Geumhyung Jeong is a South Korean choreographer and performance artist known for her manipulation of mechanistic objects and her edgy, sensual staging. Through engaging puppets, mannequins, machines and sex toys in conversations with her own body, Jeong explores the perceptions of the female body in a gendered economy.
Jeong's performances typically begin with the artist working objects in an innocent exercise that unfolds into a repeated, obsessive and erotic motion. In CPR Practice (2013), she used a dummy and for Fitness Guide (2011), exercise machines. 7ways—an ongoing performance since 2009 that was staged at Tate Modern in 2017—shows Jeong playing a male puppet that assaults her. Later, a vacuum cleaner replaces the doll and its job. As the controller of the props in her works, Jeong reverses the tendency to objectify women in art—she is the master of male desire. By concurrently assuming the role of the female, however, she also marks the female body as a victim.
The appointment between Jeong and her props is an intensely private affair. She is the sole performer on stage, where she traverses various machines. Jeong refers to her objects in the third person and her performances as 'duets', emphasising the exclusive nature of the acts they practice. Jeong's shows, then, do not merely animate mechanistic objects but also allow them to participate in intimate human experiences. At the same time, her rendezvous with machines recall fanciful musings about the future of artificial intelligence and its underlying threat of robots taking over humanity. Jeong's total dominance of her collection, however, hints at our superiority—at least for now, in her story.
While chiefly known as a performance artist, Jeong also exhibits her collection of performance objects in gallery spaces. In Private Collection (2016) at Atelier Hermès, Seoul, she arranged her objects—mannequins, anatomy models, remote controls, dildos and construction equipment—on rows of white plinths. Jeong recalls that she initially started with the idea of showcasing her 'unperformed' objects, which she considers 'the hidden protagonists of [her] exhibitions.' As the artist decided to focus more on the order and arrangement of her collection to create a narrative, however, she decided to display both her performed and unperformed props without distinction. In 2017 Jeong exhibited a second iteration of Private Collection at Delfina Foundation, London, this time subtitled Unperformed Objects. Alongside the unperformed objects, monitors in the gallery showed performances in which Jeong had used props absent from the site. The differentiation between performed and unperformed objects revealed the artist's decision-making process, from the similar objects she purchased to the actual objects that appeared on stage, and hinted at her future projects.
Jeong studied acting at Hoseo University, Asan; dance and performance at Korea National University of Arts, Seoul; and animation film at the Korean Academy of Film Arts, Seoul. Since her debut in 2004, she has participated in numerous group exhibitions including the New Museum Triennial (2015); Gwangju Biennale (2014); Code Act at Coreana Museum of Art, Seoul (2014–15); and HOME/WORK at Audio Visual Pavilion, Seoul (2014). In 2015 Jeong received the Hermès Foundation Missulsang Award.
To coincide with Art Basel 2019, which opens to the public from 13 to 16 June, galleries and institutions across the city are presenting a range of stellar exhibitions. From Rebecca Horn at Museum Tinguely to Geumhyung Jeong at Kunsthalle Basel, here is a selection of what to see.William Kentridge, Dead Remus (2014–2016). Charcoal on found ledger...
In its transitive sense, the verb 'to perform' requires for its object an act, a task, something prewritten.