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Review: Oil Pressure Vibrator at ACMI for Rising Festival

Reveiw by Kate Gaul


Geumhyung Jeong is a South Korean artist who’s interested in the human body and the objects that surround it—in the blurred boundaries between who controls who, what controls which. “Oil Pressure Vibrator” is presented in a lecture theatre. It is a work that originated in 2008 and was presented in Sydney in 2017 as part of the Liveworks program. And here it is again at Rising in Melbourne. Choreographer and performance artist Geumhyung Jeong uses her body and animatronic figures built from DIY or in this case, extant machines as a point of interrogation.


In this performance lecture, Jeong recounts her search for autoerotic satisfaction, for sexual independence. The journey culminates in a love affair with a multi attachment hydraulic earth mover. Her lecture is entirely supported by the video clips she plays on her laptop, and a toy excavator she briefly runs over her body. On a video screen we see documentary footage of Jeong going through training to be an excavator operator. In this way, she can then consummate her love with machine – her body becoming one with this mechanised phallic partner. She relates how she is the only woman in the training program, and she undergoes the practical test several times as well as the written part of the qualification. The bond between Jeong and her earth mover is like a human relationship—a practice involving care, commitment, and communication. But she is careful not to over-romanticize it, or to suggest the potential for some kind of utopian human-robot union. “There is a co-dependency, but in the end, machines do not need us,” she says, “We need them.”


It was hard to know what to make of all this. I didn’t find it at all erotic. It felt like part of an in-the-know program. This is a contemplative, cerebral show for a niche audience. It’s dive into human and non-human interaction was difficult to fathom. The Rising festivl has been widely criticised for the overall randomness of artistic programming. “Oil Pressure Vibrator” is no doubt an important work of contemporary performance. Certainly, its themes of autonomy, sexuality and gender roles are of contemporary relevance. But here it’s without context. On the night I saw the performance several people had dozed off and the accompanying snores added an unintended comic sound scape to the somnolence of the lecture.

Image Supplied





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