November 17, 2015

Guest Blogger Sujin Jung Reporting from South-Korea: Three Women and Three Cups of Tea

This is the third story of Seoul art blogger Sujin Jung in her fiction non-fiction art series. It's a story about feminist art, on show in two exhibitions: East Asia Feminism: FANTasia at the Seoul Museum of Art and Dancing Mama at Coreana Art Museum. 

Chiharu Shiota, The Wall, 2010

Woman1 is drinking a cup of tea, it is a lemon tea. 
Woman1 : Using the body extremely as a way of resistance is still common in feminist art. Maybe I could give as an example art works like Regina Jose Galindo’s Tierra and Chiharu Shiota’s The Wall. These art works are kind of typical ‘feminist art’. Well… maybe it’s a cliché: using the own body in a performance that involves intensive work while giving a direct and strong message. This is what people usually think of when they hear of ‘feminist art’, isn’t it? Well, but, I don’t know why though, but when I see these kind of artworks I feel a bit uncomfortable, as if it is violent in a way. It seems like a woman ‘should’ fight with a man in a way. It could be seen as a dichotomy. Of course, I know this kind of message is still needed in our society, actually it’s needed a lot. Even though it might be true, somehow this kind of art work could cause the misconception of feminism, couldn’t it? 
Woman2 is drinking a lemonade.
Woman2 : Yeah, I got it. You mean you feel like adding some carbonated water and ice to your hot tea! Your lemon tea is hot. Well, if I could stretch a point, I could say your tea is too hot and dangerous. However, if it carbonated water and ice is added, then it is much easier to drink and it tastes fresh. 
Woman1 : Well, what the hell are you talking about? I don’t get it. 
Geumhyung Jeong, Munbangu, 2011
Woman2 : I mean, nowadays, there are some art works that still use the body, but are doing so tactfully and wittily like Eunme Ahn’s Dancing Grandma, Geumhyung Jeong’s Fitness Guide, Mungangu, and Hyunsook Hong Lee’s Ceremony of the Pulmonary System. Eunma Ahn’s art work shows grandmothers’ random dancing as an archive of their work through their life. Geumhyung Jeong presents a deconstruction of herself by showing a form of quasi sexual intercourse with ordinary objects. Hyunsook Hong Lee’s artwork passes over the fixed and limited social boundaries. All those art works are approaching the subject ingeniously and surprisingly. It could be said that they’re not creating this binary structure, but doing ‘deconstruction’. And we could laugh while talking about these artworks and then start to talk about other more serious topics starting from these artworks. I think it’s great.
Today’s feminist art is sometimes surrealistic like Inci Eviner’s Runaway Girls and sometimes vague and divisive with multiple layers like Laure Prouvost’s Wantee. These kinds of art works make us approach easier and to explore the deterritorialised area. I think this is the point, ‘the enjoyment to explore deterritorialised area’! 

Hyunsook Hong Lee, Ceremony of the Pulmonary System, 2012
Inci Eviner, Runaway Girls, 2015

Woman3 is drinking lemon ginger tea or ginger lemon tea, with carbonated water. She is the one who prepared the tea matured in honey lemon and treated all things lemon today. Woman3: Interesting, really interesting. But what I want to add to what you said is that I just want to see these art works as contemporary art. Not as a feminist art. I mean, the exhibition title doesn’t need to be ‘feminism-something’ or ‘women-something’, using ‘She’, ‘Her’, ‘Mama’. I feel that kind of labelling limits my thought a bit…  And, I think feminist art is not only for women artists in the way that feminist art is talking about deconstructing and using the body in many different contexts – it’s not only sexual or cultural gender roles. In this way, I liked it very much that I could see Ming Wong’s Hong Kong Diary. And its subject does not need to be a woman, like a performer could be a man in Janine Antoni & Stephen Petronio’s Honey Baby or a man and a woman are doing something extremely unusual but funny, so that the fixed regulation collapses, like in Melanie Bonajo’s Genital Panik. Of course, it doesn’t mean that those artworks are brilliant just because the narrator or the participant of feminist art is not a woman. Well, people tend to think feminist art might be done by women artists talking about women. I just dislike that kind of thought. 

Melanie Bonajo, Genital Panik, 2012
I also would like to mention Airan Kang’s Re-voice. It shows that one can use the body not only on a just sexual but also on a different level. It is good to talk about the enforced sex slaves through divisive video installation. Well, first of all, I like this kind of character that is casually talking about a heavy subject, so that it makes us be more serious without burdens.  And I like this artwork in that it shows some kind of potential of solidarity. 

Airan Kang, Re-Voice, 2015

Well, if there’s one thing I wish, it’s that there were more artworks using the body from a different context, not just about sexual or cultural gender roles. Starting from the experience of the own body, there is a lot of potential to relate to many other different bodies in this society. For example, like Heung-soon Im’s Factory Complex, someone’s mother’s story could be everyone’s story and it causes empathy and solidarity. And through this kind of practice, we can talk about women and the excluded in the wider range of the working environment, human rights, human relations etc. Eventually this makes us realize the potential to pursue the change from the territorialized area. 
Suddenly, women1's mobile is ringing.
Woman1 : oh, it’s him, hold on.
And Woman1 is going out urgently. 
Woman2 : oh, it is already 6 O’clock. I have to go, I have a plan with my husband.
Woman3 : Ok, then. Let’s go. I also have a plan.
But, woman3 lies. Woman3 just gets upset that she is the only one who has no phone call from or plan with someone. 
And they go their separate ways.

SeMA and Coreana Art Museum
Accidentally, two art museums feature the contemporary art exhibition of which the subject is ‘women’, ‘body’ and ‘feminist art’. It was a good opportunity to see on-going feminist art and guess the future of feminist art. 
Speaking of these two art museums, first of all, Seoul Museum of Art (SeMA) is operated by the Seoul city government. After its declaration that it no longer wants to hold blockbuster exhibitions, it has become a center of controversial issues, for instance presenting a G-dragon (idol star) exhibition, being a sort of art fair in an art museum, etc.  I think that these discussions is a good thing.

 And, Coreana Art museum is one of the main private art museums. It is owned by a corporation (Coreana Cosmetics) like other private art museums. Personally, I think Coreana Art museum’s exhibitions always makes me have expectations in a positive way.

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