Beyond Lee Bul’s Body: The Paradoxical Place of Female Body Images in Korean Feminist Arts
At 2014 Gwangju Biennale, Lee Bul’s media recording of Abortion (1989) was on view, more than two decades after its first appearance in Seoul.
Lee’s controversial performance remains significant even today--although her recent oeuvre has moved away from strong materialistic and bodily renditions, first by Cyborg Series (1999) and later by Delirium 2010s. The images of the body, particularly those of the naked body, have been, however, imbued with ambivalent meanings in Korean feminist arts. Beginning with Suknam Yoon in the late 1980s until media and collage artists in the 1990s, contemporaneous to Lee, highly sexualized images of female bodies are often avoided or subjected to deconstruction. This chapter, thus, concentrates on the paradoxical place of female bodies in contemporary arts from the late 1980s until the 2000s; this is also the period in which naked female images began actively adopted by feminist artists in South Korea. The artists in the chapter include Suknam Yoon, the precursor of feminist art in South Korea, Jihyun Kim, Kyungsook Cho, photo-collagists known for their deconstructions of female images in the advertisement, and Younghwa Park, the media artist whose self-image is gradually disappearing from the screen. The purpose of this chapter is first to shed a light upon distinctive historical, cultural, and sexual significances of the body in Korean feminist art; second to provide the alternative list of experimental feminist artists in South Korea.
* Presented at the Symposium entitled From Postwar to Contemporary Korean Art (1953-Present): Conflicts, Innovations and Interactions at October 20-21, 2017.
The Brown Auditorium, The Los Angeles County Museum of Art
The essay will be included in upcoming publication of From Postwar to Contemporary Korean Art (1953-Present): Conflicts, Innovations and Interactions by Phaidon Press.