Hyundai Artlab

History Has Failed Us, But No Matter

2019
Korean Pavilion at La Biennale di Venezia Arte
Giardini, La Biennale di Venezia Arte 2019
Giardini, La Biennale di Venezia Arte 2019
© Andreas Meichsner

History Has Failed Us, But No Matter

May 11 2019 – November 24 2019, Korean Pavilion, Venice Biennale

About the Exhibition

The exhibition, History Has Failed Us, But No Matter, posed vital questions around “Who canonized the formation of history and whose bodies are yet to be written about as part of that story? What changes would emerge, if we revisited the solid strata demarking East Asia and its myths, and what would we discover if we approached these sites of modernization and nationalistic history through the lens of gender diversity?” With a critical gender consciousness, three women artists: siren eun young jung, Jane Jin Kaisen, and Hwayeon Nam approached these questions through developing their practices by revisiting and unfolding heterogeneous narratives of the present and past history of modernization in Korea and East Asia. While challenging norms of the male-dominated society and of the West, the exhibition investigates how traditions are invented by modernity, and explores the emancipatory potential of Asian traditions through a gender-complex perspective that falls outside the purview of Western modernity. Through a complex composition of sound, noise, color, lights and installations and motions, the exhibition presents and shines a spotlight on the voices of the forgotten, hidden, oppressed and abandoned voices throughout history.

One of the participating artists, siren eun young jung has worked on her research-based production on yeoseong gukgeuk, a fast waning genre of Korean traditional theatre that features only women actors. Documenting the performance of second generation gukgeuk actor Lee Deung Woo (aka Lee Ok Chun), jung’s A Performing by Flash, Afterimage, Velocity and Noise also calls forth four performers that succeed the genealogy of contemporary queer performance with engaging in these performers’ contestation against aesthetic canons, the artist lures the audience into an audiovisual setting activated by the feast of light, sound, and the moving body.

Stemming from the artist’s own diasporic experience and awareness, Jane Jin Kaisen’s film Community of Parting keenly interprets the ancient Korean myth of Bari, in which a daughter character sacrifices herself for her parents and ultimately becomes a god mediating between life and death. For the artist, the epic story resonates with the contemporary battle against gender discrimination as well as narratives of women diaspora caused by war, nationalism, ideological conflicts, rapid modernization with patriarchic oppression in East Asia. Juxtaposing various sounds with the performances of a shaman, the artist explores the embodiment of liminality as she looks into the portrait of sacrificial women and images of borders throughout the history of the Korean peninsula.

Hwayeon Nam investigates how human desire can amplify certain myths and values in today’s discursive operations of nation and economy. In her video Dancer from the Peninsula, Nam traces the fragmented archive of Choi Seung-hee, a legendary but controversial choreographer and modern dancer whose life intersected many of the most tumultuous events of the 20th century in East Asia. Nam’s manifold presentation includes single-channel videos that utilize found footage and images from Choi’s archives, as well as a large sculptural structure, and a small garden installed behind the Pavilion. This layered multi-media installation offers such moment of rescuing act from the simplified nationalistic or ideological arguments against her.