Yeondoo Jung

Yeondoo Jung, BeWitched, 2001-current

Yeondoo Jung, BeWitched, 2001-current

Yeondoo Jung, BeWitched, 2001-current

Since 2001, South Korean artist Yeondoo Jung (b. 1969) has visited six different countries and made 14 people’s dreams come true. His BeWitched poject will continue until he has realised 40 such dreams. He questions local young people about their wishes for their future and then makes them come true in the form of a pair of portrait photographs: the first a portrait of the subject in their everyday life, and the second the ‘realisation’ of their dream or fantasy.

BeWitched is presented in the form of a slide- show. Each pair of portraits is projected onto a single screen, with a slow dissolve from the ‘real’ image into the ‘fantasy’ image. The number of portraits is added to in each location it is shown, for International 04 for instance, the portraits were made in Liverpool and presented at Bluecoat Gallery.

The project was inspired by the 1960s American TV sitcom Bewitched. The long-running series starred Elizabeth Montgomery as Samantha Stephens, a seemingly ordinary and typical suburban housewife who was in fact a witch. The show’s central premise was the struggle between her endeavour to live as a normal, mortal wife and mother, and her usually unsuccessful attempts to suppress the use of her supernatural powers in solving the problems of everyday domestic life. Her (mortal) husband Darrin, an advertising executive, disapproved of her use of witchcraft, yet was inevitably rescued from a sticky situation in each episode by Samantha’s magic, which was achieved with a simple ‘witch twitch’ of her nose and mouth, or a snap of her fingers. Samantha’s magic was in reality accomplished with rather basic and prosaic television special effects: at the point when her witchcraft came into play, the cameras stopped for the actors to change costumes, or for the sets or props to be switched.

Yeondoo Jung’s transformations are also achieved with his camera. He takes the hopes and dreams of his subjects and produces photographs in which they too are transformed with the aid of costumes, settings and props.

Contrasting with the humorous situations in the TV show, these images are poignant and personal, revealing that the surface facts of life belie the rich, imaginative interior world of the individual. But the portraits represent more than just personal wishes; they also symbolise the social and cultural conditions of a generation and its aspirations. BeWitched also uses the theme, much explored in the history of psychoanalysis, of the mirror image, the multiple personality and the metamorphosis and dissolution of the self.

The desire to escape from reality seems to be universally symptomatic of the pressures of contemporary culture. In an increasingly perplexing society, with the social networks of the past losing their solidity and reliability, fantasy and escapism have become fundamental strategies for locating our identity and ourselves in a meaningful way. Witness the popularity of The Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter, and the ever-increasing number of ‘life swap’ and make-over ‘reality’ television programmes. Added to this, the acceleration of technology has led to a sense of impatience and urgency – we want change and we want it now.

However, BeWitched also demonstrates an age-old human impulse. The disappointments and frustrations of everyday experience have always led people to the creation of works of art, with their alternative agenda of enlightenment, adventure, romance and mystery. Fantasy and the realm of the imagination are the sources of radical, utopian visions, liberating the human spirit and questioning the world and its systems and authorities. They make visible that which is excluded and silenced, and invent alternative realities.

Yeondoo Jung at Liverpool Biennial 2004

BeWitched, (2001-current)
Photographic series
Commissioned by Liverpool Biennial 2004
Exhibited at Bluecoat Arts Centre

Supported by

The Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation
Visiting Arts
The Henry Moore Foundation