On the weekend of what would have been Cha's 60th birthday (a full life cycle event in the Chinese/Korean lunar calendar), Belladonna* and Kundiman gather poets to perform a staged reading from Dictee. Cha's best known written work, Dictee focuses on the lives of several women framed through the art of the Greek muses, yet in the cosmos of Shamanism and Daoism. Their struggle to speak and overcome suffering is enacted through a mixture of media which destabilizes the notion of a progressive and seamless history.
Opening - Soomi Kim/Jen Shyu
Clio - Allison Roh Park
Calliope - Zhang Er
Urania - Genevieve White
Melpomene - Cathy Park Hong
Erato - Sarah Gambito/Kelly Tsai
Elitere - Anne Waldman
Thalia - Cara Benson
Trepsichore - Tamiko Beyer
Polymnia - Myung Mi Kim
Somewhere, sometime, something was lost, but no story can be told about it; no memory can retrieve it. —JUDITH BUTLER, “After Loss, What Then?”
In Haunting the Korean Diaspora: Shame, Secrecy and the Forgotten War author Grace Cho uses the trope and actual possibility of the ghost as a lens through which to view the repeatedly untold legacy of the Korean War:
If, in the most basic terms, studying ghosts allows us to rethink a society’s relationship to its dead, particularly to those who were subject to some kind of injustice, the ghost and its haunting effects act as a mode of memory and an avenue for ethical engagement with the present. (29)
Referencing sociologist Avery Gordon’s work on haunting and the sociological imagination, Cho speaks of an ethical and political urgency to dealing with the presence of loss by “mourning modernity’s ‘wound in civilization’ and eliminating the destructive forces that open it up over and over again.” If no memory can retrieve what was lost nor one story be told about it in order to mourn it, we must look to more than the singular - to the multiple, fractal, and even ghostly - to enact the attempt to suture trauma. Butler continues: “a fractured horizon looms in which to make one’s way as a spectral agency, one for whom a full ‘recovery’ is impossible.”
Theresa Hak Kyung Cha’s films, mixed media, performances, and the book to be performed from today, Dictee, can be said, as in her words, to be “in the perpetual motion of search.” They are works of repetition, fragment, dislocation, intertwining personal, female and social historiography, looking forward and toward the past and from it, perpetually.“There is no destination other than towards yet another refuge from yet another war.” The destination is in motion. Towards and yet and yet repeated. The wound perpetually reopened. To recover the body, the work, is not fully possible. What we have and will have will be partial, excerpted, a dream reconstituted as a haunting avenue to engage with the present and presence of all of us here today, who we draw with us to this space, and those whom we will carry with us as we proceed.
This event was curated by Belladonna* Collaborative, Kundiman, and Zhang Er at Bowery Poetry Club on March 5, 2011.
Monday, May 16, 2011
Revisiting Theresa Hak Kyung Cha Event