[Project Embodied #2] Jean Rim. Spring Equinox. Los Angeles: 2017 May 13

By Emily Sack*

With three delicate chimes – one… two… three… – amidst a crowd just fallen silent with anticipation, the performance begins. A massage table covered in soil is situated within the gallery space with the audience around all sides. The artist, Jean Rim, begins massaging an ageless, genderless human form made from sod that rests atop the table.

The browning sod indicates the death and decay of the figure, the animation of the massage implied a breathing life that now becomes still. The artist scoops up the form, which is not quite the size of an adult. Mining a trove of imagery, from Pablo Picasso’s Guernica to Michelangelo’s Pietà, Rim evokes the trauma of a mother, tears silently streaming down her face, cradling her lost child. Like a funerary procession, the audience follows the artist as she exits the gallery space into the back courtyard where the form is laid to rest on the pavement.Upon returning to the interior space, the artist places a full, fresh rectangular sheet of sod atop the massage table. The green is vibrant and the permeating earthy smell of soil once again feels full of life. Rim gathers a blade and begins to cut away pieces of the sod to reveal a new human form. The action simultaneously feels destructive and constructive as pieces are somewhat violently torn away in an

Upon returning to the interior space, the artist places a full, fresh rectangular sheet of sod atop the massage table. The green is vibrant and the permeating earthy smell of soil once again feels full of life. Rim gathers a blade and begins to cut away pieces of the sod to reveal a new human form. The action simultaneously feels destructive and constructive as pieces are somewhat violently torn away in an action of creation both rough and tender. In another allusion to Michelangelo, it feels as though the figure was already there and the artist simply had to emancipate it from the raw material.Just as the equinox brings equal day and night, Rim’s performance brings equal love and loss, birth and death. Rim becomes a personified Mother Earth, holding the life and nature in her arms, mourning the loss of a being but also giving birth to another. The performance stimulates the senses – the ambient music, the pervasive aroma of earth and grass, the skilled hands caressing the soil and figure.

Just as the equinox brings equal day and night, Rim’s performance brings equal love and loss, birth and death. Rim becomes a personified Mother Earth, holding the life and nature in her arms, mourning the loss of a being but also giving birth to another. The performance stimulates the senses – the ambient music, the pervasive aroma of earth and grass, the skilled hands caressing the soil and figure.At the conclusion of the performance, the massage table is left in the gallery space, where the newly created being will presumably meet the same

At the conclusion of the performance, the massage table is left in the gallery space, where the newly created being will presumably meet the same browning fate of the original figure throughout the course of the exhibition. After tempting the viewers with the intimate massaging of the soil, a simple sign remains: “Please Do Touch the Art.”

 

Photo by Christian Alvarez

 

*Emily Sack studied Art History and Spanish at the University of Mary Washington in Fredericksburg, VA and earned an MA in Art History at Richmond, the American International University in London. She specializes in contemporary art and works in museum education and visitor engagement.