Monstrous Beauty: Unruly Bodies and Diasporic Plasticity in kate-hers rhee’s The Multiverse Portraits

In: Asian Diasporic Visual Cultures and the Americas
Claire Chun PhD Candidate, Department of Ethnic Studies, University of California, Berkeley, Berkeley, CA, USA

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This paper offers a close reading of interdisciplinary visual artist kate-hers rhee’s The Multiverse Portraits (2015–2016), a multimedia installation that incorporates photography and drawing in its speculative representation of rhee’s body across imagined parallel universes. I analyze the ways in which rhee appropriates ethnographic tropes and methods as an embodied mode of diasporic critique. By tracing the spectre and spectacle of artificiality and monstrosity that haunt the plastic Korean woman and the “inauthentic,” transracially adopted Korean in The Multiverse Portraits, this paper considers the possibility for diasporic visual art to restage notions of beauty and belonging in terms of illegibility, unruliness, and refusal. This paper animates an alternative genealogy of beauty that demonstrates how the enduring afterlives of the Cold War and US militarism produce monstrous bodies and histories that ultimately transgress the very promise and fantasy of assimilatory inclusion and transnational kinship.

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