Archive for December, 2009

“Song of Ariran”

Kim San aka Jang Ji-Rak : 김산/장지락

Kim San aka Jang Ji-Rak : 김산/장지락

Currently reading “Song of Ariran,” the incredible memoir of Kim San (AKA Jang Ji-Rak 장지락), a Korean Communist who fought in the Chinese Revolution. This is one of the most intimate detailings of Korean nationalist political and revolutionary struggle during Japanese occupation. Kim was there to witness the horrific brutality of the Japanese regime in his homeland as well as to be a part of history unfolding in China – the land of Korean exiles, meeting many of the key thinkers and players in what was then Korea’s Provisional Government in Shanghai and also those who laid the foundation for the Korean Communists – including an account of how Lenin lent 500,000 roubles for the formation of the first Korean Communist party (300,000 of which was stolen en route from Russia to Mongolia). I have just begun the book, but already it has provided such an incredibly fascinating and lucid account of how ideological factions between nationalist groups formed during the Korean independence movement. The seeds of national division and its global context can be clearly and intimately understood here.

Nym Wales

Nym Wales

Kim told his story to American journalist Nym Wales (AKA Helen Foster Snow), who published this book in 1941. There has been another edition published in the ’70′s, but the English language version is now out of print – I believe the Korean language version is available. I have also read that this book had been banned in South Korea – though not surprising, still need to find verification for this. In any case, an important book and captivating read.

a very early English language version. i like it for its kitsch value.

17

12 2009

풍물 Pungmul

Tonight will be going to a Pungmul performance in Seoul.

Post-performance note: This should be seen and experienced in a village, as shown in this video with plenty of maekju and time for breaks. The performance I attended was in a theater, but was incredibly dynamic nonetheless. It’s quite easy to understand how this translated into the music and dance for the student democracy movement.

11

12 2009

The DPRK: cultivation of the young, indoctrination in its many forms

10

12 2009

Korean folk dance: Salpuri & Seungmu [민속 무용: 살풀이 와 승무]

Two examples of Korean folk dance rooted in religious and ritual traditions. I have become particularly interested in these dances – both rooted in ancient Korean belief systems of shamanism and Buddhism respectively.

Originally intended as an exorcism to expel the bad spirits, Salpuri (살풀이):

Seungmu (승무) choreography is based in Buddhist philosophy. Movement is controlled and guided by the breath:

10

12 2009

two from the archives

What Godard Said from helen h park on Vimeo.

05:10 min | Mini DV and 16mm | black & white

produced 2005.

Godard remixed. This piece combines footage from a film I made in 1999 in homage to JLG’s “My Life To Live” with a favorite scene from that film. 16mm Directors of Photography: Ming Chen & Francesca Romeo.

Comments from DV Blog.

Video Sketches: Meditations on Flight, no3 from helen h park on Vimeo.

10

12 2009

Expressions of the Emergent: Korean Video Art, History & Memory

A recent paper I wrote concerning 3 Korean video artists & representations of modern Korean history & collective memory. It’s a long one, so if you want to read it in its entirety click on the link below.

Other relevant links:

Jin-Me Yoon
Park Chan Kyong
Koh Seung Wook
The Dongducheon Project @ Museum as Hub
Deleuze – Cinema 2
PDF version

Here it is:

Expressions of the Emergent: Korean Video Art, History & Memory

Video & the Project of Emergent History

Some say the nameless deaths buried in
the Sangpae-dong Public Cemetery
are ‘whores,’ while others say they’re
‘Yankee Princesses.’

Those who resent the violence of U.S. soldiers
call them ‘Sisters of the Korean people.’
But what shall I call them?
Those no one has remembered nor named?
No, why do I even want to call them?
-  Seung Wook Koh, “Driveling Mouth” (2008)
Single channel video installation with color and sound (emphasis added)

The lines of text presented here are from Korean artist Seung Wook Koh’s single channel video about the lives and memories of sex workers in Dongducheon, a military camp town that lies approximately in between Seoul, the Republic of Korea and the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ). This particular city, whose infrastructures were first designed and implemented by Japanese Colonists, only to be ravaged during the Korean War and later rebuilt by the U.S. Military, has become a symbol of Korea’s traumatic and contentious modern history, replete with historical narratives of colonization, rapid modernization, and postwar industrialization. Hidden somewhere deep within the gaps of these major historical narratives are the personal stories, memories, and histories of the people of Dongducheon, the civilians who have become the dispossessed of the U.S.-South Korean military order. Their lives have arguably been the most affected by the tumultuous shifts and displacements of war and colonialism yet have been rendered virtually silent and invisible from public discourses. Koh’s work serves as a documentation of these gaps just as it poses these critical questions: Who have been the people of Dongducheon and why should we remember them, or call them forth – those who have been forgotten, unnamed, and made invisible? What does this act of remembrance provide for our understanding of the present moment and our future trajectories?

I argue that the answers lie within the understanding that the authorship of history is a claim of orders of knowledge and power, and additionally, that the act of constructing history is a social and political one, giving legitimacy to certain experiences, meanings, and subjectivities while delegitimizing others. In this process of construction, what is accepted as official history, usually crafted by a dominant regime, becomes codified as “historical truth,” creating the conditions that perpetuate hegemonic determinations of reality and orders of knowledge that serve the interests of some at the expense of others. In the context of Western civilization we have seen the results of this in the histories that have been used to legitimate colonialism, racism, sexism, and other corruptions of the Euro-American Empire. Yet, in any so-called pluralistic and democratic society – where polyphonous voice is to be valued as critical in sustaining the principles of democracy and the individual’s right to self-determination, there is a crucial need to give voice to the subjectivities that have been muted and the histories that have been suppressed. To do this means to critically look backward into time to search out the stories that disrupt, complicate, and threaten accepted notions of historical truth, shifting and enlightening our present realities and unlocking future possibilities. As one possible answer to Koh’s question, “why do I even want to call them?” I will refer to Gilles Deleuze who stated, “History amounts only the set of preconditions, however recent, that one leaves behind in order to ‘become,’ that is, to create something new…Men’s only hope lies in a revolutionary becoming: the only way of casting off their shame or responding to what is intolerable” (1990, 171).

Therein lies the task of a certain kind of storytelling – for the purposes of this essay, a certain kind of videomaking – that concerns itself with issues surrounding the representation of personal and collective memory, and the histories rendered silent by official narratives. What stories must be told so that we may understand our set of preconditions? How do we remember the events of the past in order to create the spaces for a “revolutionary becoming”? Additionally, because I will be investigating the ways in which time-based media approach these issues, how does the audiovisual medium of video form these narratives that often lie in the realm of the Foucauldian unthought, awaiting a language in which to think them? Within the context of poststructuralist discourse on history and how the medium of film has created new spaces for critique and revision, Robert A. Rosenstone argues that postmodern theorists have yet to bring forth a kind of writing that “brings the ways we know or think of the past into line with the poststructuralist critique of current historical practice” (1998, 199). An alternative method is needed, one that can fulfill the postmodernist claims against official history. Where Rosenstone looked to film to support these claims, I look to single channel experimental video, and its integration with the practice of what I will term emergent history, for its unformed, uncodified, and indeterminate qualities, as well as its numerous potentialities in challenging the assumptions made by prescribed “historical truths.”  Read the rest of this entry →

03

12 2009