(Alex) Young Hwa Cho
Mu-dang Cinematic Shrine
Mu-dang Cinematic Shrine is a multimedia installation that is the result of a convergence of two fields of research — experimental cinema and Korean shamanism. This research project follows my personal tracing of a suppressed family history: my grandmother’s lifework as a mu-dang, a Korean shaman. My approach to storytelling addresses the cultural consciousness of spectatorship in cinema, where the personal narrative becomes collective ritual. My grandmother’s life story as a Korean shaman is shown through several vignettes, although there is no direct reference or signifier to indicate her status as a mu-dang. This partial revealing inspired me to examine and explore the conventional film and television media mediation of “Otherness” through either caricatured representations, or under-representation and invisibilization. It also inspired me to examine how such a subject negotiates her/his being and agency.
In this work, I juxtapose the role of an artist to that of the shaman. My role as a media artist mimics a Korean shaman’s spiritual role and ability: channeling to an audience, creating perceptual transformation, and facilitating alternative storytelling. This idea and practice is specifically connected to the contemporary socio-political experimentalism in cinema that is performed by two Asian American women cinema artists and theorists, Theresa Hak Kyung Cha and Trinh T. Minh-ha. Their artwork, theoretical investigations and writing on space, memory, identity, and language have influenced and inspired my own critical thinking and media production.
The production of this multi-media work consists of three different components: sculpture, audio and video. The themes and forms of my thesis project involve dialogic and interactive relationships. These originated in my thoughts on affinities between shamanism and the cinematic apparatus: the sense of enchantment, the dream-like mediation of reality and the metaphysical coupled with suspense and anticipation. Based on these concepts, I analyze and reconstruct the architecture of the theatre space (the cinema), and the content of cinema and spectatorship.