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[Virtual Exhibition] 《있지만 없었던 Naming the Nameless》

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Name 최고관리자 Date21-06-15 12:22 Hit278 Comment0

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The Exhibition, 《있지만 없었던 Naming the Nameless》 is now closed, but you can see the virtual exhibition here.


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《있지만 없었던 Naming the Nameless》

• 30 April — 6 June, 2021

• Seoul Museum of Art, SeMA Bunker

• Co-organized by Critical Global Studies Institute at Sogang University and Seoul Museum of Art 

• Photos and other archival documents provided by the Courtesy of the National Memorial Museum of Forced Mobilization under Japanese Occupation

• Participating artist

 Soyoung Kim, Youngle Keem, Haeryong Ahn, Minsu Oh, Hyekyung Jung, Jaehun Jung, Cho Duck Hyun, Jeamin Cha, CHE Onejoon 

• Spatial Design by Our Labour (@our_labour)

• VR production by Chronotope (http://www.chronotope.co.kr/)

• Project supervised by Jie-Hyun Lim

• Curated by Yongwoo Lee

© Foundation for Korean Victims of Forced Mobilization

© National Memorial Museum of Forced Mobilization under Japanese Occupation

Used by permission.

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Naming the Nameless is an exhibition co-organized by the Seoul Museum of Art and the Critical Global Studies Institute at Sogang University to excavate the microhistory of forced labor buried under the empire-building narratives and illuminate the issues of labor intertwined with class, race, gender, sociocultural norms, and migration. The exhibition centers on the photos, letters, and testimonies collected from the sites of forced labor to illustrate the lives of workers through historical ups and downs.

To reflect on the meanings of labor in our time by remembering the workers whose names had been lost in the whirlwind of modern history marked by exile, deprivation, and subordination under colonialism and state oppression, Naming the Nameless carefully follows memories of the nameless workers inscribed in gravestones, correspondence, and other historical footprints they left behind. Without reducing the narrative to the simple dichotomy between the Imperial Japan and Colonized Korea, the exhibition is organized with aims to observe how the workers experienced the world in their own everyday lives, and present how the concept of labor has transformed within the network of state and capitalism through state-led transnational migrant labor, as well as logistics and platform work, in the guise of unconstrained wage labor.

Starting with the images of mineworkers who consisted the majority of forced laborers, Naming the Nameless unfolds the lives of workers depicted in the Yoon Byeongryol collection (Courtesy of National Memorial Museum of Forced Mobilization under Japanese Occupation) ranging from the photographs of workers coerced into various types of labor, letters with unknown addressees, and interviews with family members, to the graves of those whose lives ended in a country far from home. Along with the archival materials, the artworks by contemporary artists resonate with the workers’ lives, experience, and nostalgia, and commemorate the names unknown to history. In the SeMA Bunker, the underground bunker-turned-museum believed to have been built under the military rule in the 70s, the audience is invited to witness the abysmal living and working conditions in the coal mines, question the act of redefining the past through the lens of present, and ruminate over the different meanings of labor.

The artworks showcased in Naming the Nameless include: Underground Elegy (2021) by Cho Duck Hyun, a portrait of a worker recreated interweaving the artist’s personal memory with the story of a singer who was drafted for forced labor; History of Face (2019/2021) by CHE Onejoon, a collage of lives and memories of dispatched workers during South Korea’s “compressed modernization” in the 70s and 80s; The Skin I Live in (2014/2021) by Jaehun Jung, the boundaries and interrelationships among life, work, and art reimagined in visual language, through rough sketches that embody the abstract concept of physical labor; Searching for Seahorse (2016) by Youngle Keem, a visual essay about forgetting and regression of private memory within the metanarrative of History; Chroma-key and Labyrinth (2013) by Jaemin Cha, a rumination on the structure of labor in contemporary society by focusing on the abstract reception of “manual labor” that is polarized into “skilled” and alienated; Absurd progress (2019/2021) and Explosion (2019/2021) by Minsu Oh, which reveal the erroneous system of logistics labor and its dehumanizing repetitiveness; Soyoung Kim’s films Kim Alex’s Place: Ansan-Tashkent (2014), a reassessment of the meanings of home, migration, and statelessness through the everyday experience of Koryoin (the ethnic Koreans in Central Asia and Russia) laborers, and Harvesting the Light: The Graves of Diaspora (2021), which depicts the Koryoin gravestone archive in Sakhalin and the lives and deaths of workers who are buried on foreign soil; and Forgotten Memories (2021) by Haeryong Ahn, on the issues of death and commemoration, and nostalgia and memory visualized into photos of the monument to the Korean wartime laborers in Japan.

With the extensive collection of artworks and archival materials, Naming the Nameless highlights the narratives that have hitherto remained a blind spot in modern history, namely the lives of dispatched laborer-fathers along with those of the mothers and wives who were left behind, and offers a panoramic view of gendered memories, meanings of labor in contemporary society, migration and diaspora, and stories of death and memory, in hopes of recalling the names of the nameless to this site of empathy where they can be present, at last.