Wednesday, 25 January 2012


BORN : December 1983 in Seoul, Korea

2010 Attending Department of painting,Graduate school of Chung-Ang university
2009 B.F.A. Department of painting, College of Fine Arts,Chung-Ang university

Fetish, the Ways of Seduction

Chung-hwan, Ko - Art Critic -

Contemporary art involved many waves of shocks, and Manet's is a well-known scandal among them. In the painting, which clearly touches upon the concept of sex or the sexual perception, Olympia made the bourgeois male spectators feel uncomfortable with her unabashed gaze and seductive pose. The naked body had made the eyes which were used to seeing nudes disconcerted. The ribbon adorning Olympia's head(the pearl necklace in the picture) presents her as a sexual commodity rather than a person. The painting reflects the hypocritical nature and the moral duality of the society at the time.

Cindy Sherman, in her early photography works, re-enacted the scenes of movies with female character playing the leading role in them. Through series of works featuring herself in range of costumes, Sherman points out that the image of the female projected through media is a conjured one, one that has been modified to cater to the taste of the spectator. Her works later developed into grotesque images subverting the protected realm of female signs and signifiers. On the other hand, Harun Farocki's media work using the actual set of the magazine, is also interesting. A video in documentary form reveals that the images which turn the male audience on without exception has been orchestrated to the point of dictating everything single thing, including the position of the hair.

The nude and the naked, the look and the gaze, the issue between the onlooker and the power, the issue between sex and power, sex as commodity and the fetish, the tailored symbols of feminity disguised as something natural, and the ideology, especially the fetishism involved in capitalism, involved in the conjured up concepts, have been the subject of many artists, and concerns psychological, social, political, and economical fields. Guk-Hyun Lee also reveals the issues concerning sexual commodity and fetish through the female images in the work through direct and blatant portrayal.

Lee's previous work, along with the homosexual, portrays images of directed images of femininity emphasizing submissiveness and introvert character. After this process, Lee developed works that show images of woman as sexual commodity. Lee's work has been focused on the theme of sex from the beginning. This strong interest in theme of sex is also reflect on the theme of identity, and 'Package' is no exception. Package, which implies a wrapped bundle of products, can help one deduce that the artist's main interest in the female entity presented as sexual commodity. This theme might have come from the artist's personal interest, but more importantly, it seems more probably to have been stemmed from a reaction against the consumption of female images distributed by media. It is thus more seeming to see it as an intention to extend the image exploiting sex as a medium to the realm of political and social matters. The artist has recently further developed the work to , rendering a stronger sense of discourse. If one was to translate this synthesized word, 'ways of packaging' would seem appropriate. The commodification of femininity, or the images of the female, has become a blatant reality, and one can see that such has become an icon of the age speaking for the kind of technical and strategic being. Such reality is what the artist is trying to convey to the public.

The veil and the dolls in the later part of the work are also interesting. The dolls remind one of sex machines, and thus a kind of attitude towards fetish which regards the subject as a commodity rather than as a being. By partially obscuring witha veil, it points out to the duality of sex, the methods of seduction exploiting sexual fantasy, and above all, the ambiguous relativity of desire. The object and the fetish manifested in a form of doll, and sexual fantasy and seduction techniques surfacing on the veil all work together to accentuate female image as a sexual commodity.

In the artist's work,the female identity emerges as an image representing sex as commodity. As a fetish device, we can see the simplified background which draw the attention solely to the model. The background color has been set in pastel tone, emphasizing the soft feminine feel. The model comes in either looking straight at the potential spectator or twists the angle a little bit to show the feminine body and facial lines. The poses have been directed with eyes without focus, the slightly parted lips showing teeth with lipsticks smudged around, the layer of lace adorning the thin feminine garment, the neckline and the chest showing through hair, etc. Tantalizing seduction strategically accentuate the ambiguous relativity of the desire. (This may perhaps be related to voyeurism. Regardless to the kind of desire, this might be a suffocating scene of the battle between the desire to look and the desired to be beheld).

And props as supporting device appears at this point. To be a little exaggerating, the sunglasses which covers more than half of the face looks like a mask one might see at a costume party. These props has been employed to accentuate the sexual fetish.

Not to mention the masks, it is really clear that the sunglasses are artificially set props, as it is less likely in real setting for one to engage in acts of affection in such condition. Furthermore, the seductive pose of the model resting on the soft velvet matter just looks overly orchestrated. The scene itself is largely dramatic, moved away from the ordinary everyday life, and it is meant to re-enact a breathtaking scene in a drama. (Under the assumption that sexual events still throbs one's heart). Here, the signs are no longer confined to the realm of reality, but are rather abstract. It goes beyond the restraints of the reality and creates fantasy. The signifiers' pertaining meanings are not merely confined to the reality. The signified of the signifier is fantasy. In other words, the functional context of the sun-wear of blocking excess sunlight is irrelevant in the work. It is an instrument for sexual seduction.

The mask works as persona or the substitute subject. One hidebehind the substitute and consume the subject. The substitute(or the mask), like the sunglasses, belongs to the realm of fantasy and fiction. One can infinitely project one's desire onto the substitute, and one can even realize the desire of the entity behind the substitute. Hence it is possible for one to seduce the other.

Guk-hyun Lee suggest female entity as an image of sexual commodity. (It is more of an implicit reaction towards such tendency in the society, rather than a suggestion). And as a auxiliary device(also part of fetish) suggests sunglasses and party-wear mask, and these are all instruments of seduction. Incidentally they are all to do with the act of seeing. They are tools of seduction and one employed by the seduced. They help one achieve the objective of seduction more efficiently. The act of looking is deeply related to sexual incidence, and it is also to do with voyeurism. Sartre's definition regarding the subject supports the view that it has a lot to do with the struggle coming from the desire to control the other, and the tug of war between the onlooker and the beheld is profoundly involved in existential matter. To seduce or to be seduced?

In some ways, erotism is an event or an experience in which the subject becomes fetishized and depersonalized. Hence dolls or mannequins are the ultimate true subject of eroticism. Thus the recent work features female entity like pretty dolls, and actual equating of the female with the dolls seem fit.
(I want to love you like a doll. Or perhaps like a bird in a cage?)


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