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Do The Right Thing: (dis)comfort women

  • Exhibition: July 20 - September 3, 2017, ReflectSpace
  • Opening Reception: Friday, July 21, 6:00 - 9:00 p.m., ReflectSpace
  • Commemoration of Comfort Woman Day: Friday, July 28, 6:00 - 9:00 p.m., Auditorium   Read More>
  • The Apology film screening: Friday, August 11, 7:00 - 10:00 p.m., Auditorium   Read More>

ReflectSpace - Downtown Central Library
222 East Harvard Street, Glendale CA 91205

ReflectSpace at Downtown Central presents Do the Right Thing: (dis)comfort women, an exhibition reflecting on the silence and dialogue by and about the women who were forced to become sex slaves by the Japanese Imperial Army before and during World War II. The exhibition presents the work of twelve international documentarians and artists and runs from July 20 to September 3, 2017. Co-curated by Monica Hye Yeon Jun, Ara and Anahid Oshagan. An opening reception will be held on Friday July 21, from 6-9 pm, Downtown Central Library, 222 East Harvard Street, Glendale CA 91205.

The term “comfort women” is a Japanese euphemism coined by the military to soften the scope and viciousness of their system of slavery. The (dis)comfort women exhibit turns this term on its head and develops alternative narratives of the experience by survivors as well as artists. The exhibit includes drawings, watercolor, paintings, sculpture and audio-visual material drawn from a wide range of North American and international artists, professional as well as amateur. (dis)comfort women will show the work of Remedios Felias, a former sex slave who late in life drew a graphic picture diary of her harrowing experience, as well as giant public art banners by NY-based artist Chang-Jin Lee.

The artists’ work invites reflection and dialogue but also creates tension: between the inability to speak about personal trauma and the deep human urge to tell. Artists explore this silence and simultaneously break it. (dis)comfort women is held taut in this tension and is a vociferous presence urging the acknowledgment of the horrors, lifelong indignity and shame suffered by the comfort women.
Artists in (dis)comfort women: Steve Cavallo, Yoon Jung Choi, Shon Jeung Eun, Remedios Felias, Arian Kang, Chang-Jin Lee, Melly Lym, Hong Sun Myeong, Kim Siha, Gim Deok Yeoung, Shin Chang Yong and Seo Soo-Young.

Before and during World War II, over 200,000 women from South Korea, Taiwan, China, Indonesia, Malaysia, Japan, the Philippines, Thailand, Vietnam and East Timor were coerced or forcibly transported to so-called “comfort stations” across Japanese occupied territories and repeatedly raped, tortured and brutalized for months and years. Most women were under the age of 20, some as young as 12. Many women were murdered or committed suicide during their enslavement.

And the horrors of their experience did not end with the end of the war. Many women were severely traumatized and never married or were unable to have children as a result of the torture they suffered. Many did not return home and those who did were branded as “Japanese leftovers” and were often derided and ostracized. Humiliated and ashamed, comfort women survivors remained silent for nearly six decades: in isolation, shame, mental and physical ill-health, and often in extreme poverty. Breaking the silence about their experiences was a courageous task. The first public pronouncement by a survivor came in 1991, nearly 50 years later.

ReflectSpace is a new exhibition space inside Downtown Central Library designed to explore and reflect on major human atrocities, genocides and civil rights violations. Immersive in conception, ReflectSpace is a hybrid space that is both experiential and informative, employing art, technology and interactive media to reflect on the past and present of Glendale’s communal fabric and interrogate current-day global human rights issues.


ReflectSpace

The highly anticipated and reimagined Downtown Central Library is pleased to announce the reopening of its doors with ReflectSpace: a new exhibition space designed to explore and reflect on major human atrocities, genocides and civil rights violations. Immersive in conception, ReflectSpace is a hybrid space that is both experiential and informative, employing art, technology and interactive media to reflect on the past and present of Glendale’s communal fabric and interrogate current-day global human rights issues.

ReflectSpace at the Downtown Central Library is a new exhibition space designed to explore and reflect on major human atrocities, genocides and civil rights violations. Immersive in conception, ReflectSpace is a hybrid space that is both experiential and informative, employing art, technology and interactive media to engage viewers on an emotional and personal level. ReflectSpace strives to reflect the past and present of Glendale’s communal fabric and interrogate current-day global human rights issues.

