Geumhyung Jeong's "Homemade RC Toy,” comprising an exhibition and live performances, is captivating and strange, questioning the boundaries between the animate and inanimate, controller and controlled, flesh and machine. The deliriously inventive filmmaking duo Adam Csoka Keller and Evelyn Bencicova pay tribute to these questions, using both human and machine-driven devices to capture the project in the exhibition trailer you can see here.
The South Korean artist and choreographer Geumhyung Jeong has from the very beginning explored the depths of the human-versus-other divide. Trained in dance, theater, and filmmaking, she began her career by making performances. Whereas until now Jeong’s surrogate bodies were docile and lifeless, in her Kunsthalle Basel exhibition Homemade RC Toy she focuses on the body’s active enmeshment with technologies, and on questions of control.
Her new installation centers on five human-scale, remote-control sculptures that she cobbled together from metal brackets, batteries, wires, dental study props, and disassembled mannequins. Surrounding them are stepped plinths whose bright colors echo the robot sculptures’ wiring. The plinths display fetishistic agglomerations of spare parts: wheels, cables, gutted medical practice torsos, home repair parts. In their default state, the sculptures are frozen, comatose, even if all that wiring and machinery certainly suggests movement. The installation is the setting for a series of live interactions between the artist and her uncanny others.
In the performances, the artist’s body melds with that of her creations as she crawls at their level, lying at the start partly atop an eviscerated medical torso outfitted with crudely taped joystick controllers. She caresses it with such excruciating slow and sensual allure, it feels almost too intimate a scene to watch. Fondling the attached controllers, she occasionally uses enough force to elicit movement from a nearby robot, accompanied by a hum and glowing battery-powered lights. The artist’s choreographed interactions, like her exhibition as a whole, question the boundaries between animate and inanimate, controller and controlled, flesh and machine.