Xa brings together imagined and learned Korean folklore, transforming diasporic knowledge into new realities. Within her immersive world, she presents an origin story inspired by Korean creation myths, centred on the giant goddess Grandmother Mago (Magohalmi). Exploring the passing down of ancestral knowledge through the matrilineal social structures that are based on the separation of responsibilities between male and female deities in the creation of the universe, the work confronts the goddesses’ shift in cultural status over time, from central to marginal.
Throughout her practice, Xa uses water and marine ecologies as metaphors for exploring the unknown, whilst also alluding to abstract notions of homeland, having grown up on the west coast of Canada. Often creating fantastical underwater realms, the exhibition features a large-scale, surround-sound video projection of the ocean, and a pod of orcas – a theme which is then revisited in a series of sculptures. The final element of the exhibition is comprised of costumes and masks made in collaboration with Benito Mayor Vallejo, and originally used during performances at Art Night 2019 and the 58th Venice Biennale.
Zadie Xa uses live performance, video, painting and textiles to question how cultures inform identities and notions of self. Her layered costume works are sites for exploring personal cultural histories that stitch together personally relevant imagery sourced from music, digital space, fashion and art history. Xa has developed a system of personalised symbols that propose entirely new images and objects, creating a personal visual language for articulating nuanced Asian identity narratives, which are frequently situated within fantastical or supernatural realms.
Zadie Xa (b. 1983, Vancouver) currently lives and works in London. She received an MA in Painting at the Royal College of Art, London, in 2014 and her BFA at Emily Carr Institute of Art and Design, Vancouver, in 2007. Recent solo exhibitions include Soju Sipping on a Sojourn to Saturn, Galería Agustina Ferreyra, Mexico (2018), HOMEBOY 3030: Return the Tiger 2 the Mountain, Union Pacific, London (2018), and The Conch, Sea Urchin and Brass Bell, Pump House Gallery, curated by Mette Kjærgaard Præst, London (2017). Selected group shows include Body Armor, curated by Jocelyn Miller, MoMA PS1, New York (2018). She has also staged performances at international galleries and festivals including Palais de Tokyo, Hayward Gallery, Serpentine Gallery, Block Universe and the Korean Cultural Centre UK.