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A selection of Korea’s most exciting contemporary artists have been selected for this year’s Korean Artists Today, a long-term project which will see a cohort of artists chosen each year for their potential to make it on the global stage. See the full list here.

The work of siren eun young jung traverses visual art, film, performance and theatre. She was introduced to women’s studies while studying painting at Seoul’s Ewha Womans University and its graduate school from 1993 to 2000. “The feminist movement developed on campus during my time there,” she says. “And I learned to listen to the voices of marginalised others excluded from history, politics and art through feminist movements in solidarity with environmental, peace and queer movements.” The artist then pursued graduate studies at the University of Leeds in the UK, majoring in feminist theory and practice in the visual arts under the tutelage of the art historian Griselda Pollock.

One of jung’s key ongoing projects explores yeoseong gukgeuk—a form of traditional Korean theatre in which all the roles are played by women. It was popular until the 1950s and 60s but has since diminished as a performance genre.

Drawing from research, interviews and investigations into yeoseong gukgeuk, jung has explored two principal themes. One revolves around gender issues, where the artist attempts to “fissure fixed gender roles and binary gender discourse” and address the politics of gender that permeate both the onstage and offstage life of yeoseong gukgeuk. The other strand concerns archives. Questioning what can be recorded as history and what recognised as tradition, she traces the causes of yeoseong gukgeuk’s decline, filling in the gaps of what has not been recorded or preserved and reconfiguring the role of the archive. For her work recontextualising this forgotten art form into contemporary art, jung was selected as the winner of the 2018 MMCA Korea Artist Prize.

jung’s performance piece (Off)Stage/Masterclass (2013)

Yeoseong gukgeuk also featured in jung’s presentation for the Korean Pavilion at the 2019 Venice Biennale. A multi-channel audiovisual installation, A Performing by Flash, Afterimage, Velocity, and Noise (2019), featured transgender musicians, lesbian actors, disabled directors and drag king performers. Here, the artist dismantled and reassembled yeoseong gukgeuk to envision its continuation within the lineage of queer performance.

“What I see in art is not only its aesthetic capacity but also its ability to restore what has been intentionally and politically excluded,” jung says. “I believe in art that is able to visualise those erased by society and to effectively practise ways to reclaim them in its processes and forms.”

• siren eun young jung was the recipient of the 2013 Hermès Foundation Missulsang prize. She participated in the 2015 Asia Pacific Triennial of Contemporary Art, the 2016 Gwangju Biennale, the 2016 Taipei Biennial, the 2018 Shanghai Biennale, the 2018 Serendipity Arts Festival and the Korean Pavilion at the 2019 Venice Biennale

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