Born in Seoul, South Korea and raised in a racially segregated, working class suburb of Detroit, Michigan, kate-hers RHEE’s interdisciplinary work reflects the complex nature of miscast identity, cultural dislocation, and gendered interactions. She uses language, food, and beauty practice as art mediums to explore transnational identity and the construction of self. She received her BFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and her MFA from the University of California – Irvine, where she was a Graduate Studies Diversity and Jacob K. Javits fellow. Artist and Art Center Pasadena professor Tom Knechtel says of RHEE’s interdisciplinary practice, “Whether she is trying to re-insert herself back into her birth society of Korea or jamming the culinary tropes of German society with Korean cooking, revealing the underlying racism behind a much-beloved German treat, or mining the double entendres in an image of two pug dogs, she directly addresses the complexity of social and racial identities in ways that are funny and scathing, all at once.”
In 2002, her first radical social intervention, Sex Education for Finding Face in the 21st Century, would become emblematic of her creative practice. Motivated to expose the lack of access to sex education in South Korea, resulting in teen pregnancy and shame, RHEE investigated the notion of “losing face” by publicly exposing herself as a pregnant high school student. In an effort to push the boundaries of physical exertion, she persisted in a maniacal laugh for one hour on a crowded Seoul street. Disrupted by the Seoul police who deem she was crazy, dragged her away while curious spectators looked on.
Her interactive food art events, such as My Country ‘Tis of Thee, Dr. Rhee’s Kimtschi Shop and Minimally Korean investigate bureaucracy and entitlement, using social behaviour experiments to test the nature of human participants. Her interactive work has been influenced by her mixed bag of experiences learning traditional Korean dance as a Fulbright scholar, learning the German language as a DAAD fellow, training in early childhood art education, teaching English as a second language in Seoul, and working in diverse fields such as museum education, hotel service, editing, gastronomy, bookkeeping, retail, and arts consulting, administration and curating.
RHEE’s work has been shown nationally and internationally with recent exhibitions and interactive projects at the SOMA Art Berlin (2017), Seoul Art Space – SEOGYO (2016), British Museum – London (2016), Asian Art Museum – Berlin (2016-2017), Neuer Berlin Kunstverein (2016) Group Intervention Video – Montreal (2015), Künstlerhaus Dortmund (2015), Humboldt Lab Dahlem Museum – Berlin (2015), Korean Cultural Service – New York (2015), and the Berlinische Galerie – Museum for Modern Art (2014).
She has been honored with several artist residency fellowships, including the MacDowell Colony and Millay Colony for the Arts. Her work has been recognised by the AHL Foundation NY with 1st Prize of the Visual Arts Competition (2014) and has been funded by the Puffin Foundation (2015) and the Berlin Senate with a Travel Grant (2016) and the Visual Artist Fellowship (2015). RHEE’s interdisciplinary work is written about by scholars in art history, anthropology, feminist studies, ethnic studies, Asian-American studies, visual culture, and performance and film studies. She was featured in the essay by scholar Mei Heberer in “Back to Myself: Negotiating German Belonging and Transnational Asianness in Experimental Video,” in The Autobiographical Turn in German Documentary and Experimental Film, edited by Robin Curtis and Angelica Fenner (2014). A forthcoming essay written by scholar Lily Kelting about RHEE’s food performances will be published in Performance Research (February 2017). Her current project will be featured in a chapter of an upcoming publication, The (Geo) Politics of Beauty: Race, Transnationalism, and Neoliberalism in South Korean Beauty Culture, by scholar Sharon Heijin Lee (2017). She works in Germany, the United States and South Korea and established her studio in Berlin in 2009.
idschi Saft für eine Gute Reise nach Hause (Fiji Juice for a Nice Trip Back Home), 2017, 5 Fiji Water Bottles and the Artist’s Urine, 24,5 x 7 x 7 cm, photo credit: Aleks Slota
Minimally Korean, Participatory Food Performance, Humboldt Lab Dahlem Museum, 2015
Photo Credit: Aleks Slota
Who’s Afraid of Garlic, Ginger, Chili Pepper?, Kimtschi Color Field Painting, RHEE food lab Kimtschi and Glass Ant Farm, 60 x 6 x 3 cm, 2014