Inteview with the Winner of the Korea Artists Prize 2018: Siren Eun Young Jung

On the occasion of the Korean Artist Prize award ceremony co-organised by the SBS Foundation and the National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, Korea (MMCA, Korea), we interviewed the winner of the 2018 edition, artist Siren Eun Young Jung who will be also one of the protagonists of the Korean Pavilion at the 58th Venice Art Biennale. Siren Eun Young Jung (Incheon, 1974) is known for her art projects that are based on her own studies, researches, and analyses of traditional Korean female theatre called “yeoseong gukgeuk”, a genre of performing art that was popular in the 1950s but has been forgotten without ever being established as either a traditional or modern form of Korean theatre.
by Claudia Malfitano
September 20, 2018
Claudia Malfitano
Siren Eun Young Jung

Tell us a bit about the work you have done for the Korean Artist Prize.

There is form of theatre, unique to Korea known as “yeoseong gukgeuk” only played by women and it was usually played in the 1950’s during the modernisation of Korea. After that in Korea we had Park Chung-hee’s government, a very strong patriarchal military government so they really wanted to set up their own traditions, using modern tradition as a strategy so they excluded the female theatre because it was not very universal to them preferring instead male oriented art forms. “Yeoseong gukgeuk” theatre disappeared, so now nobody knows what it is.
But really by focusing on this kind of gender normativity I criticize how it has structured our society and how tradition and contemporary art structured our society in terms of political regime so my research for the past 10 years has focused on female theatre so my participation for the prize is the presentation of these past 10 years of research and work.

So you are trying to bring back this form of theatre that was forgotten, deleted and ignored by a certain kind of male regime? Do you want to bring it back because it’s part of Korean history and how do you think it speaks to contemporaneity?

In terms of tradition in our historical process, official history is always written by men so I really want to rewrite female history through this kind of female theatre. It’s a kind of an unofficial historical document.

What future projects are you working on?

Now I am preparing for the Shanghai Biennale, Serendipity Arts Festival, and Korean Pavilion at the Venice Biennale next year, and very small solo shows and my theme will be still on that kind of performance as the feminist-queer issue is very important to me.

Can you tell us something about the Korean Pavilion at the 2019 Venice Art Biennale?

The curator Hyunjin Kim has invited three female artists to deal with very diverse feminist issues, moments and narratives. I am going to take part as one of artists and two other artists are Hwayeon Nam – who has a footage based-video on Korean choreographer during 20century colonial history – and Jane Jin Kaisen, Danish Korean artist who investigates women diasporic narratives.

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