Free To Be LGBT: Kimura Byol aka Nathalie Lemoine


Today, Harmony shines the spotlight on another creator in the LGBT community.

Say hello to Kimura Byol aka Nathalie Lemoine, an international multimedia artist who chooses to not use capital letters. So…let’s adjust that to start things off on the right foot.

We present to you kimura byol aka nathalie lemoine.

H: Hello, and thanks for being part of our Free To Be project! When did you first know you wanted to create? Did you ever expect it would become more than a hobby?

KB: before i was 13 y.o. i was a passive music appreciator.. i listened a lot of pop music (in secret) in my room… because my (adoptive) parents wanted us to be intellectual and wanted us to listen to GOOD music such as gregorian chants, asian traditional music, classical music, chansons (georges brassens, jacques brel, tino rossi, nana mouskouri, etc – p.s. now i love jacques brel). when you’re a kid, it’s not really the type of music you can relate to with your school mates. so no, i had nothing “creative” in my childhood life except escaping in an inner land. i was borderline “autistic”. it’s only at 13 y.o. when my grandma gave me some painting materials (canvas, brush and acrylics). she told me i would know what to do and i could make good use of it. i was a bit surprised but it came at a time when i really really wanted to disappear, to vanish. so i felt i have nothing to lose in trying painting. of course i would keep it to myself.


H: What is it like being your own ‘boss’ (when you are creating)?

KB: i didn’t really think about being my boss in terms of control. but yes, in some ways i was my own boss. for me creating is a process and it comes most of the time from an experience or an awareness that i develop into a therapeutic piece (painting, video, poem). it helps me to go through, to heal or to overcome an event that was in a logical or emotional way not possible for me to deal with such as racism, homophobia, in-between gender phobia (especially in public bathrooms), inter-racial adoption, separation, etc… in other words yes i am the boss of my life but i would say more, i am the captain of my life. (soy marinera!).


H: Do you have any interesting stories about bosses you haven’t gotten along with (in your art career or non-artistic jobs)?

KB: back in the early 90s, i was jumping from job to job. and i ended up working for the first office of Korea Bank in Belgium. there was a BOSS, his family, one korean secretary who only spoke korean and some english. they hired me to set up the belgian office of their company but also personal stuff and teach them a bit of belgian manners, such as in belgium you can not burp or make eating noises at the (dinner) table. so they decided to rent a house in waterloo (the famous battlefield area)  and i had to go there from time to time to  set up stuff in the house; calling people. this one time, i had to call the gardener. the BOSS came down and greeted me in his “whities” (undies) very serious, calm and polite, gave me order to do this and this.

the other story was in montréal. a photographer wanted to help me with my immigration situation. she decided to hire me so i would be able to get a working visa if i was working in her advertising photo studio. i met her through a photoshoot for Centre Solidarité Lesbien. they were looking for “womyn” from 20 to 60. i just turned 40 and they were also looking for people of colour. Interestingly, the two people of colour (a métis woman and me) came to montréal from europe – none of the people of colour were from québec. so, slowly we became friends. i considered her as a bit of a mentor because she was almost a decade older than me and was a lesbian.

after a few months, i was working for her as an official “exhibition & publication agent.” she told me i would help her more in her photo studio. it was nice at first, until she started getting more and more “psycho” about computer (mac) stuff she would not understand. i am a geek. so i started to archive, backing up her previous work and in the same time helping to set up the photo shoot set with her (male) assistant. thanks to him i didn’t become insane because even though he was not backing me up, after a crisis he told me i was not wrong. on top of that, because she was working with food advertising for a famous market brand (i won’t mention who), i experienced sneaky racist remarks. we had a coordinator in toronto who was asian (i guess second generation chinese) and she was making fun of her. sometimes at lunch with the client’s staff, she would say “oh is it true that in your country they wear plastic shoes? they are not rich,” and on and on.

two years have passed. and for sure i don’t want to meet her again.


H: If there were one word you could use to describe your art, what would it be?

KB: conceptual.


H: Have you ever faced adversity because your art, poems, or other artistic projects are unabashedly queer? If so, how did you – or do you continue to – get past it?

KB: as i never felt competitive in doing art, i don’t put myself on the market trying to get the best gig, gallery, art fair. i escape pressure in my art-making process. my field is a no-(wo)man’s-land, so i don’t try to fit into a style or a genre. it frees me from a lot of stress of ego and recognition.

being a korean-japanese orphan, adopted inter-racially to belgium, a-gendered (gender neutral, ie: neither male nor female) and queer, i have different themes in my work; being serious as an activist (inter-racial adoptions as an extension to post-colonialism – babies of colour – they’re so cuuuuuuttttteeeee! – adoptable only by westerners) and against the only recognition of gender binary.

if i wanted to have access to a larger public and recognition, i would have had to ‘please people’ to make my work less activist. less queer, less asian, less, less, less….

more mainstream, more aesthetic, more pleasing, bigger, more marketable.

in my mid 40s after 25 years of (art)work practice in different mediums, i am glad about where i am, because i keep my integrity, my rhythms.


