Cha Jae-min

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Artist: Cha Jae-min
Works at: Seoul Art Space_GeumCheon
Stays in: 2011
Genre: Visual Arts
2011 Chelsea College of Design and Arts (MA), London, UK
2005 Korean National University of Arts (BFA), Seoul, Korea (ROK)

Selected screening
2012 Rencontres Internationals Paris, Palais de tokyo , Paris, France
2011 Video submissions to ※Video Patchwork: Open Call§, held by Part-time Suite as part of ※SAMUSO
Patch show at the garage of Samuso, Seoul, Korea
      Rencontres Internationals Paris, GAITE LYRIQUE and Pompidou center, Paris, France
      moves - International Festival of Movement on Screen _ &MMS (Mix Messages Service)*, the
bluecoat, Liverpool, UK
2010 Gallery Night Screening, Coffee and Sugar _ &Sentimental Intervention*, Plodvid, Sofia, Bulgaria
      Copenhagen Contemporary 2010, Copenhagen Art Institution, Copenhagen, Denmark

Group exhibitions
2012 Playtime, Culture Station Seoul 284, Seoul, Korea
2011 Interim show, Chelsea College of Degisn and Arts, London, UK
       Surface Shorts, Surface Gallery, Nottingham, UK
2010 FRAGMENTED PASSAGE : PART 2, Daegu culture and art center, Daegu, Korea
       White sun of the desert, Total museum &The room,Seoul, Korea
       god save the monalisa , Gallery Plant, Seoul, Korea
       Novel 01 : finding( ) leejuneho, Take out drawing in the Arts council Korea, Seoul, Korea
2008 A, SKU gallery, Seoul, South Korea
2007 It is not afraid, but afraid when it is told, Gallery 175, Seoul, South Korea
2012 Novel: 30 minutes, roundabout, Seoul, Korea
2009 Novel 01: the footnotes without text, roundabout, Seoul, Korea


