Review : CTRL TIME : SoYoun Jeong
Daniel R. Quiles
Curated by Hyewon Yi, CTRL TIME, a ten-year retrospective of Korean artist SoYoun Jeong, was held at the Amelie A. Wallace Gallery at SUNY College at Old Westbury from February 20 to March 29, 2007?the artist’s first exhibition in the United States. Highlighting the theme of the manipulation of time across new and outmoded media technologies, Yi charted the interplay in Jeong’s art between video and sculpture, private and public.
Jeong’s hybrid practice infuses formerly objectivist conceptualist strategies with personal and feminist twists. In the Collecting Specimens series (2002), unpainted, handmade porcelain and terracotta replicas of the Disney figurines played with by the artist’s son are organized into Agnes Martin-like monochromatic grids. More recently, Would You Like Some Deserts? (2007) replicates, with transparent silicon, beads, and jewels, the gold and silver trays of sweets presented by high-class prostitutes to their clients in Korea’s “room salons.” Celebrating the intricacy of these curiosities, Jeong ironizes the harsh realities of global capital through sculptural labor; the seemingly mass-produced unveils the difficulty of the handcrafted.
It is when Jeong pairs her considerable sculptural abilities with the communicative power of video that her art is most compelling. Welcome to My House (2005-06) presents a sped-up year living in her new apartment in New York City. The artist and her son fritter about in ultra-fast motion around a small space on two video channels, while a slide show offers a view of the Empire State Building that recalls Andy Warhol’s Empire, here originally captured by hundreds of still photographs (over the course of the year Jeong photographed the building every day) set in stuttered, colorful montage through the daily alternation of the building’s lights. The image is arrayed horizontally so that the building angles up when it hits a corner of the room. The slide show’s imitation of filmic montage (still images run together) and shared iconic image thus contrasts the panoptic force of video, which captures all moments and undoes privacy. In Changing Images: Copy Using Analogical Method?Breathe (2000), an array of television screens stacked in an asymmetrical mound (with several others placed individually on the ground beneath), all playing different versions of the same footage of Jeong’s dying maternal grandmother. The artist had recorded and re-recorded her originally digital footage of her grandmother on a series of VHS cassettes, continuing the process as the image degraded until there is literally nothing left to see?one television plays only static. In a kind of double death, both real and represented woman have “died”; the melancholic preservation offered by video is unveiled as illusion. The title refers both to an already obsolescent medium, the “analog” videocassette, and to the linguistic sense of the “analogue,” or equivalent, that which is similar but not identical?in this case, an entropic copy. In each transfer from tape to tape, a loss reenacts that of the already absent referent, while the overall sculptural form suggests a burial mound.
Another work, Narcissism (1999), uses sculpture to exemplify video’s unique address of the viewer. A possible reference to Rosalind Krauss’s 1976 polemic of early video art as mere “narcissism,” a video of Jeong washing her face, shot from a camera placed in the washbasin, is embedded within a horizontal base that the viewer must gaze down upon (a slowed-down gurgling emanates from within). The base’s surface is specular, reflecting back that viewer’s own image, superimposed on the video; periodically the screen goes dark, and only the viewer is visible. This is “narcissism,” then, directed not uselessly inwards but out towards an Other. Jeong aims to convert the viewer of her life’s fragmented imprints into a witness.