Asia

siren eun young jung
Lyrics 1,2,3

Lyrics 1,2,3 is part of the Yeosung Gukgeuk series. The work closely follows first and second generations of Yeosung Gukgeuk actresses, who later became an important source of inspiration for the artist.  Formally, this genre of theatre draws from Westernized aspects of traditional Korean music performance as well as from adaptations of pansori, a Korean genre of musical storytelling, to create what could be called a staged version of traditional Korean opera. Yeosung gukgeuk was widely popular in the 1950s before and after the Korean War. Yet, though yeosung gukgeuk met considerable success, it gradually lost momentum after the 1960s. Today yeosung gukgeuk is almost extinct alive because it’s not being taught or invested in. Siren eun young jung’s  video work, Lyrics 1,2,3 analyzes and reassembles images of the interiors and exteriors of the stages that were once occupied by first and second generation female Gukgeuk actresses So-ja Lee, Young-suk Cho, and Deung-woo Lee. Widely known as gadaggi, a villainous supporting role, sammai, a skilled person’s supporting role, and nimai, a leading role, these outstanding actresses playing male characters are seen getting ready offstage for their onstage performance. The work highlights their affection for the stage by focusing on their daily activities offstage, wandering through landscapes, discovering object, remembering past moments, acting, and singing.

With a practice deeply engaged with feminism and LGBT rights issues, siren eun young jung reveals the subversive power of traditional culture, one unknown in Korean modernization period, and provides unique perspectives and documentation of important communities. Through her long-term research projects bridging different generations of women, she keenly addresses questions of gender as a norm of “becoming.” Her early works have examined the struggles of a younger generation of women against androcentrism and violent patriarchy. Her subsequent projects have addressed issues surrounding environment change, human rights, activism, and homosexual rights. Her pivotal work Yeosung Gukguek Project (2008–) engages the existing queer community in South Korea by focusing on Yeosung Gukguek, an all female traditional theatre genre existing since the 1950s, after the Korean War. The ongoing project tells an empowering story of gender-becoming in the mid 20th century. Unveiling traditional yet subversive narratives that existed during the transitional period of a country moving towards a modern society and challenging the myth of Korean “andro-modernization” achieved by a rapid masculinism of national development.