Delivered on Zoom on March 30, 2020 as a final project for European Cultural Center's 4-week online course "Performance Art: From Idea to Execution" with Marta Jovanović.

In allegiances (in the time of coronavirus), the artist mutilates the American national flag and weaves its pieces together to construct the South Korean counterpart. In the background plays a stream of audio clips, mostly sourced from American media reports on the management of COVID-19 pandemic from respective countries, analyzed in comparison. This hour-long live action is a performative commentary on the US federal government’s woeful negligence of COVID-19 outbreak as much as a critical reflection on the artist’s flooded emotional landscape of national allegiances. 

 

In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, especially in the second half of March 2020, the US media expressed weighted admiration to South Korea, making reference to the long-term ally in the Far East with surprising frequency. The country’s high-tech and interventionist approach to the outbreak led to a commendable outcome, curbing effectively the number of confirmed coronavirus patients as well as fatalities. On the other hand, the US government failed to demonstrate due federal leadership and scientific acumen. Indeed, the Trump administration’s lethal lack of proactive measures proved deadly; in early April, White House produced a grim projection of up to nearly half a million American deaths in total from this global crisis. 

In a deluge of news reports addressing the stark contrast between the strategies of the two countries, the artist finds a renewed sense of connection to South Korea, his country of birth. However, his developing identity as a first-generation immigrant as well as an asylum beneficiary in the United States corrupts any chance of the full resurrection of such allegiance. By the end of the performance, the American flag remains ruined, not quite different from the integrity of American public health, while the Korean one resembles a preparation for patchwork, a draft that eludes completion.

In the bonus clip allegiances (in the light of coronavirus), the original video plays in fast-forward while the audio is replaced with the pledge of allegiance to the Korean flag (1964-2007 version). Often criticized for its disconcerting tone of ethno-nationalism, this version of the pledge haunts the artist to this day, in fact constituting his earliest memory. It translates to the following:

 

“I strongly pledge, in front of the proud Korean flag, allegiance to my fatherland, to devote my body and soul to the eternal glory of the [Korean] race.” 

© 2020 by KAHN J. RYU