The colonial print “Een Schaman ofte Duyvel-Priester in’t Tungoesen lant” (A shaman or Devil Priest from the land of the Tungus tribes, 1692) by Dutchman Nicolaes Witsen acts as a pivotal point for a spiritual journey through time. This print is the first Western depiction of a shaman. It marks the beginning of a long history of racialised and infantilising descriptions of Asian people by white Europeans and the violent eradiation of shamanistic cultures by missionaries.
The exhibition time-travels from contemporary Dutch society and the participation of 3,418 Dutch soldiers in the deadly Korean War (1950–1953) to early Dutch colonial descriptions of Asian people. In the Netherlands alone around 40,000 people have been adopted from the Global South, often through child trafficking and with falsified documents.
”Four Months, Four Million Light Years” is an homage to those who have been cut off from their mothers, fathers, family, ancestors, land, culture, and spirits.
The “four months” of the title refer to a law that required a minimum stay of four months in a Korean orphanage in order to become adoptable by law for the lucrative transracial adoption industry. This industry started to flourish after the Korean War and continues to live off the same colonial imagery from 300 years ago.
Textile, paper text banners, and drawings surround a video projection. Shamanic poems, songs and visions invoke the ancestors for support. The work is an homage to those who have been cut off from their mothers, fathers, family, ancestors, land, culture, and spirits.
Sweden has one of the highest rates of transnational adoptions in the world, especially from Korea. Following the decision of the Dutch government to end transnational adoptions on February 8, 2021, the Swedish government announced it would investigate malpractice in adoption between the 1960s and 1990s.
Sara Sejin Chang (Sara van der Heide)
Since the late 1990s, Korean-Dutch artist Sara Sejin Chang (Sara van der Heide) has created a rich body of work that traverses an array of formats and mediums, including film, text, immersive film- and sound installations, performances, and painting. She combines spiritual evocations, historical research and the unraveling of colonial narratives creating works that act as historical repair, healing and belonging.
Chang questions Eurocentric systems of categorization, racialization and its penetration in all levels of life and contemporary Western society. Her work can be seen as poetic and intimate gestures that centralise a meta-cosmic and inclusive approach to modernity, transforming the meaning of value and time, transcending the biographical and personal.
Sara Sejin Chang’s recent solo exhibitions include “Four Months, Four Million Light Years” ARGOS centre for audiovisual arts, Brussels, (2021) and The Mother Mountain Institute (CASCO Art Institute, Utrecht, 2021). She has participated in the Busan Biennale, Busan (2022), 11th Berlin Biennale (2020), the 5th Dhaka Art Summit (2020), Sharjah Biennal 13, Beirut; and Contour Biennale, Mechelen (2019).
Artist, director, watercolours, camera, editing, text, drumming, voice over, sound: Sara Sejin Chang (Sara van der Heide)
Composing songs, singing: Yan Vandenbroucke
Korean percussion: Leslie Maes
Korean chanting: Jungrak Choi
Sound: Céline Gillain
Costumes: Lila John
Color grading: Paul Millot
Clinical psychologist: Miranda Ntirandekura Aerts
Special thanks to the Darghad shamans: Aminaa, Kyugagaa, Eden-Ochi, Umbaan, Saintsetseg and Korean mudang Jen Bosalnim.
Supported by: The Mondriaan Fund, GRIMONSTER residence, Korean Cultural Center of Brussels, Embassy of the Netherlands.
Coproduction: Kunstenfestivaldesarts, 11th Berlin Biennale.
“Four Months, Four Million Light Years” has been acquired by the Moderna Museet for the museum’s permanent collection.
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