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Regarding the Subject of Pain, Mine and Others: History and Memory as Archives

Chung Yeon Shim 1

1홍익대학교

Accredited

ABSTRACT

Jacques Derrida notes in his Archive Fever: A Freudian Impression that “archive fever”occurs when there is trauma such as a phantom limb (physical) or consequent psychological obstacles to one’s memory. Trauma, developed from the Greek word titrōskō for wound,has been “intergenerational and transgenerational” in the form of postmemoirin the case of the Holocaust of World War II. Owing to many scholarly works, we have noticed that the trauma is apparent not only in the victims but also in the families of the perpetrators. This paper, however, is not a study of trauma in the Freudian sense. Rather by following archive fever used“ to record memory and history”, I want to demonstrate the way the “younger” generation of artists who did not experience the Pacific war, or the Korean civil wars firsthand, transforms their artworks and their documentary-like working process as a symbolic site of archives in order to“ record” and“ remind” people of the pain of“ mine”and others. By jeopardizing the political ideologies whose lens has been essential in looking at postwar Korean and Japanese artists in dealing with war-related subject matters, I should like to consider five particular artists―Yong Soon Min, Yoshiko Shimada, Yongsuk Kang,Makoto Aida, and Yukinori Yanagi ― as those who strive to present history they have not directly experienced as painful yet poignant memories. The archives in general exist as an “aporia” resulting from a difficulty or uncertainty, that is, from an indeterminacy of meaning by two different parties. In this light, my paper does not delve into the dichotomies of victimized Korean artists vis-à-vis Japanese artists and group the aforementioned five artists as the same“ generational” artists. By considering these and other comparable artists,I want to see what their artworks say about memory, history, and their pain as well as that of others. My paper first explores the polemical texts and works by Min and her visual and textual explanation of “positionality” as an Asian artist in the United States, whereas my consideration of Shimada, an outspoken active feminist constructs the American occupation of Japan after the end of the Second World War. Converting their artworks as “gendered” constructs, the two artists create therapeutic arenas for their subjects. Secondly, I shall examine the Korean artist Kang and the Japanese Aida to analyze the operation of photographic indexicality in their works. The alienated distance is rhetorically experimented with in Kang’s case as he has written in his statement about the silverprint works taken at the site of “Maehyang-ri”, where Korean-based American soldiers practiced air shooting. Kang’s grey-tone work is like a calm, yet psychologically embedded documentary film, and I try to take note of the underlying reason for his aesthetic decision for the alienating distance. This visual rhetoric is compared to works of Jeff Wall and Walid Raad in presenting ambiguity imbedded in the photographic tool. On the other hand,Aida’s series of works entitled Sensoga Returns/War Pictures Returns that he completed in past decades is rather controversial and visually quite striking and, even in some cases,disturbing. In Aida’s works, in particular, we witness a political ambivalence that makes us question whether the works glorify the war or criticize it. War, memory, history, and gender intersect in the works of Yukonori Yanagi as well as that of Nobuyuki Oura. Yanagi’s Hinomaru and Oura’s Holding Perspective Series touch on the controversial subject matter by dealing with the forgotten memory of their history,which is closely related to liquidating the vestiges of the Pacific Wars by presenting Japan as the victim (by the United States) and thecolonizer (of Korea), the very Janus-faced situation the country strives to forget. We find in these provocative artists the political ambivalence seen through our“ historical” eyes. Grouping these Korean and Japanese contemporary arts under the rubric of“ archives”, however, I have attempted to examine their work in parallel fashion, not hierarchically through the perspectives of gender and nation.

Citation status

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