OF SPECTERS - OR RETURNS
Mixed media installation, 2015
Lightbox, 2-channel tex-based video installation, archive installation, B&W photographs mounted onto transparent glass, audio interview with Francisca de Haan about the Womens' International Democratic Federatio, audio interview with Peggy Kamuf, translator of Jacques Derrida's Specters of Marx: The State of Debt, The Work of Mourning and the New International about time, spectrality and inheritance.
In May 1951, at the height of the Korean War, the Danish journalist Kate Fleron, one of the leading women in the Danish resistance movement against the German occupation during World War II, travelled to North Korea as part of an international delegation of 22 women from 18 countries. The trip was organized by the Women's International Democratic Federation, which in the period after 1945 was one of the largest and most influential transnational women's organizations in the world. The delegation documented civilian casualties in the North that were otherwise underexposed in Western media. After her return to Denmark, Kate Fleron published a book titled “Fra Nordkorea” (From North Korea) about her experiences.
In May 2015, seventy years after the division of Korea, artist Jane Jin Kaisen went to North Korea as part of an international delegation of 30 women from 16 countries, among those Nobel Peace laureates, human rights lawyers, feminists, peace activists, and filmmakers. The delegation gained permission to cross the DMZ between the two Koreas while advocating for a peace treaty and emphasizing women’s role in international peace negotiations and military disarmament. After her return to Denmark, Kaisen discovered Kate Fleron’s book and juxtaposed photographs from the book with photographs she had taken herself during her trip in 2015. The photographs from the two delegation are interspersed and placed within a red acrylic light box while two text-based videos in the installation present excerpts from Kate Fleron's and Jane Jin Kaisen's writings about the two trips, Cold War sentiments, and the Korean War.
Text excerpt from video:
What does it look like? Is there pictures of Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il everywhere? Were you under constant surveillance? Did you see military parades in the streets? Could you film? How to move beyond the standard presumptions and representations of North Korea, the visual fetish and traps of either confirming the innumerable clichés about the country, or ending up smoothing over the distinct line between what is presented and what is not? How to move beyond the tenacious and bigoted perceptions of North Korea that were so successfully constructed - and persist to this day along Cold War divides - that an alternative understanding is almost doomed to fail before even trying? A red filter is preventing a clear view of any depiction of this most isolated, abhorred and ridiculed nation on the planet that has somehow managed to withstand against the odds as a vestige to the current world order. I hesitate to use any photos at all but the absence of an image has already been colonized. It is the image of North Korea taken by a NASA satellite that shows how in contrast to South Korea, it is essentially invisible, or as the caption on the Internet puts it, ‘You can see communism even from space’, as a void.
Excerpt of audio interview with feminist scholar Francisca de Haan about the significance of WIDF - The Women's International Democratic Federation and their delegation to North Korea in 1951.
Audio interview with Peggy Kamuf, translator of Jacques Derrida's Specters of Marx about the background of the book and notions of inheritance, spectrality, time, and indebtedness.
The participants of Women Cross DMZ.
Francisca de Haan, Professor at the Department of Gender Studies, The Central European University, for engaging in an audio interview about the Women's International Democratic Federation.
Peggy Kamuf, Marion Frances Chevalier Professor of French and Comparative Literature at the University of Southern California, for engaging in an audio conversation about the works of Jacques Derrida with particular attention to Spectres de Marx, which she translated into English.