Hyoju Cheon (b.1994, Seoul) is an explorer and interdisciplinary artist currently residing in New York. Her multimedia practice–often casting a space, an object, or a body in motion–responds to the conditions of a site. Her work documents bodies as they move through space:drawing their trajectories and archiving the material traces left behind. Hyoju has exhibited her works in Seoul at Dongsomun, Meindo, Gallery Imazoo, and Gaon Gallery; and in New York at the Lenfest Center for the Arts, the Abrons Arts Center, Half Gallery and Chashma among others.
For Suboart Magazine, Hyoju answered questions about her love for performance, the interesting qualities of the domestic space, and her hopes for the future. Enjoy!
By Nina Seidel
Hello Hyoju, thanks for taking your time to answer my questions. First of all, I’d like to go back in time for a moment: how did you get into art in the first place?
Your question has brought back memories of my youth, a time when I found joy in creating things out of whatever materials were at my disposal. I have continued this passion for making things throughout my life and it remains a fundamental part of my practice to this day.
You work with performance and installation. What fascinates you about both and what do they offer you that other artistic techniques couldn’t?
Installation and performance art involve a strong tactile element. While other art forms may also incorporate this aspect, I personally find that physically interacting with materials and processes through touch is crucial in my art-making practice. When working with performance art, I appreciate how the piece can hold a tangible presence while I am present, but also an absence when I am not. The idea of constantly changing states is incredibly appealing.
Is there any project that you’d like to talk about more in detail?
Yes, I would like to talk about project called “How can we measure our sigh?” This artwork represents a task that was performed for the first time by machine movement rather than human performance. I had always worked with a focus on human movement, thinking about how my body/movement was positioned and responded in space. However, this time, I tried to see if I could maintain a presence in the exhibition space by using motor movement.
Furthermore, this work was an expansion of my reflections on meaningful and meaningless movements, and the intangible concepts and words that cannot be accurately quantified. I wanted to discuss unquantifiable things and how much we try to measure them in our lives, and what we consider measurable and immeasurable. For example, how do we measure labour of an artist? Or, how can we measure emotions like love and compassion?
In this work, I wanted to create movement that defies the gravity of what we consider measurable and shows that things we assume to be heavy, or light can progress slightly differently. Therefore, the paper bag descends towards the ground while the wooden block ascends along the track via the pulley.
The idea for this work arose from a conversation with a friend. One winter evening while studying at the library, my friend sighed, and the words “Your sigh is bigger than mine. You must have studied more than me” stayed in my head. This made me think about how we measure things that seem unmeasurable and what we consider to be measurable.
You wrote that you are “interested in domestic spaces that are often overlooked despite being a place where one may spend much of their time.” What fascinates you about these spaces?
I have been exploring the interactions between space and the human body, fascinated by how we unconsciously inhabit and use domestic spaces, and how highlighting these elements can lead to new possibilities. I believe that spaces store traces of our bodies as we interact with them, influencing not only our physical form, but also our mental states and even the flow of energy within us.
In “Trajectory of My Body,” I observed how my energy responded to the places where I spend time – my home, studio, and daily commute. This sparked my interest in further exploring the places where our bodies spend time. “Mapping without scale” is a work that visualizes how easily we overlook small corners, walls, and thresholds when we face spaces like homes or galleries. It was created through the act of measuring or reading space with our bodies. Moving forward, I plan to continue expanding upon these interests in my work.
A more practical question now- could you please share some of your creative process with me, from the starting point to a finished piece?
My work often starts with personal stories, books that have stuck with me, or recurring mental images. I collect images and stories that gradually shape the work’s structure. At the same time, I sketch out sculptures or moving lines that indicate the object’s potential movements.
Once I’ve conducted research, I begin to explore materials. During the creation process, I consider which materials make sense and how they can support movement. I start by making small or large-scale sculptures, testing them by sitting and standing on them, comparing them, shaking them, and listening to the sounds they produce. It’s like having a conversation with the materials. This iterative process enables me to make continuous small decisions about which performance elements to include, eliminate, or modify.
Is there any upcoming project or event that you’d like to give a shout out?
I’m currently participating in a residency called Kunstraum in Brooklyn, where I’m collaborating with fellow artists from different countries. I’m excited to see the impact we’ll have on each other during the residency period. I’m also looking forward to the Open Studio event in May.
Any fellow emerging artists you’d like to recommend?
I’ve had the pleasure of interacting with many talented artists who have inspired me and sparked meaningful conversations. One such artist is Jacq Groves, whose sculpting and research skills are truly impressive. Another artist I admire is Yixuan Wu. Although we share similar interests, we each have a unique visual language to express our research.”
And last question, what are your hopes for the future?
Although it’s a thought-provoking question, what matters most to me is the desire to create more engaging and enjoyable works. I aspire to be an artist who is attuned to the changes in the world and can respond to evolving environments with greater sensitivity. By doing so, I hope to continuously evolve as an artist.
Thank you so much for taking part in the interview and in our magazine!
Thank you for taking the time to ask such thoughtful questions about my practice.
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Written & edited by
Hyoju Cheon and Nina Seidel
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