This is a five minute excerpt of Kisaeng becomes you (2009), a multimedia performance collaboration conceived by Dean Moss with Korean modern and traditional dance choreographer Yoon Jin Kim. The work is based on 500 year old love poems from kisaeng: artist/courtesans of Korea’s Joseon Dynasty. It imagines a collective of women processing contemporary parallels to traditional kisaeng through the the production of videos, the enactment of rituals, dance, song, training and hosting activities.
The sample begins at the end of a rehearsal and beginning of the performance of an audience member embodying the role of a kisaeng. She dances following her Korean doppleganger who plays blind-man's-bluff, and then as if in memory performs the below poem written by the kisaeng, Songi. At the end, she is paid for her service.
Everything you do, everything
you don't do, deceives.
When I love I make you
But the words you spoke
keep themselves within me.
Vietnamese artist and scholar Maura Nguyen Donohue comments in WNYC Culture, Performance Club Blog: “kisaeng - made me weep. The entry point for the audience into the work through the vessels of the audience participant members was so wrought with “real” energy and vulnerability - both for the work (will this work?) and for the participants (will they survive this? are they okay?) - that I was buzzing in my chair. They made the experience of the “Other” so alive for me. This could be the experience of the courtesan, the contemporary artist, the traveller, the immigrant. “I’m new here” - “What are the rules” The care and detail taken with those moments was so effective ... that [it] allowed the audience member to experience a work from the inside…”.