In her multifarious practice as a choreographer, dancer and performer, Geumhyung Jeong has consistently engaged in the potent and corporeal relationship between the human body and objects. This dynamic explicitly comes to the fore in her current exhibition at Delfina Foundation, Private Collection: Unperformed Objects. Jeong’s exhibition stems from the artistic residency she completed earlier this year, as part of Delfina’s ‘Collecting as Practice’ 2017 programme. Devised by director Aaron Cezar, ‘Collecting as Practice’ explored the myriad, global ways in which the understanding of a collection can be expanded, as ‘a site of both active and critical engagement’.
The notion of concurrent active and critical engagement is a beneficial way to understand Jeong’s own collection. For over ten years, she has collected everyday objects to be used within her performance practice. At Delfina, these objects are all presented as currently ‘unperformed’; they are in waiting, yet to be brought to life. They are installed in a clinical, scientific manner. The walls of the space are white. The strip electric lighting is bright and harsh. The objects have been dutifully arranged on plinths according to their category, the viewer forced to engage with the works as if browsing in a shop. That said, there is something deeply archaeological about the process too, analogous to looking at pre-historic, cultural artefacts. Objects range from remotes (for televisions, video games, drones), to scientific mannequins, plastic eyeballs and models of brains, sex toys (dildos, vibrators, fleshlight masturbators), mannequin heads (some very sinister, with skulls semi-crushed in or eyes missing), disembodied fashion mannequin legs and arms, inflatable sex dolls (either blown up or still in their packaged boxes), latex balloons of all shapes and sizes, latex gloves, zimmer frames, underwear, socks, tweezers, bolts, levers, chains, tongs, kitchen bin lids, vacuum cleaners, pumps… the list continues.
Despite the stark surroundings, there is a primary sense of intimacy and domesticity. Fitting with the concept of a ‘private collection’, the vision of the collector (Jeong) shines through. It is distinctly evident that this is one individual’s collection, and that there is a singular - even fetishistic - overriding logic. The inclusion of video monitors showing footage of Jeong’s performances solidifies this narrative - depicting the use of the objects in the creation of her charged, erotic and antagonistic actions. The radical, subversive nature of her performance is brought to the fore; juxtaposed with the intermittent screening of video clips that advertise the objects’ conventional use.
An anxiety about the automation of the female body runs throughout Jeong’s choreography. This was displayed most overtly during her performance of 7ways, 2009-17, at Tate Modern, as a special edition of Tate Live for Frieze Week. 7ways is a 75-minute durational performance of 7 ‘duets’ with various objects, in which Jeong draws on the strength, stamina, and dexterity of physical theatre and puppetry. It is through these bizarre and disconcerting duets that the objects move from ‘unperformed’ to ‘performed’. Working seamlessly through her series of movements, the binaries between human and machine, male and female, passive and active, consistently shift back and forth. The collector becomes collected. Their materials converge, brought to life by one another. The body electric.