Child of Magohalmi and the Echoes of Creation at the De La Warr Pavilion

Multimedia artist Zadie Xa explores Korean myths and notions of cultural heritage in her awe-inspiring show: Child of Magohalmi and the Echoes of Creation. The exhibition is sparsely conveyed and purposefully lit, to create a rich sense of immersion throughout. Xa’s quietly meditative body of work pays homage to the Korean goddess Grandmother Mago, an all-powerful creator of land and water in Korean folklore.

The evocation of Grandmother Mago is intertwined with that of Granny, an orca whale that lived in The North Pacific Ocean, thought to be 106 years old when she passed away in 2016.

Xa explores the shared commonality of these two omnipotent figures and their status as matriarchs within the social constructs of the natural world. The artist imagines that Granny the orca’s use of echolocation is actually a reverberation of the cosmic music that gave birth to Grandmother Mago.

Dramatic soundscapes, the moving image and flowing performance costumes channel this fantastical narrative in a way which is both haunting and compelling. Xa’s work gives a voice to the disparate and the marginalised, as both Grandmother Mago and Granny the orca are threatened by the cruel inevitability of human evolution.

Visitors to the exhibition are able to wander freely amongst various deconstructed costume pieces, emblazoned with shamanic motifs from Korean folklore. Futuristic masks hang alongside the latter, creating a genuine sense of physical interaction, between the artist and the observer.

The focal point of the show is a short film, shown on loop in a down-lit room, littered with glowing, sculptural seashells. An oversized orca is positioned in front of the screen, allowing viewers to recline within the oceanic setting. The film, also titled Child of Magohalmi and the Echoes of Creation, seeks to encapsulate key themes of matriarchy and intergenerational notions of identity.

The concluding section of the show features purposefully-placed orcas, rising up from the gallery floor, mere feet away from the seafront outside. A large oil painting, Child of Magohalmi – one of many paintings throughout the exhibition – includes seashells collected from beaches in Vancouver, close to where Xa grew up, and where Granny the orca resided, sewn into the textile frame. This surmises the multifarious tone of this visionary show, one which invites us to contemplate the dual fragility of ancestral traditions and the biosphere we inhabit.

Zadie Xa: Child of Magohalmi and The Echoes of Creation is running from the 1st February-4th May 2020.

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