A bittersweet portrait of the life of a young Korean with three rice cookers of the popular brand Cuckoo which talk, argue and sing songs. Atypical and disconcerting.
Another friend of Jaha Koo has just committed suicide. The voice of his rice cooker announces that his meal is ready. He feels oddly comforted—he is not alone. Cuckoo is the name of a popular brand of household appliances. Onstage three rice cookers talk, argue and sing songs. This atypical stage presentation crystallizes the solitude generated by technological progress as it portrays a panorama of the economic and social debacle of South Korea.
Twenty years ago, a huge financial crisis shook the country. Bankruptcies, massive debt loads, an entire generation unable to find work, no future and no hope. Surrounded by Cuckoo appliances, symbols of the industrial success of his native land, and by powerful archival images, the artist paints a bittersweet portrait of the life of a young Korean. An unsparing analysis of a society that has embraced capitalism and now suffers the consequences of out-of-control growth. After the rush, disillusioned days to come.
Produced by Kunstenwerkplaats Pianofabriek
Executive Producer CAMPO
Concept, direction, text, music and video Jaha Koo
Performed by Hana + Duri + Seri + Jaha Koo
Cuckoo Hacking Idella Craddock
Set Design and Media Operation Eunkyung Jeong
Dramaturgical Advisor Dries Douibi
Coproduction Bâtard Festival (Brussels)
With the support of CAMPO (Ghent) + STUK (Leuven) + BUDA (Kortrijk) + DAS (Amsterdam) + Seoul Foundation for Arts and Culture + Noorderzon – Grand Theatre Groningen + Vlaamse Gemeenschapscommissie (Brussels)
Presented in association with Place des Arts + Centre Phi
Written by Diane Jean
Translated by Neil Kroetsch
Premiered at Steirischer Herbst, Graz, on October 5, 2017
Jaha Koo (Seoul + Amsterdam)
Born (1984) and raised in South Korea, the performance artist Jaha Koo attended university there before moving to Holland, where he obtained a Master’s degree in theatre studies in Amsterdam.
His shows are intimate and personal in nature, touching on his views of the society he grew up in, as well as international politics and urgent economic issues. He repurposes household objects, makes use of video imagery, composes his own soundtracks and sees himself not as an auteur or director, but as a theatre maker.
In 2014 he conceived the Hamartia Trilogy, based on the idea that events of the inescapable past affect our lives today. The first part of the trilogy, Lolling and Rolling, premiered in 2015 at the Zürcher Theater Spektakel in Zurich. An indictment of the Americanization of South Korea, it describes the difficulties Koreans have learning English. The second part, Cuckoo, made its début at the Steirischer Herbst festival in Austria in 2017, and went on to tour Europe and Seoul. The last part, provisionally titled The History of Korean Western Theater, will be presented in spring 2020 at the CAMPO art centre in Ghent. Also a musician and composer, he produced an EP, Copper and Oyster, under the pseudonym GuJAHA in 2015. He lives in Amsterdam and Brussels.