The approach is intimate. Emphasis is placed on the witness narrative: who saw, wrote, spoke or has been affected by genocide or human rights calamities. The narratives will unfold through multiple technologies--projection, interactive media and immersive sound design--and multiple discipline of thought and arts. ReflectSpace will also present installation art and engage with the archives, books and texts in the library in which it exists.

ReflectSpace is an inclusive exhibition space. First, it will explore the Armenian Genocide, presenting personal as well as reflective narratives from survivors and artwork from descendants. Also, in the coming months, it will present the fate of the Rwandan Tutsis and, later, the Holocaust, then subsequent genocides. With a focus on Glendale as well as an international perspective, ReflectSpace will also delve into contemporary issues like immigration, violence in society, Korean comfort women, interned Japanese, as well as the disappearance of Native Californians and the roots and routes of slavery in the US. And this is just the beginning.

ReflectSpace will be an intimate experiential space for reflection and exploration. At times it will be immersive, at other times disorienting and yet at other times overwhelming. But it will always engage.


Landscape of Memory

May - June 2017

The inaugural exhibit, called Landscape of Memory: Witnesses and Remnants of Genocide, unfolds in two distinct but interconnected parts and reflects on the Armenian Genocide through the cross-disciplinary work of witnesses, survivors, and artists, across four generations.

In the newly constructed ReflectSpace, witness (in) humanity examines the relationship of official history to survivor testimony and its generational aftermath. Leslie A. Davis, the US Consul in the Ottoman Empire in 1915, risked his life in saving Armenians and taking photographs of the Genocide. Davis’ critical work as a photographer and documentarian are contextualized and presented as part of witness (in) humanity. He is connected to contemporary photographers’ portrait and oral history of Hayastan Maghakhian-Terzian, one of the young girls Consul Davis saved.

Coming nearly a century after Davis, New York-based artist Aram Jibilian’s “Gorky and the Glass House” explores Arshile Gorky, the renowned Armenian-American painter, as an artist-survivor through a series of conceptual photographs made at Gorky’s final residence. Jibilian channels the artist’s ghost to address the ambiguous space the survivor occupies: between life/death and past/present.

Just outside ReflectSpace, within a few yards of the library’s south entrance at Glendale Central Park, will be the second part of Landscape of Memory: Witnesses and Remnants of Genocide, the highly popular iwitness public art installation.

The iwitness installation is a large-scale artistic disruption of public space and consists of an interconnected network of towering asymmetrical photographic sculptures wrapped with massive portraits of eyewitness survivors of the Genocide. The sculptures have no right angles and their irregular angular shapes speak to an unbalanced world, continually at risk of war, ethnic cleansing and genocide.  They range in height from eight to twelve feet.

Conceived and constructed by artists Ara Oshagan and Levon Parian and architect Vahagn Thomasian, iwitness will be the first ever large-scale public art installation in Glendale. Design concept is by Narineh Mirzaeian.

“This remarkable installation, coupled with the ReflectSpace exhibition, honors the 1.5 million victims of the Armenian Genocide and tells the personal stories of survivors--first-hand eyewitnesses to one of the worst atrocities of the 20th century,” said Cindy Cleary, Director of Glendale’s Arts and Culture.

“iwitness is a temporary monument to the men and women who rebuilt their disrupted lives and communities in the aftermath of genocide,” said artist Levon Parian. “The proximity and clustering of the sculptures alludes to, and reflects the new communities they created after being dispersed across the globe.”

Landscape of Memory: Witnesses and Remnants of Genocide is an immersion in an internal conversation taking shape at the very onset of the Genocide and stretching over four generations. The diplomat/documentarian, eyewitness survivors and contemporary artists are all intricately linked in a network of imagery, image-making and testimony. Landscape of Memory is curated by Ara and Anahid Oshagan.

  • iwitness public art installation at Glendale Central Park will run from April 27 through June 14.

iwitness (in)humanity @ ReflectSpace | iwitness @ Central Park
Curated by Ara and Anahid Oshagan