Sophie Jung

Jung.jpg

Sophie Jung  Nothing, It Just Waves, 2013,  mixed media, dimensions variable

Sophie Jung Nothing, It Just Waves, 2013, mixed media, dimensions variable

We might imagine Sophie Jung, an artist much concerned with word games, verbal slippages and lexical happy accidents, incanting the title of her charming, disarming exhibition ‘Learning About Heraldry’ over and over to herself, testing its every term, its every phoneme, until it slides from her grasp like a bar of wet soap. ‘Heraldry’ suggests coats of arms, and each of the eight sculptural assemblages on show at Ceri Hand Gallery resembled, with their coded admixtures of language and imagery, something close to emblematic devices. Jung’s title, though, also evoked the figure of the herald. Each fitted out with an iPod Shuffle and a pair of ear-buds, the works in the exhibition appeared to be accompanied by their own educative audio-guide, through which their presence might be formally announced, and their meaning might be blazoned. Pressing the ear buds in, visitors were instead buoyed on zephyrs of thought, gusts of song and flights of verbal fancy, all delivered in Jung’s astonished pan-European tones. I got to thinking of the messenger god Mercury, patron of writers and trickster par excellence, whose very name promises fluidity where we might ordinarily expect something solid and fixed.

Adopting what Jung self-mockingly describes, in the audio of her sculpture Learning About Heraldry (all works 2013), as ‘the Glasgow lean […], the contemporary tilt’, many of the pieces in her show were propped against the gallery walls, like garden implements in a cobwebbed shed. In Notice Otis, a spider sat atop a length of copper pipe, the other end of which was slotted inside a conch shell. On the accompanying soundtrack, Jung delivered a snatch of Roy Orbison’s 1963 ‘In Dreams’ (‘a candy-coloured clown they call the sandman / Tiptoes to my room every night’), guiding the viewer’s eyes down towards several bags of brightly hued plaster ‘stardust’ on the floor, then asking, ‘Did you know we eat eight spiders per night?’, before breaking into a series of stage coughs. Memory played a role in Easy Share, in which a digital photo frame screened images of unicorns, soundtracked by excerpts from Don Draper’s famous Kodak Carousel pitch in the first season of Mad Men (2007): ‘This device […] lets us travel the way a child travels – around and around, and back home again, to a place where we know we are loved.’ Over these words, Jung uttered ‘Fuck yeah!’ in the manner of a giddy DVD commentary. Beside the screen stood a Perspex CD stand adorned with a deflated handball, several shells, an origami duck and what the gallery listed as a ‘prosperity rock’. Might we take these items to be mementoes, part of a very personal heraldry? What, then, of the work’s title, Easy Share? Sharing every mote of one’s life, in a world of social media, is indeed easy, although in the company of so many carouselling solipsists, quite who is looking at, or learning from, one’s digital coat of arms remains moot.

In Stewie’s Drawing, three Air Dough casts of a hand giving a Facebook-like thumbs-up were positioned high above three tiny projectors, each screening a scene from Family Guy (1999–ongoing), in which the camply sophisticated, intellectually self-regarding and often malevolent baby, Stewie, draws a picture for his dumb-ass working-class parents, who break into laughter at its ‘babyish’ qualities. This is a joke not only about the gap between artistic hopes and audience reception, but also about the difficulty of any communication between one soul and another. Jung’s solution – exemplified in her video wwwhydontitellyousomethi.ng, in which she speaks direct into a webcam fitted with a Rorschach filter – is seduction, sense be damned. As she flits from human alarm clocks to the child-labour practices of high-street clothiers, from a bank ad featuring a priapic corn cob to the pleasing effects of a yoga position on her own behind, what carries the piece is not narrative propulsion, but her breathless, half-daffy, half-sexy demeanour. Contemporary heraldry, it seems, is not about content, but character. Like liquid mercury, it is ungraspable. We can only watch it shine.

Tom Morton is a writer, independent curator and contributing editor for frieze, based in Rochester, UK.

Issue 161

First published in Issue 161

March 2014

Most Read

In the age of Brexit, why Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn’s pledge to return the ‘stolen’ Parthenon marbles has never been...
The museum director, who resigned last year, acted with ‘integrity’, an independent report finds
In further news: study finds US film critics overwhelmingly white and male; woman sues father over Basquiat
With the government’s push for the controversial English baccalaureate, why the arts should be an integral part of the...
From Bruce Nauman at the Schaulager to the story of a 1970s artist community in Carona at Weiss Falk, all the shows to...
Sotheby’s and Christie’s say they are dropping the practice of using female-only staff to pose for promotional...
For the annual city-wide art weekender ahead of Basel, the best shows and events to attend around town
For our second report from BB10, ahead of its public opening tomorrow, a focus on KW Institute for Contemporary Art
The curators seem set to ask, ‘how civilized is the world’s current state of affairs?’
In further news: declining UK museum visitors sees country fall in world rankings; first winner of Turner Prize,...
The Icelandic-Danish artist’s creation in Vejle, Denmark, responds to the tides and surface of the water: both artwork...
In further news: Emperor Constantine’s missing finger discovered in the Louvre; and are Van Gogh’s Sunflowers turning...
The opening of a major new exhibition by Lee Bul was delayed after one of the South Korean artist’s works caught fire
The LA-based painter’s exquisite skewing of Renaissance and biblical scenes at Stuart Shave/Modern Art, London
Lee Bul, Abortion, 1989, performance documentation. Courtesy: the artist and PKM Gallery, Seoul
In a climate of perma-outrage has live art self-censored to live entertainment?

A tribute to the iconic New York journal: a platform through which founder Andy Warhol operated as artist, hustler and...
A distinctively American artist who, along with four neighbourhood contemporaries, changed the course of US painting...
From Assemble’s marbled floor tiles to Peter Zumthor's mixed-media miniatures, Emily King reports from the main...
From Ian White's posthumous retrospective to Lloyd Corporation's film about a cryptocurrency pyramid scheme, what to...
Kimberly Bradley speaks to ‘the German’ curator on the reasons for his early exit from the Austrian institution
In further news: #MeToo flashmob at Venice Architecture Biennale; BBC historian advocates for return of British...
German museums are being pushed to diversify their canons and respond to a globalized world – but is ‘cleaning up’ the...
Sophie Fiennes’s new film Bloodlight and Bami reveals a personal side of the singer as yet unseen 
‘At last there is a communal mechanism for women to call a halt to the demeaning conventions of machismo’
The German artist has put up 18 works for sale to raise money to buy 100 homes
The novelist explored Jewish identity in the US through a lens of frustrated heterosexuality
Artist Jesse Jones, who represented Ireland at last year’s Venice Biennale, on what is at stake in Friday’s Irish...
‘I spend more time being seduced by the void … as a way of energizing my language’: poet Wayne Koestenbaum speaks about...
To experience the music of the composer, who passed away last week at the age of 69, was to hear something tense,...
In a year charged with politicized tensions, mastery of craft trumps truth-to-power commentary
In further news: women wearing rainbow badges beaten in Beijing’s 798; gallerists Georg Kargl and Richard Gray have...
‘Coping as a woman in France is a daily battle: the aggression can be subtle, and you always have to push harder to...
Toyin Ojih Odutola’s portraits of a fictional aristocratic Nigerian family push toward an expanded definition...

On View

Latest Magazines

frieze magazine

April 2018

frieze magazine

May 2018

frieze magazine

June - August 2018