The Unheroed Theater (Character Studies with Gwangdae, Shinmyoung, Tobaki, the Fictitious Aseupalteu), 2014/2020
mixed media installation
Courtesy of the artists
The Unheroed Theater (Character Studies with Gwangdae, Shinmyoung, Tobaki, the Fictitious Aseupalteu) is a collaboration between Ei Arakawa and Inza Lim. The work focuses on the history of theater in Gwangju in the 1980s, when artistic activities were suppressed by the grand sweep of sociopolitical history. In Gwangju, theater groups such as the early Gwangdae and later Shinmyoung and Tobaki— founded at the time of the Democratization Movement—played a significant role in resisting the military dictatorship. They promoted a sense of community through different forms of performance including Madang theater, Talchum—a mask dance—and other more modern theater techniques. When first conceived for the tenth Gwangju Biennale, Arakawa and Lim’s work included an imaginary theater group, the Fictitious Aseupalteu, which also dates from the 1980s. Inspired by both the stories and the female protagonists created by Shinmyoung and Tobaki the artists conjure an alternative narrative. The installation also reimagines Gwangju as a common asset: rooted in the hitherto largely overlooked activities of “non-heros,” such as prostitutes, who donated blood, and market ladies, who distributed food, during the May 18 Movement.
Ei Arakawa (b. 1977, Japan) is a performance artist based in New York since 1998. He relocated to Los Angeles in 2019. Arakawa invalidates the boundary between the performers and the audience by inviting the audience to participate in an improvisational manner, thus converting them from the role of passive viewers to active subjects of the performance. In the context of contemporary art that is based on notions of individualism as articulated in western modern ideology, Arakawa’s act of establishing the intersection between collaborations with other artists and the audience as his very practice, can be seen as an intention to liberate his works from the subjective framework of the “self.” Selected performances; Sculpture Project Münster (2017), Museum Ludwig, Cologne (2017), 9th Berlin Biennale (2016), Museum Brandhorst, Munich (2015), Whitney Biennial, New York (2014), Carnegie International, Pittsburgh (2013), Tate Modern, London (2012), and Museum of Modern Art, New York (2012).
Inza Lim (b. 1976, Inheon, Korea) was Artistic Director of Seoul Marginal Theatre Festival from 2010 to 2015, and was Member of the Cultural Policy Committee, Seoul Foundation for Arts and Culture from 2015 to 2017. She has worked for Victims of Devastation of Human Rights at Hyeong Je Welfare Center (Brother’s home) which exposes the hidden violence of Korean modern history under economic growth. Her work, embedded in the historical and social contexts, is related to marginal discourses. Since 2015, she works for Movement Against Censorship, the Artist Blacklist of Korea. She run “BLACKTENT” when the democratic movement happened at Gwanghwamoon in 2016–17. and now She is member of Korea Theatre Standards Working Group for safe stage without discrimination and without violence. Since 2016 she runs an independent bookshop and publishes books containing local cultural resources.