GLENDALE, CA - 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 at the Downtown Central Library, 222 East Harvard Street, Glendale CA 91205.
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.
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.
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.