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Meiro Koizumi

Theater of Life

Meiro Koizumi, Theater of Life (2023), five channel video installation, dimensions variable. Courtesy of the artist, MUJIN-TO Production and Annet Gelink Gallery. Commissioned by the 14th Gwangju Biennale and Han Nefkens Foundation.

Koizumi organized a two-day acting workshop for teenagers from Goryeo people community in Gwangju. These teenagers (age between 13 to 19) arrived to Korea within a last few years from Central Asia; some came with their parents who found jobs in Korea, and others have just escaped from the war in Ukraine. They mainly speaks in Russian, and still struggling to learn Korean language and to find their positions within Korean society. Setting the old historical photo documents of Goryeo Theater as a starting point, a professional acting coach taught the youths the basics of how to act on the stage, and encouraged them to imagine characters, to transform themselves with the costumes, and to actively re-invent the scenes depicted in the historical theater photos. The workshop was aimed to help the youths to objectively see the historical burden of Goryeo people, and to learn the skills to actively transform one's own identity through the power of role-playing. The entired workshop was taken place on a theater stage, and filmed with three video cameras, to create 5 screen video installation work, "Theater of Life".

The Goryeo theater, which was established in 1930 in Vladivostok, had played an important role to formulate the identity of Goryeo people as diaspora throughout the 20th century. In early years, they staged plays of national folklores, class struggles, and struggle against Japanese colonialism. Goryeo People are ethnic Korean people living in the former Soviet Union, and they were the hub for independent movement against Japanese suppressions in the early 20th century. But in 1937, by the policy under Stalinism, the whole population were violently deported to Central Asia such as Uzbekistan and Khazakhstan. Many died during this tragical deportation. The Goryeo theater survived through the deportation, and later it became a tool for propaganda under socialism of Soviet Union.

After the collapse of Soviet Union, the social condition of Goryeo people once again become unstable, and they are exposed to nationalism and racism in the local societies today. Now some are coming back to Korea in search of their homeland and also in search of jobs. Goryeo people's community is also actively helping Goryeo people in Ukraine to escape from the war.

Meiro Koizumi

(born in Gunma, Japan, in 1976; lives and works in Yokohama, Japan) Born in 1976 in Gumma, Japan. He explores the relationships between the state/community and the individual, and between the human body and emotions, through experimental videos and performances that interweave reality and fiction. His solo exhibitions include "Dreamscapegoafuck" at MUJIN-TO Production (2019), "Battlelands" at Perez Art Museum Miami (2018), "Portrait of a Failed Silence", MUAC, Mexico City (2015), "Trapped Voice Would Dream of Silence", Arts Maebashi, Maebashi, Japan (2015), and "Project Series 99: Meiro Koizumi" at Museum of Modern Art, New York (2013). Recent group shows include Artes Mundi 9, National MUseum Cardiff (2021), Aichi Triennale (2019), "Leaving Echo Chember", Sharjah Biennale 14 (2018), "Proregress", 12th Shanghai Biennale (2018), The 9th Asia Pacific Triennale, Brisbane (2018), "Reenacting History", National Museum of Modern and Conteporary Art Gwacheon, Korea (2017), "The Grand Balcony", La Biennale Montréal, Montréal, Canada (2016), Jakarta Biennale, Jakarta, Indonesia (2015), and "Roppongi Crossing", Mori Art Museum, Tokyo (2013). His experimental VR Theater piece "Prometheus Bound", which was premiered at Aichi Triennale 2019, won the Grand Prize in the 24th Art Division of the Japan Media Arts Festival. In 2021, he recieved Artes Mundi 9 Prize (Cardiff, UK). His installation works are included in numerous public collections worldwide.

Meiro Koizumi

Theater of Life


Production year: 2023

Five-channel video installation 
Dimensions variable

Commissioned by the 14th Gwangju Biennale and the Han Nefkens Foundation

Born 1976, Japan
Works in Jpan

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