REENACTING HISTORY COLLECTIVE ACTIONS AND EVERYDAY ACTIONS
Reenacting History is an international exhibition that focuses on how the body and gestures can, as an artistic medium, reveal social, historical, and cultural contexts and interest from the 1960s to today. The body is a place in the front line, where “I” form a relationship with others, and a contact zone through which “I” encounter various situations in the world. At the same time, it is a “storehouse of memory,” where the past is inscribed, and a “social place,” where biopolitics function through power, capital, and knowledge. Since the 1960s, many artists who sought to bring the realm of life into art and integrate the two favored the body as an artistic medium, because the body is the fundamental existence of human life from the past to the present.
Representing thirty-eight artists and collectives from Korea and abroad, this exhibition is divided into three parts, based on gestural approaches to our life stories and on artistic attitudes. Part 1, titled “Performing Collective Memory and Culture,”illuminates works that recompose historical memory and cultural heritage through gestures. This section examines actions of Korean performance artists and Japanese avant-garde groups from the 1960 and 70s and how they used gestures to respond to and resist the particular socio-political conditions of the time. Part 2, titled “Everyday Gestures, Social Choreography,” takes the perspective of “social choreography” to cast light on works after the 1960s, which brought everyday gestures into the context of art to highlight issues of reality and life. Part 3, titled “Performing Community,”introduces works that use the body to reenact the social issues of our communities that arose amidst the rise of globalization after the late 1990s, as well as collective performances that involve intimate encounters of bodies and experiment with temporary communities based on collaboration and communication.
The gestures in Reenacting History record history that language failed to write down, history that cannot be summoned by language, and the history of trauma and absence that language cannot possibly bear. For this reason, “writing down history through gestures” could be an “alternative, resistant recording of history.”
Argentinian-born and New York-based artist Mika Rottenberg works in surrealist lm installations that address the relationship between women’s physical gestures and global production systems. Rottenberg’s recent lm NoNoseKnows is set in a bleak housing development on China’s east coast. The lm addresses issues surrounding the development of the pearl industry, which exploits the physical labor of Asian women. The screen is split in half, showing contrasting gestures of women: the repetitive gestures of Asian women separating pearls from oysters perfectly, and a western woman producing Chinese noodles and Italian pasta as she smells flowers and sneezes. The repetitive gestures of the women are directly linked to the production of goods. Through pearls and pasta, and the repetitive physical acts of women, the assembly lines of different products are linked by a special mechanism. In a globalized capitalist system, all products and images are linked through such invisible mechanisms, and what makes this possible is the repetitive physical labor of women.