. Under the name of “scientific” practice, the AMA worked closely with financiers such as Carnegie Foundation and Rockefeller Foundation, who invested in surgical and radiology research and synthetic drugs, to turn medicine into an industry.1 Also in order to maintain the licensed physician’s authority, the AMA established an insurance model that favored big companies.2 The domination today of a one-sided medical practice focused on technology, drugs, and insurance, seems to reflect our capitalist economy where private interest overwhelms public benefit. Our ill society shows symptoms of a lack of community, collectivity, and political engagement in the sense that individual freedom manifests itself as indifference.
When Lee had leukemia, the soup acted on a more physical level. This time, through “Code of Veggie Soup,” it acted on a more political and spiritual level as he and his family reconnected through discussing the project and performing the ritual together.
1E. Richard Brown, Rockefeller Medicine Men: Medicine and Capitalism in America (Berkeley : University of California Press, 1979), 5-12.
Frank W. Stahnisch, Marja Verhoef; The Flexner Report of 1910 and Its Impact on Complementary and Alternative Medicine and Psychiatry in North America in the 20th Century, December 26, 2012; https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3543812/
2Lily Rothman; The American Health Care Has Lots of Problems. Here’s When They Started, July 13, 2017; http://time.com/4837864/healthcare-history-beginning-obamacare-ahca/
Code of Veggie Soup
Digital photo documentation of
production and ritual
and found text on web
Artist: John Seung-Hwan Lee 이승환
Mom: So-Yun An 안소연
Dad: Dong-Ho Lee 이동호
Wife: Siri Lindskrog
Uncle: Byung-Yong An 안병용
Uncle: Byung-Sun An 안병선