South Korean theatre maker, videographer and composer Jaha Koo will be presenting his completed Hamartia Trilogy for the first time in 2021. In Greek, hamartia means "tragic flaw or shortcoming", a concept that Koo has interwoven into completely different guises throughout his three performances Lolling and Rolling, Cuckoo and The History of Korean Western Theatre.
In the trilogy, the far-reaching imperialism of the past and present, and its sometimes unexpected personal impact, are the common thread. In his intelligent and haunting documentary theatre performances, Jaha Koo intertwines personal stories with historical, political and sociological facts. Often themes that entail a clash of Eastern and Western culture: from the cutting of tongue belts to make it in the West, to the heavy personal toll of Western interference in the macroeconomic field.
The performances from the triptych can also be enjoyed individually.
In Lolling & Rolling (2015) for instance, Jaha Koo immersed himself in the phenomenon of tongue-tie surgery, an operation performed in South Korea to pronounce the English tip of the tongue-r. The performance thus touched upon linguistic imperialism in his native country. In 2021, Koo is revising this performance, because he no longer wants to focus solely on the linguistic aspect, which is just the tip of the iceberg. In the re-worked live performance, Jaha Koo now also highlights the more extensive process that goes with it, which tries to silence the "subaltern", the minorities. Because the denial or devaluation of a language also instigates the loss of an identity, of a minority, of a population group. In this way the subaltern are colonized not only linguistically, but also culturally.
Cuckoo (2017), the second part of the Hamartia Trilogy, examines a society under pressure as a result of far-reaching economic imperialism. In this performance, Jaha shares the scene for the first time with three non-human performers: rice cookers. The hacked, talking rice cookers – branded Cuckoo – are Koo's conversation partners in painfully funny dialogues about the lonely life that Korean youths have to contend with. Because how do you grow up in a performance-oriented and high-tech society where social isolation, youth unemployment and suicide are rampant?
The third part of the trilogy, The History of Korean Western Theatre (2020), examines the impact of theatrical imperialism, and deals with the impaired autonomous modernization because of the Western canon. Where Lolling & Rolling and Cuckoo respectively focused on the past and present of South Korea, in this final piece Jaha Koo looks resolutely to the future. Meticulously, he exposes the tragic impact of the past on our lives, unveiling the small cracks in modern Confucianism – an ideology that continues to define the moral system, way of life and social relations between generations in South Korea. With a new generation of South Koreans in mind, he attempts to break with a tradition full of self-censorship and keeping up appearances. Because only when based on an authentic version of history, he can pass on a future to the next generation.