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Light and the Gaze of Others

ARTIST INSIDE 2022 | Jeongju Jeong

Light and the Gaze of Others

Jeong’s work can be summarized as space and light.
It started when he was studying in Germany.
The small room in the dormitory where he stayed at the beginning of his studies was a refuge for him as a foreigner.
But at some point, he became conscious of an intruder: light.
“The light that came to my feet through the window from a source whose distance was difficult to determine seemed to sweep across me like the tongue of a giant being,” he says,
and since then he has focused on the relationship between space and light.
In his installations and video works, the light that illuminates the empty space is sometimes unfamiliar and sometimes uncomfortable, as it resembles the gaze of the other.

Many of your works are structured so that you can look into the interior from outside the building through a window.

It reflects the psychoanalyst Jacques Lacan’s concept of the gaze, which is the idea that the subject who sees becomes the object who is seen. For example, if you’re looking at someone and you encounter their gaze, you stop dead in your tracks. It’s a kind of shock, and I feel that moment of strangeness, “What am I looking at?” I represent that shock with scaled-down architectural models, the mechanical gaze of a camera, people on a monitor, and artificially reproduced light.

Jeongju Jeong, 정정주, 27 Rooms, 2017, Stainless steel, monitor, 125 × 72 × 30 cm

For an installation, the architectural model is so small that the viewer looking in from the outside feels like they’re looking through a keyhole, but what’s the intention?

The architectural model is usually scaled down to a tenth of its size. If the model itself is a metaphor for existence, then the camera is the gaze of existence. In the act of looking in, I don’t intend a voyeuristic gaze, but rather I think of it as a contact with another being, a crossing of gazes.

Jeongju Jeong, 정정주, Green light, 2022, 3D animation, framed 32” monitor, 74.5 × 43.5 cm

Some of the spaces are fictional, while others are modeled after real buildings. Since you lived through the May 18th Uprising, can we say that your work represents a ‘social gaze’ that is a projection of your experience?

While dealing with the sense of emptiness in the city I lived in, I was reminded of my childhood memories and feelings in Gwangju. The sounds of gunshots and helicopters outside evoked excitement and fear. When it became quiet for a while, the outside world I saw was an urban space where everything had stopped, as if paralyzed. Finding clues of spatial anxiety and emptiness in my childhood memories led me to directly deal with the iconic architecture related to the uprising of May 18. I think it is an important gaze that confronts my inner self before it becomes social.

Jeongju Jeong, 정정주, Room of balance(detail image), 2017, Stainless steel, monitor, 95 × 18 × 28 cm

Are you still playing with the theme of space and light at Kiaf PLUS?

We are showing new works from the series “27 Rooms” and “Lobby”. In “Lobby,” which I first worked on in 2010, there is a woman in the lobby of a building that is completely exposed. The woman tries to avoid eye contact by hiding her face with her hair. As an extension of the metaphor of urban space and the gaze, I tried to express a subtle psychology in this new work. My sculptural work involving light and color has become more diverse than it was 10 years ago. The show also features videos of monitors of various sizes.

Jeongju Jeong, 정정주, Room of balance, 2017, Stainless steel, monitor, 95 × 18 × 28 cm

Interview by Heaseung Kang, published on Kiaf 2022 Catalogue