I like Korea and Korea likes Me, kate-hers RHEE, 2018

Photo by Aleks Slota

I like Korea and Korea likes Me, kate-hers RHEE, 2018

kate-hers RHEE was born in Seoul, Korea and was sent to Detroit, Michigan to be adopted. After residing in over 35 different homes in various cities, she settled down in Berlin at the end of 2009. Her adoption and frequent moves were experiences that strongly influenced her artistic career, as she continues to explore the implications of cultural identity in her artwork. RHEE focuses on foreignness and language as central themes in her work from the lens of diaspora, feminism, gender theory, and philosophy. Furthermore, she is interested in the role that bureaucratic documents play in the control of people’s lives. With these themes that originate through cultural belonging and supranational identity, she endeavours to create a “happening.”

In her solo exhibition “I like Korea and Korea likes me”, RHEE presents two projects, namely “The German Speaking Project” and “Transkoreaning”, as well as a few other works that she exclusively produced for this occasion. What’s more, she shows documents comprising of false information that were crafted for the sole purpose of “exporting” her to the USA. Meanwhile, “The German Speaking Project” is a performative work in which RHEE only spoke in German for 90 days despite her limited knowledge of the language. She documented her progress every day in video, which she used to explore the role of a foreign language, in this case German, in the construction of identity. “Transkoreaning” was developed in a similar way, but as a very personal artwork it carries a different sentiment than “The German Speaking Project.” In “Transkoreaning”, the audience becomes witness to RHEE’s experiences of her trauma and identity crisis in her native country, Korea.

This exhibition has great significance, because after the artist conducted the Transkoreaning project in Korea from 2016 to 2017, in the meantime she obtained dual citizenship – a newly recovered South Korea nationality as a US American. Her work recounts the history of the foreigner and the adopted child, but also urges the audience to reflect on the conditions of national identities, diaspora, and deterritorialization and what they could mean in our present day. In the course of globalization, fatherland, country of birth, and homeland, all being identical is becoming less and less commonplace. RHEEs exhibition allows us to experience invisible separations that consciously and unconsciously stem from different cultures and languages, eventually appreciating the frustration of being the Other.