Jane Jin Kaisen, Community of Parting, 2019. Photo: Kyoungho Kim. ⓒ Korean Pavilion, La Biennale di Venezia 2019
COMMUNITY OF PARTING
Double-channel video installation.
Film duration: 72:13 min / video duration: 2:58 min. Dimensions variable
Community of Parting traces a different approach to borders, translation, and artistic expression by invoking the ancient shamanic myth of the Abandoned Princess Bari and engaging female Korean shamanism as an ethics and aesthetics of memory and mutual recognition across time and space.
Rooted in oral storytelling and embodied by female shamans, the myth about Bari and her abandonment at birth for being born a girl has been mainly understood as a story of filial piety. However, Kaisen frames the myth as an initial story of gender transgression that transcends division logics but has the experience of othering and loss at its core. According to the myth, Bari regains the community’s acceptance after reviving the dead and is offered half the Kingdom. Yet, the heroine refuses to abide by human borders and chooses instead to become the goddess who mediates at the threshold of the living and the dead. This is what distinguishes the myth of the abandoned from other Korean myths about women.
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 piece 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 piece is configured as a multi-scalar, non-linear, and layered montage loosely framed around Bari’s multiple deaths.
Both inter-subjective and deeply personal, Kaisen treats the myth of the abandoned as a gendered tale of migration, marginalization, and resilience told from a multi-vocal site. In the shamanic ritual the shaman abandons herself to mediate and gathers an assembly of the living, the dead, and multiple spirits witnesses. In a similar vein, a Community of Parting is formed in the piece around the shared sentiment of the abandoned: Ritual performances and chants by shaman Koh Sunahn, a survivor of the 1948 Jeju Massacre in South Korea constitutes a recurring rhythm and culminates in a ritual for the dead that involves the artist. The myth is also reflected in the poetry of Swedish poet Mara Lee and in the poetics of Kim Hyesoon from whose book ‘Woman, I Do Poetry’ the translated title Community of Parting derives. It further resonates in various narratives by South Korean, North Korean, and diasporic women who negotiate how gender bias along with colonialism, modernity, and war have resulted in radical ruptures while unfinished histories continue to linger.
Infused by the living, the dead, and those yet to come, Community of Parting is actualized through a process of dissolution, revival, and becoming. Informed by shamanic practice, properties integral to the filmic medium are employed to contest and diffuse spatiotemporal boundaries and hierarchies of knowledge and being. Doing so, Community of Parting proposes other ways of thinking and being with others, including the relationship to nature and other life-forms.
Community of Parting, Jane Jin Kaisen, 2019. Stills from projected film in double-channel video installation.
Community of Parting, Jane Jin Kaisen, 2019. Stills from monitor in double-channel video installation.
Directed by: Jane Jin Kaisen Cinematography: Guston Sondin-Kung, Jane Jin Kaisen Additional cinematography and aerial cinematography concept: Daniel Zox Music Composition and Sound Mixing: Udo Lee Editing: Jane Jin Kaisen Co-editor: Guston Sondin-Kung Shamanic rituals and chants: Koh Sunahn of Samsingtang Shrine, Jeju Island Other shamanic rituals: Seo Sunshil, Kim Soonok Supporting shamanic ritual chants: Shaman apprentice Song Youngme Poetics in Korean: Kim Hyesoon Poetry in English: Swedish poet Mara Lee Narrators in order of appearance: Jane Jin Kaisen, Kim Seongnae, Kang Misoon, Eleana Kim, Chuseong Unni, Patty Ahn, Choi Kyeongcheo, Kim Meri Alexandrovna, Alexandra Tsay, Park Youngnan, Kwon Suk, Soni Kum, Anja Sunhyun Michaelsen, Lee Geum Seom, Lee Cheonghwa, Kim Hyesoon, Mara Lee, Nelly Sergejevna Huan Kim, Suzy Kim Production: INCISIONS Production Management: Eunhye Park Supporting cast: Song Youngmee, German Shegay, Khegay Nikolay, Pak Viktor, Shiqi Lin, Kim Kiho, Kim Seongnae, Seo Sunshil, Kim Soonok, Mikhail Gvak, Pak Il'ya, Kim Marina, Shin Jeongsu, Cho Jeongsun, Choi Kyeongjeo Location Management and Coordination: Jeju Island, South Korea: Kim Seongnae, Ahn Hyekyoung, Shin Jeongsu; Seoul, South Korea: Lee Eunha, Eunhye Park; Kazakhstan: Alexandra Tsay, Japan: Kozue Akibayashi, China: Shiqi Lin, DMZ: Kim Haeseo, Pyo Seonmi, Chung Inchul; USA Daniel Zox Technical Support: Kim Hee-seok Transcription of Shamanic Rituals: Kim Seoungyon Translation of Shamanic Rituals: Kim Seongnae Translation: Korean-English: Kim Haeseo, Eunhye Park, Lee Eunha, Rhee Sangmi, Pyo Seonmi, Hayeon Heather Kim, Shin Jeonsu, Han Youngsook / Translation Russian-English: Sofia Albina Novikoff Unger, Alexandra Tsay / Translation Japanese-English: Rebecca Jennison / Assistant translation Japanese-English, Sin Changho, Sasaki Ryo, Ikeuchi Yasuko Subtitle translation: Sungeun Kim Subtitle proof reading in Korean: Sungeun Kim, Eunhye Park Subtitle proofreading in English: Mertz Lingo Research Contributions: Koh Sunahn, Seo Sunshil, Kim Seongnae, Soni Kum, Suzy Kim, Lee Chonghwa, Alexandra Tsay, Ahn Hyekyoung, Kim Hyesoon, Eleana Kim, Mara Lee, Anja Sunhyun Michaelsen, Patty Ahn, Kozue Akibayashi, Yoshiko Shimada, Chiyo Wakabayashi, Yu Youngnim, German Shegay, Sung Suh, Hong Sunyoung, Han Jinoh, Cho Jeongsun, Brenda Paik Sunoo, Shiqi Lin, Suzuyo Takazato, Tetsumi Takara, Crystal Baik, Akwi Seo, Mun Mubyong, Nan Kim, Song Soyeon, Shin Jeongsu, Choi Kyeongjeo, Choi Sunghee, Park Jungjoo, Hong Boram, Baek Gayoon, Yi Sangho, Tatiana Kim, Khe Den A, Kim Ten Khen, Seol Kyoungsook, Lee Byoungjoon, Kim Munbin, Lim Hyungmuk Commissioned by: Arts Council Korea Supported by: Maeil Dairies, Knud Højgaards Fond, Statens Kunstfond, Jeju Film and Culture Industry Promotion Agency.