Artist explores female sensuality through performance

Su Jin Jang, Aug. 29, 2016, 9:46 a.m.

Jeong, winner of 16th Hermes Foundation Missulsang, reveals her collection of sexual and medical objects used in her voyeurism-provoking performances

Jeong Geum-hyung conducts cardiopulmonary resuscitation on a male medical mannequin as if he were in an urgent life-or-death situation. Her body moves in the fast, yet steady, rhythm required for a successful CPR. The scene, however, invokes a rather erotic image to the audience who are watching the artist perform naked.

“I don’t intend to cause voyeurism here, but it’s just how things turn out in my performance and that puts the audience in a voyeuristic situation,” said Jeong, winner of the 16th Hermes Foundation Missulsang art award, during the press preview of her solo exhibition for the award at Atelier Hermes in Seoul. 

The award recognizes emerging contemporary Korean artists, offering them a chance to hold a solo exhibition at Atelier Hermes exhibition space in Seoul and take part in the Hermes Foundation-run Paris residency program. 

Jeong, with a background in theater and contemporary dance, is known for performances that connect various objects with her body. Her performances involve all kinds of medical equipment, mannequins, sex toys and objects, which are presented as a “private collection” in the exhibition. 

She categorized the objects based on their usage and characteristics. Different plastic body parts are displayed in different sections that include torsos of medical dummies, legs and lower body parts, face masks and an artificial penis. Other shelves display a variety of equipment, ranging from exercise machines and vacuum cleaners to the state-of-the art drone. 

“The objects determine how the performance would turn out,” said Jeong. 

Selecting which object to buy and use is the first and the most important step for Jeong in preparing her performances. She visits medical equipment stores and sex toy shops or orders them online. If what she ordered doesn’t serve her intended purposes, it is left unused, or used again to bring unexpected outcomes in her performances.

In “Fitness Guide” performances, she introduces various types of exercise equipment to the audience and demonstrates her own way of using them. In a performance last year at the alternative art center Common Center in Seoul, Jeong presented a human form punching bag she bought online and demonstrated her own ways of interacting with it, which many audience members saw as an act of masturbation. 

For her series of performances since 2007, she had to master various physical rehabilitation training methods for those with disabilities to apply them on her medical dummies. Her 160-minute performance “Rehab Training” features various rehab methods Jeong employs on a medical dummy, which eventually makes the dummy rise up and complete several hand and body gestures successfully.

Jeong has been labeled as a feminist artist in Korean art circles as she openly expresses women’s sexual desires through the unusual performances.

“I like when people call me a feminist artist. I try to be a feminist in my performances,” she said. “My works are not a fight against the male-dominated society we live in. I solely focus on the objects themselves and think of ways to express my thought through them,” she added. 

The exhibition runs until Oct. 23 at Atelier Hermes in Dosan-daero, Gangnam-gu, Seoul. For more information, call (02) 3015-3248.

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