Cha Jeamin

A Spectral Dance Amid Fog and Smoke
Sohl Lee (Art Critic Based in Seoul and Rochester)
Cha Jeamin’s 20-minute video <Fog and Smoke> opens with a stark, mysterious sound of piano and electronic notes that conjure an atmosphere appropriate for a film noir or a thriller, making the viewers feel uneasy from the start. Accompanying the music is a long camera pan, which scans from left to right an urban landscape filled with high-risesor to be more precise, a scale model of a city with miniature skyscrapers and apartment buildings. The intermittently blinking cool indigo blue lights illuminate several buildings, as if to keep the beat with the music. Or, it’s also possible to say that both the moving image and the audio escalate the feeling of anxiety among the viewers, as if they are about to witness a murder scene or something equally terrible. The seriality of buildings and their modernor futuristic ultramodernlandscape seem devoid of any geographic markers or national characteristics, until a white rectangular block in the scale of a high-rise enters the screen. Written on the block in both English and Korean is “Songdo,” the infamous city built on land reclaimed from the sea off the Incheon international airport. The construction for an international business hub continues there, though its momentum has slowed down since the 2008 global financial crisis that originated in the United States. The official name designated to this new part of Songdo is “Songdo International Business District.”
The video then ventures into different chapters that exhibit different portraitsreal or fantasticof Songdo. The formal technique that dominates the work is that of juxtaposition. If the first long-take scene caresses a fake landscape from a bird’s eye view, the second scene shows a ground-level ride on a cultivator, driven by an aged farmer, through the streets of rural peripheries and into the new town center. In the second scene, the future as imagined by the architectural model has come to realization, while the low-pitch growling sound of the cultivator serves as the only “music.” The cultivator’s noise is perhaps the live music of reality, as opposed to the highly made-up music of the previous scene. The juxtaposition, however, is not straight-forward. The indexical landscape of reality caught by the camera that trails the farmer’s ride, is a collage of reality and fantasy in and of itself: the cultivator and the farmer are shot against the backdrop of a sound-proof fence at a construction site, which reads “Paramount Movie Park Korea.” But can we simply describe such a landscape of Songdo as quintessentially postmodern, where reality and fiction, life and image, are intermingled as in a Hollywood movie?
In the seemingly non-linear narrative structure, the artist attempts to convey a certain feeling, or a type of awareness that resides on a more emotional, affective, and experiential level than in a conceptual and intellectual way. The following scene features a tap dancer dressed all in blacka pair of black pants and a black hoodietapping his way on non-descript streets of Songdo at night. Like a specter that haunts and disrupts the previously defined boundaries of the city and the countryside, and of the hypermodern and the agricultural, the dancer takes a night stroll only to disappear when the sunlight shines on the 600-hectare land newly filled in from the sea.
The dancer’s ephemeral, temporary (non-)presence resonates with the title: <Fog and Smoke>. According to the artist, both fog and smoke float in the air, disappearing quickly in a gust of wind; but they are fundamentally different in what they signify or symptomize. While the skyscrapers in the new part of Songdo is wrapped in fog at dawn due to its close distance to the Yellow Sea, the old neighborhood of Songdo is covered in smoke; also covered in smoke are the native residents who are left behind, who had depended on agriculture or seafood gathering. From behind the curtains of smoke, the reality tells us that old Songdo has become literally a landfill, or a wasteland, where the rubbish from the new business district are dumped to incineration plants and auto junkyards in the old neighborhood. As the camera reveals, the smoke from the plants surround the neighborhood where the fragments of glass and auto parts make up a new kind of landscape that contrasts the sleek surface of the New Songdo International District. The video ends with a long-take camera pan, probably from a window up in a skyscraper, slowly glancing at the office buildings that look exactly like the scale model featured in the beginning. Someone’s dreamor planhas become reality, but whose was it to begin with? The ominous music in the opening shot returns to the screen, insinuating an answer to this question.
I would like to return to the tap dancer and ponder whose dream he might be depicting in the video’s narrative. Perhaps more important than the voices and the speeches that serve as the background to the tap dancerwhich, as the artist reveals later in the credits, makes reference to Kurt Weill and Bertolt Brecht’s 1930 opera <Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny>is the very ghostly presence of the tap dancer. This ghost is not shy. It disrupts the serene landscape of the new and awakes the dead buried beneath the ruins of the Korean-style hyper-capitalism. Yet, there is something that stops me from seeing the ghost as an allegory of anti-capitalism or even as the spirit of the evicted residents who lost the land on which their lives depended (i.e. mud flat or farmland). The presence of the floating ghost is not as concrete; it is rather a lingering residue of those who observe the sight of urban development. The shot taken from inside a running car, through a half-open window that simultaneously bars and opens up our gaze to the dancer tapping the street is perhaps suggestive of the artist’s position on the site of conflicts in Songdo or the position that the artist takes as our surrogate.
In a sense, Songdo is a symbol of the 2000sa decade that came after the waves of ‘segyehwa’, or globalization of the 1990s, and the Asian financial crisis of 1997-1998. After the political, social, and cultural, as well as economic, disaster swept throughout South Korea in the late 1990s, the country miraculously reinvented itself in the 2000s, fully charged with a renewed hope for economic prosperity. For the generation that came of age in the 2000s, like the artist Cha and myself, the private sphere has been tremendously affected by the corporate-state’s metalevel economic transformations on multiple levels. Yet we make irresolute steps, circling around the terrain of the personal and the social, without making a clear declaration or manifesto against the state or the capital, as we know very well that the personal and the social are never separate and always collide within our very optical, haptic, acoustical experience of the world around us. It is such an experience that Cha has meticulously attempted to bring to life in <Fog and Smoke>, as well as her other video works. The screening of <Fog and Smoke> at the Seoul Cultural Station 284 RTO back in last December was special and will probably be difficult to replicate in the near future, as the screening in the black box accompanied not only the fog, produced at the site with humidifiers, but also the tap dancer, who performed before the very eyes of the audience. The scent, sound, and humidity amplified in the air supplemented the video, creating something similar to a total experience. For an artist who mainly works with the medium of single-channel video but who is interested in such an existential experience, the quest to transcend the limits of the video is a continued challenge to be tackled in her works to come.