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Community of Parting traces an approach to borders and aesthetic mediation, by invoking the ancient myth of the Abandoned Princess Bari, engaging female Korean shamanism, as an ethics and aesthetics of memory and mutual recognition across time and space. Community of Parting derives from Kaisen’s extensive research into Korean shamanism since 2011, and her long-term engagement with communities effected by war and division. The work is composed of imagery filmed in locations such as Jeju Island, the DMZ, South Korea, North Korea, Kazakhstan, Japan, China, the United States, and Germany. Combining shamanic ritual performances, nature and cityscapes, archival material, aerial imagery, poetry, voiceover, and soundscapes, the film is configured as a multi-scalar, non-linear, and layered montage, loosely framed around Bari’s multiple deaths.
The Woman, The Orphan, and The Tiger, by Jane Jin Kaisen & Guston Sondin-Kung, begins with the sound of women’s voices speaking of histories of violence, of things repressed and silenced. Gradually, their voices accrue as a cacophony of pure sonic intensity against an extreme slow-motion image of a woman survivor of Japan’s military sexual slavery who, in the absence of words to accurately account for her suffering, gets up and walks into the center of a war crimes tribunal court room and gestures wildly before she faints. A genealogy is created by relating the stories of three generations of women: the former ‘comfort’ women who were subjected to military sexual slavery by the Japanese military between World War I and World War II—women who have worked as sex-workers around US military bases in South Korea since the 1950s to the present, and transnational adopted women from South Korea living in the West since the Korean War.
Strange Meetings testifies to the impossibility of maintaining clear boundaries by tracing entangled bilateral policies against the spread of STDs (sexually transmitted diseases) among US soldiers stationed in South Korea in the 1970s. One video in Strange Meetings documents a former STD treatment facility, which served to isolate bodies presumed to be contaminated from those deemed clean. A host of strange meetings at the site today, however, materially bears witness to the entangled relations behind its establishment and the impossibility of creating neat separations. The decomposing building is being encroached upon by rubbish and the surrounding vegetation. Knotted together, they feed on each other, breaking down distinctions between inside and outside, architecture and debris. Beyond being an abandoned site in decay, it now serves as a backdrop for another strange meeting: a performance takes place behind the building each weekend, inadvertently complicating the relationship between past and present and diffusing the reading of the site by overriding, but potentially also purging its history.