And who counts as ‘us’ in my rhetoric? Which identities are available to ground such a potent political myth called ‘us’, and what could motivate enlistment in this collectivity?
-Donna Haraway, “A Cyborg Manifesto”
Since 2004, Eunji Cho has been singing A Million Roses(by the Korean singer Sim Soo-bong) to the dogs trapped in dog farms around Ilsan. “Without hate, hate, hate / When I give love without reserve, without reserve,” the artist would sing in her Dog Farm Concert, playing her guitar with one feet on the guitar amp. In 2006, Cho created a cube out of mud that was dug from the urban redevelopment zone in Paju, and tirelessly threw them against the white walls of the exhibition space. Entitled Exodus Mud Poem, the work allowed the soil to escape the redevelopment sites and enjoy freedom inside the white cube. The artist’s Seocheon Flower Garden is inspired by the Jeju Island myth of beonseong flower and geomnyuel flower – the former symbolizing life in this world and the latter symbolizing the afterlife. Imagining the mythical garden divided by the spaces of life and death where the two flowers grow, the work presents a Cambodian dancer performing in a costume decorated with a paper flower pattern.
Eunji Cho has always remained critical of the boundaries that deepen discrimination, such as those between social class, race, gender, sexuality, or that between human and non-human. By rejecting all that is not defined as “us”, these boundaries enforce the imaginary identity of “us” and utilize it as a means to an end. The work of Eunji Cho refuses to be trapped within these discriminatory boundaries. The boundaries are fundamentally linear and schematic, limiting the potential and imagination of individual subjects. Instead, Cho’s oeuvre aims to liberate and diversify the realm of “us”. Once the boundaries between human and non-human, “here” and “there” break down, a new realm of harmony and coexistence is bound to emerge.
Dancing Between Two Earths presents two different earths. The two earths are identical in their circular form. A circle is a basic shape which symbolizes oneness, but at the same time, can be expanded infinitely to symbolize eternity. The two earths in this exhibition function as an installation, and a space for performance. The boundaries of the two circles continue to expand and create a point of intersection.
One of the two earths is made in stainless steel. It is based on Dining Meditation(2018), an installation created from stainless steel utensils that were left abandoned at a diner in the urban redevelopment area of Yeji-dong. The circular pattern is made with spoons, rice bowls, soup bowls, and kettles – reflecting the rough aesthetics of the diner that was once bustling with a crowd of people eating their meals in a hurry, or bumping into each other without an apology. Far from the crystal-clear chime of Tibetan singing bowls, the utensils echo the dry clang of cheap chopsticks banging against a bowl, with the tune of a drunk crowd in the background. Through this boisterous meditation on the streets, the artist imagines a shift to the other earth.
The other earth is made with feathers of animals on paper and SCOBY, a symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast which the artist creates by mixing Kombucha, black tea, sugar, and storing the mixture in a dark place. Through the fermentation process, the bacteria and yeast, which are two different organisms, mix into a multicellular, symbiotic culture. Using SCOBY, plants, animals, bacteria, human and marine animal hair, the artist creates the circular form. A new earth is created by the symbiosis of multiple species, which the artist achieves through her unique experimentation.
As part of the exhibition, performer Min Kyeong Lee will present a half-day performance which traverses between these two earths. Rejecting the notion of a fixed, unchanging subject, the performance embraces a vibrant, dynamic environment through which it unfolds a constantly evolving artistic imagination. Here, the relationships between earth and earth, species and species, are no longer oppositional nor antagonistic. Embracing symbiosis and hybridity, the exhibition underscores the importance of organic solidarity and equality as key to the next chapter.
Written by Ji Yoon Yang