Jihyun Jung

Gomyomsom _ Jee Young Maeng

Defying Signification


Jee Young Maeng (Curator, DOOSAN Gallery)


The exhibition space in which “works of art” are presented doesn’t usually hold traces of the past. Or, more precisely put, it’s a contradictory space in which countless pasts exist then vanish without a trace, space where nothing is compiled but everything is recorded. In his exhibition Gomyomsom, Jihyun Jung didn’t completely obliterate the past of the space; rather, he used the past until now in order to construct the “present”. The present in Jung’s work demonstrated itself as a vessel of the past, just as the presence of an individual cannot be possible without its past. His ‘sculptures’, combining discarded or found objects, and difficult to be named, perpetually defeat the viewer’s efforts to put words together and articulate them. While Gomyomsom seems like something unfamiliar which doesn’t exist anywhere, it actually unfolds before us an inescapable reality. The structures from tearing down temporary walls from the previous exhibition, the iron pipes of different lengths measuring over 3 meters put together as if it were a construction site, and other previous works, all send tertiary signals to the viewer.


Jung’s work, from 2009 to 2016, traces the artist’s journey to find an equilibrium between his internal world and external world, and to send signals to many, unspecified people including himself. Having gone through an absurd official investigation as a witness in a criminal investigation in the army, Jung’s oeuvre began with the drawing series False Report in 2008. The accident was reduced to a mere official document due to lack of evidence, and Jung experienced an irrational situation and realities of silence in such an investigation with a one-dimensional approach which left many truths concealed. Inspired by questions and doubts on reality starting with False Report, and experiencing truths that aren’t easily tangible in reality and fragments of situations that seem to arise without a context, Jung’s attitude to his work as an artist started to form in the exhibition Words Left Unsaid, shown from 2009 to 2010. In this exhibition, installation works reflected news articles about the chance seizing of a whale or about the human aspirations and thoughtless challenge and faith in universe, and horse races where people’s aspirations are discarded instantly on the ground like useless pieces of paper the moment the race is finished. Jung staged restricted viewing conditions in which the viewer can chose to look closely into the work or look past it. In addition, stories that fascinated the artist, never told before, were disorderly scattered throughout the disparate combination and motion of objects with discarded use, bony structures and cables in the ceiling, limited light and its confined shadows, and drawings. While the viewer is kept at a distance with Jung’s fragmented and segmented scenes in Words Left Unsaid, the viewer is pulled right into the work in the 2011 exhibition Away from Here. The ping pong balls, thrown from one side, go through the large ping pong table with holes punched throughout, or sometimes drop on the floor. Actually, most balls end up bouncing back or on the floor, unable to pass through the holes. On the other side of the wall with the holes lies an eccentric combination of objects the artist collected from Seokwan-dong in the artist’s neighborhood, and it seems as though the viewer is a part of the scene which he has made. In Gomyomsom, the past and the present converge, and the viewer is once again called into the landscape the artist has constructed. In his third solo exhibition Bird Eat Bird (2013), held after Away from Here and before Gomyomsom, the unfamiliar scenes with objects which cannot easily be described verbally seem to tell their own individual stories but are actually all organically connected. A machine, which supposedly makes rainbows who knows when, sprays water in the air once every 5 minutes, intensifying the viewer’s anticipation to see a rainbow. Also, the motion of long thin wires transform into light and sound, and send signals to anonymous receivers. Based on a story about a pigeon eating a piece of chicken meat on the streets, Jung’s use of the title of the exhibition ‘Bird eat bird’ seems to demonstrate a cross section of the world in which we live today. Unlike the exquisite images he has produced in the past, the artist approaches his work in Gomyomsom in a light and implicative way like his title in this exhibition, and nonchalantly presents his works as if he is not largely concerned about how his work is received by the viewer. Then in the work Using the Ear in Order to Hear, presented in the DOOSAN Humanities exhibition, How to Hold Your Breath in 2014, Jung created an environment in which the receiver, or the viewer can concentrate on the signals sent by the artist. As illustrated by the title of the work, this work lies in the same context with Jung’s past work, in the sense that it demonstrates an element of disparity and discordance between something and the articulation of it. Jung’s oeuvre portrays the artist’s attitude, as his works take subjects easily found in his surrounding to continuously remind himself about the trivial significance or things that are important but go unnoticed in life. Jung’s subject matter changes slightly depending on the environment in which the artist is placed, but Jung continues to send out signals, perhaps in the hopes that they reach someone with the same frequency.


Jung’s work, from the beginning until Gomyomsom, ceaselessly challenges the viewer’s senses. Reminding one that they have been exhausted of references to recall, he asks us to question what our senses are, and if ‘pure’ sensation in receiving a subject actually exists. It’s never easy to defy the drive to instinctively recall something from one’s experiences that are visually analogous to what one sees. So what signals is Jung emitting? Perhaps the signal might not be recognizable at first.



The Japanese novelist Kenji Maruyama talked about the image in a book called Writer’s Determination (Shosetsuka no Kakugo). “[…] When one continuously contemplates on a certain image from the past, one realizes that the essence can be penetrated in a delicate form. […]” Although Jung’s image isn’t singular, perhaps his attitude to the image he creates nears the essence.