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Burial of This Order​

Jane Jin Kaisen

Curated by Noa Bronstein

May 2 – June 22, 2024 

“Down with this great machine of destruction!” is chanted in unison by a congregate of mourners enacting what initially appears as a customary funerary procession. Deliberately moving through the hollows of a decaying structure, the curious collective has gathered for the arduous yet essential task of burying our current order built on hierarchy and division. The social actors – musicians, artists, poets, activists, environmentalists and diasporic, queer and trans people – called on to perform this duty transgress traditional ceremonial practices by subverting conventional age and gender roles, draping the coffin in dark military camouflage and replacing the portrait of the deceased carried in the lead of the procession with a black mirror. These reversals intimate that this ritualized performance is just that – a funeral without grievers meant to honour a different world, rather than the current order. 

 

Jane Jin Kaisen’s Burial of This Order suggests that another reality is imaginable but that it requires self-scrutiny and a dismantling of the symbols and narratives that uphold a divisive world, including rampant individualism. Extending the artist’s interest in spiritual practices and collective resistance, the video is simultaneously a call to action and a poetic meditation on the dismantling of unlivable structures. Rehearsing for other possibilities, the assembly of unlikely mourners suggests that ritualized action can offer a scaffolding and shelter from which to agitate towards new imaginings. Performing and congregating through ceremony lends depth and intention to the procession’s appeal for more equitable conditions that socially, politically and ecologically meet the challenges of our time.  

 

Burial operates both within and outside of time, both within and outside of history. Mythical Dokkaebi deities disrupt temporal registers as they slowly move and dance through the space, haunting or perhaps compelling the procession. This sense of time being uncertain, is countered by the specificity of the setting of the film – an abandoned resort on Jeju Island that stands as a ruin to capitalist modernity. The building is the remnant of what was slated to be the largest resort in Jeju but the project was left unfinished when the owning company declared bankruptcy during the IMF financial crisis of the 1990s. Situating the funeral within such a charged space locates the procession’s actions within globalized conditions of economic uncertainty and imbalance and environmental catastrophe.

 

Jeju Island often appears in Jin Kaisen’s works. The volcanic landmass is Korea’s largest island, haunted by a violent past. In 1948, responding to persistent brutalities imposed by colonizing forces and calling for unification following the partition of World War II, Jeju residents instigated an uprising, which was rapidly met with a forceful suppression campaign led by the US Army Military Government in Korea. Known as the Jeju Massacre or Jeju 4.3 (marking the date of the tragedy), it is considered the largest civilian massacre in Korean history with an estimated 30,000 killed, in addition to large parts of the Island being destroyed. Serving as an anchor and thread across Jin Kaisen’s practice, Jeju establishes a sense of place while locating artistic inquiries within laden histories and their enduring legacies.       

 

Just over halfway through the film, in a moment of revolutionary fervor, the group throws the coffin from a large plateau, proceeding to gather around its shattered parts. One of the mourners, longtime anti-military activist Choi Sung-hee, starts to chant “Not your offspring, Not your name, Not your grave!,” to which the procession responds: “Not our dead, Not our story, Not our lies!” Refusing to fulfill a proper burial and vocalizing their disavowal of division, the procession starts to strip off their garments and ravage the remains of the coffin, inside of which is a sochang – a long piece of fabric that is used in traditional funerals. As the current order starts to dissolve the sochang undergoes a symbolic transformation turning into what Kaisen describes as a long serpentine umbilical cord that serves to tether together the re-assembled group as they depart towards the setting sun. Articulating their desires for transformation and disruption by way of collective emergence and rebirth, the mourners forsake the ritual burial but hold to their promise of elapsing this world order.  

– Noa Bronstein

Presented in partnership with:

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Jane Jin Kaisen, still from Burial of This Order, 2022/23. Courtesy of the artist. 

Jane Jin Kaisen is an artist, filmmaker, and Professor of the School of Media Arts at The Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts. Her practice spans the mediums of video installation, narrative experimental film, photography, performance, and text, and is informed by extensive interdisciplinary research and long-term engagement with diverse communities. Kaisen is known for her visually striking, multilayered, performative, poetic, and multi-voiced feminist works through which past and present are brought into relation. Engaging topics such as memory, migration, borders, and translation, she activates the field where lived experience and embodied knowledge intersect with larger political histories. Kaisen is a recipient of the New Carlsberg Foundation Artist Grant (2023) and a 3-year work grant from the Danish Arts Foundation (2022) and was awarded Exhibition of the Year 2020 by International Association of Art Critics, Denmark for the exhibition Community of Parting at Kunsthal Charlottenborg. She represented Korea at the 58th Venice Biennale and has exhibited her work in a wide range of international contexts.


Noa Bronstein is a curator and writer based in Toronto/Tkaronto.

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