H: Name two milestones in your creative career.

KB: 1988 – brussels – when i made my first short film Adoption and won the first prize of a competition at the brussels short film & video festival (nov. 1988).

1997 – seoul – my first solo show at a “real” gallery… 35 works exhibited..  (ugly beauty exhibit, munhwa ilbo gallery, april 1997).


H: What do you hope your art brings to your audience?

KB: i know my work speaks to some people, regardless if they like it or not. i do my work for me of course, but also to be visible, to initiate maybe a reaction (not at any price), a dialogue, and debate, and impact… a concept.


H: Name something that makes your heart swell; makes you proud.

KB: i am alive… still. thanks to my friends, to my communities!


H: Name something that brings you to tears.

KB: ohhh …

soju (a popular korean alcohol made from distilled potatoes)


samkyokbsal (3 layers of pork fat, a very delicious korean dish)


tears come automatically, for no bad reason nor good.

it’s a feeling that is close to “total eclipse of control” ahhahhahha.


H: What are your current projects? If none, what have you most recently completed work on?

KB: i am currently working on an experimental documentary about 4 womyn. it’s a hymn to feminism, an abstract portrait of diasporic experience and choice we make, and their consequences… on other’s lives.


H: If you could impact the LGBT community in one positive way, what would it be?

KB: community in itself has two sides. one is the sense of being ‘not the only one’. the other side…is incestuous.

now if you add lgbt to community… based on sexual orientation (not identity)… when you are a newcomer, it’s like a big orgy. you want to try it all… ahhahah .. then you calm down and you select what is good/better for you.


H: Are you suggesting that newcomers go out there and ‘try everything’ before deciding what they are, who they are, who they want to make their community (or sexual relationship) with?

KB: yes it’s a bit like that. like you enter for the first time in a candy shop… you try them all and after, you know what you really like or not. maybe also get tired/fed up/jaded about it all; find your limits/taste better. then maybe settle down…or not.


H: If you could positively impact the way non-LGBT people view us, what would it be?

KB: to embrace other people’s realities who belong to different communities.

to enlarge my circle of people and learn from their experiences.

to be a different reality and be visible among ‘mainstream’ people.


H: Do you have any advice for those hoping to have a fruitful career in the arts?

KB: it’s different for everyone in every situation, gender, and geographic location. just be true to yourself. you won’t have regrets to have pursued your practice. you often have to make choices between freedom of expression vs pleasing the mainstream public, or even more.. making money out of it.


H: Have you heard that therapists have decided to replace “LGBT” with “GSD”? ( “Gender and Sexual Diversities” as a label sounds a bit odd. (Hi, I’m a gender-and-sexual-diversities, nice to meet you. They used to call me “gay”?) What do you think about this newfangled label, very possibly even invented by heterosexual therapists?

KB: no i didn’t hear about it. but it’s interesting, and gives people an alternative way to define themselves or define others… i am not against lgbtiqqqqqq, nor welcoming new labels. it’s one more on the numerous list of names.


H: If you’re open to it, would you share a coming out story? Big or small, funny or sad…

KB: it’s back in the mid 90s in seoul (south korea). i was in my late 20s. we were 3 girls – all korean adoptees from europe sharing a small room of 5 square meters (16 square feet).

one of my (female) roommates asked me to join her on the rooftop for a few beers. i agreed and went up about an hour later. the night was dark, but a huge hotel was “shadowing” our playground. she had installed lights, music box, ojingo (dry squid) and korean beers, and comfy cover sheets. we started talking about life in korea, and slowly started getting drunk. all of a sudden i saw her face on top of my face, with stars shining in the background, and her fingers in my “pXXXy.” being tipsy and lightheaded, i admit it was a fun feeling. even more pleasant – better than whatever i had experienced before – so i let her continue to explore me from the inside. i was a “lesbian” virgin and didn’t know much about what it was, but it was really good and fun.

after that, it took me about 3 years to come out as lesbian, and a decade to realize i am an andro queer. i am very glad she did the move… on me.


H: Thanks for your time! Please leave us some info on how people can see your work, follow your projects, or get in touch with you.

KB: google my names : star kim, kimura byol, nathalie lemoine, cho mihee (the short film “what does it mean?” talks about being adopted inter-racially, being a-gendered and queer)


If you feel you are forging a place for yourself in the artistic and/or business world and would like us to interview you, please get in touch!


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