WATCH OUT #5: Nele Kaczmarek on Jeamin Cha
WATCH OUT is an ongoing series in which curators present emerging artists who they find exciting. Selected by Yvonne Scheja.
I first met Jeamin Cha during an open studio day in the Hongeun-dong area of Seoul where she hosted an event with fellow artist friends and colleagues such as Enna Bae, Sanghee Lee, Yeonsun Hahm, Eugene Hannah Park, and Taey Iohe introducing an upcoming publication project. In this inviting environment among confidants, Cha shared some of her research materials and the delicate watercolor drawings and collages that regularly accompany and expand her mostly time-based practice.
It was also a set of drawings that initially sparked my interest in Cha’s work. Crushed or Unfolded, 2022, was first presented to the public as part of the Singapore Biennale of the same year. These carbon wall drawings, which reference clock drawing test used by doctors to detect cognitive impairment like dementia, demand a certain proximity from the viewer to be perceptible and thus create an intimate encounter. With these individual interpretations of a clock and underlying perceptions of time, Cha opens spaces to recognize and rethink possibilities of incapacity that have been considered in the context of crip time discourses and activist approaches. In the artist’s work, these drawings are part of an ongoing investigation into existing and alternate images of physical and mental abilities that also led to a series of video works.
In her most recent video installation, Nameless Syndrome, 2022, the artist analyses the type of imagery that is “acceptable” to depict and verify illnesses in conventional therapeutic practices and their “alienating effects on the corporal subject,” as Cha describes it. With a special sensitivity for the different surfaces and the ideologies that collide in hospitals and clinics, Cha speculates about what kind of new (non-pictorial) expressions might be more suitable to capture the complexity of illness and its entanglement with socio-economic conditions. These ideas continue her thinking from an earlier video work, Sound Garden, 2019, in which Cha draws a link between mental and environmental states. In the voiceover, female mental health counsellors share their experiences about therapies and the contradictory attempts of care and healing but also self-optimization, while the image follows the “journey” of a tree of the kind cultivated—bred, trimmed, and planted—to thrive in urban spaces. With these carefully recorded voices and sequences, Cha creates a subtle dialogue between different forces that constantly form and (violently) deform bodies, psyches, and landscapes.
Jeamin Cha (she/her) is an artist based in Seoul. After finishing her BFA at the Korean National University of Arts, she completed her MA at the Chelsea College of Art and Design in London. Cha regularly exhibits her work in international exhibitions and film and video festivals, including the 11th Gwangju Biennale (2016), the 67th Berlin International Film Festival – Forum Expanded (2017), and the Oberhausen International Short Film Festival (2021/23). In 2020 she was KADIST artist in residence in San Francisco. She is currently working on a comprehensive monographic publication.
Nele Kaczmarek (she/her) is an art historian currently based in Düsseldorf. From 2016 to 2022, she was Kunstverein Braunschweig’s curator, where she organized solo and group exhibitions as well as publications with artists such as K.R.M. Mooney, Steve Bishop, Julia Phillips, Carolyn Lazard, Patricia L. Boyd, Rory Pilgrim, and Karrabing Film Collective. She (co-)curated projects at the Kunstverein Dresden, SAVVY Contemporary Berlin, and the Braunsfelder Collection, Cologne, and advised Tangente, St. Pölten/Vienna in 2022. Since 2023, Nele Kaczmarek is working as IMAI—Inter Media Art Institute’s deputy director. Her curatorial research trip to South Korea in January 2023 was made possible by the Goethe Institute.