Absent Voices

April. 13 - May 29, 2004

Gallery Korea at the Korean Cultural Center New York
(460 Park Ave. 6th Floor, New York, NY 10022)

Covered by the dust of defeat -
Or so the conquerors believed
But there is nothing that can
be hidden from the mind.
Nothing that memory cannot
reach or touch or call back. 

Don Mattera, 1987

The erased or disappeared exist only as long as they are remembered - their memory cherished by others. To this end there may be a variance in the way memory is related by nations and individuals. There also may be differences in the way men and women recall or relate the past - particularly a violent history. The language used to convey such memories may also be unconventional. The writing of histories happens at the interface of individuals and society. Memory, in order to become recorded history, has to be shared, spoken about and compared. Even in this process of comparative recall certain memories will be marginalized, repressed and silenced. In building an accurate memory of the past, in the recall of the individual or community erased, it is important to listen to counter narratives, to the unofficial voices, to the stories of women, minority groups and displaced peoples. Each has their own perception of how race, culture and class discourses shape their social worlds and have affected the fates of those they have lost.

All societies and groups within them create hierarchical belief systems which they oblige their members to adhere to. These systems usually have an economic base and are often at the expense of some other groups and subcultures within the host or in societies that reside in close territorial proximity. These belief systems can become lethally cancerous when there is a perceived threat to the host or when groups within the society become rigidly inflexible in thinking.

Absent Voices is part of a series of exhibitions and symposia included in the Disappearance project, which brings attention, through the creativity of artists, curators and writers, to the practice of permanent or temporary removal of individuals due to their ethnic, racial, political or religious positions.

Absent Voices, exhibited at Gallery Korea, features the works of six Korean artists whose work mediates the subject, through personal expression and their "localized" identities, to a broader frame.

The major Korean cities today are highly technologically advanced. Korea¢®?s citizens lead the world in their use of the Internet and cellular telephones due to the ready availability of affordable and fast bandwidth. However, Korea¢®?s new society has emerged from a history of great turmoil - from the social and political upheavals brought about by the Japanese Occupation of 1910 - 1945, the divisive Korean War (1950 - 1953), and a series of military governments in the 1950s - 1980s that culminated in the massacre of civilians by soldiers in May, 1980, in Gwangju. Though Korea today enjoys a thriving democracy and accountable governments, its strong contemporary art and culture has grown out of a past struggle against political censorship and oppression.

Kyung-Ah Ham's documentary video work "Chasing Yellow" was made in various Asian countries including Korea, Singapore, China and Japan. By tagging people with the color yellow she records an intrigue of anonymity that unfolds as the camera traces the activities of the subjects. Her work examines how we are identified by our daily activity and appearance and how this identity can be erased.

Hey-Yeun Jang uses video and photography to unravel the processes of existence. An expatriate by choice, she investigates the nature of being an alien. Her recent work, live/leave, is a narrated diary-like text that engages the contradictions of existence - of appearance and disappearance. 

Yeondoo Jung¢®?s work celebrates the commonplace - showcasing the everyday life of the ordinary city dweller. Beat It (2003) is a video depicting a group of youths break dancing in an old market in Okinawa, Japan, in the evening hours, after the businesses had closed. Jung¢®?s reconstruction of events through video has a strange temporality that questions the reality of the moment and how it is retained or erased from memory. 

Atta Kim uses photography as the final stage of his performance installations. His ongoing performance work includes Museum Series, in which volunteer performers are confined or suspended naked in transparent boxes. For Atta Kim, expression and experience are one. Though his work makes a voyeur out of his audience, it forces a state of awareness of self existence, in which there may be transference of identity between viewer and subject by virtue of their shared humanity. His recent Broadcasting Series is an investigation of the unattainable or ungraspable. His delayed time exposures track the ephemeral presence and disappearance of figures, thereby creating a metaphor of human existence.

Ja-Young Ku uses video as a means of layering the points at which a body exists in space and emphasizing the leaves of this layered existence by compressing it to a two dimensional plane. Window II, a recent video, juxtaposes live performance with projected overlays of recorded performance in the same space through which the artist moves and exits through a window. The result is to compress the gap between the temporal images of the performer and his actual presence.

Young Sun Lim has created many public works projects, among them large figurative sculptures and performances that have highlighted political injustices. His new synchronized videos, which are exhibited in Absent Voices, use documentary footage associated with the May 18 Democratic Uprising in Gwangju. Images, which are simultaneously displayed on a number of monitors, relate recollection and erasure, a passage through life and death to memory. Though the work evokes a mechanical process, they convey a poignant expression of the frailty of human existence. 

Yu Yeon Kim

Yu Yeon Kim is an independent curator based in New York. She was a curator/commissioner for the 3rd Gwangju Biennale 2000 in Korea and the 2nd Johannesburg Biennale 1997 in South Africa.. She has curated Translated Acts - Performance and Body Art from East Asia at the Haus der Kulturen der Welt, Berlin, Queens Museum of Art, New York and Museo de Arte Carrillo Gil in Mexico City (2001-2003). Currently she is a curator/researcher at the Liverpool Biennial 2004 in England.

Miro Yoon