Performance artist explores female sensuality

By Lee Woo-young

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

  • Published : Aug 29, 2016 - 15:41
  • Updated : Aug 29, 2016 - 17:47

Jeong Geum-hyung conducts CPR on a medical mannequin as if the male dummy were in an urgent life-or-death situation. Her body moves in the fast, yet steady, rhythm required for the life-saving action. The scene, however, invokes a rather erotic image to the audience, who watch the artist perform the action nude.

“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 solo exhibitions at the 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 sorts of medical equipment, mannequins, sex toys and objects, which are presented as a “private collection” in the exhibition. 

Exhibition view of “Private Collection,” by artist Jeong Geum-hyung, winner of the 16th Hermes Foundation Missulsang (Fondation d’entreprise Hermes)

She categorized the objects based on their usage and characteristics. Plastic body parts are displayed in different sections that include the 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 a state-of-the art drone.

“The objects determine how the performance turns 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, and also places orders online. If what she ordered doesn’t serve her intended purposes, it is left unused, or used again later to bring unexpected outcomes in her performances. 

Artist Jeong Geum-hyung performs in “7 Ways.” (Fondation d’entreprise Hermes)

In her “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 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 akin to masturbation.

For her series of performances since 2007, she has 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 used on a medical dummy, eventually causing the dummy to rise up and complete several hand and body gestures successfully.

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

Artist Jeong Geum-hyung poses with her “private collection” of objects used during her performances. (Nam Ki-yong/Fondation d’entreprise Hermes)

“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 thoughts 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.

By Lee Woo-young (wylee@heraldcorp.com)