Jane Jin Kaisen at Fotografisk Center

Transmitted, embodied knowledge is central to the underwater harvesting of the haenyeo, the women divers of South Korea’s Jeju Island. This practice of knowledge sharing allowed the women to be at the forefront of liberation movement during the Japanese occupation of Korea. Jane Jin Kaisen takes up this history in her exhibition “Currents,” in which her newest work, Offering—Coil Embrace, 2023, a four-channel video, commemorates the resistance. Set to the hum of the submarine singing technique used by the fisherwomen, each screen features a separate diver, focusing on their bodies underwater as the women approach a floating coil of white cotton. This sochang, traditionally used for diapers or women’s hygiene, threatens to suffocate the divers in slow motion, and they struggle to fight against both it and the pull of the bloodred seaweed.

In the short video Of the Sea, 2013, Kaisen walks the same stretch of shore her grandmother, one of the haenyeo, once crossed by foot each summer. The artist’s back is loaded with fishing tools similar to those that appear in the photographic triptych Pull of the Moon, 2020. The reenactment in Of the Sea is accompanied by a haenyeo anthem written by Gywan-soon Gang, a onetime leader of the Jeju resistance who was imprisoned. It describes the women leaving for work, carrying their children’s lives just as Kaisen carries the tools on her back. This is not the story of an individual family but of a shared, collective existence.

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