INTERVIEW: Sophie Jung - an upcoming multitasking artist
Born in 1982 in Luxembourg, Sophie Jung studied photography and media arts at the Folkwand School in Essen, the Zürcher Hochschule der Künste and graduated with a Bachelor in Fine Arts from the Rietveld Academy in Amsterdam in 2011.
Currently student at Goldsmiths, University of London, where she is completing a Masters in Fine Arts. In 2013, she was the winner of the Edward Steichen Award, which allowed her to obtain a six months creative residency in New York. Belonging to a family of artists, she first tried photography before opening herself to other forms of art such as video, text or installation.
This year she has multiple projects. Indeed, we were able to discover her work in Mudam collective exhibition on Edward Steichen Awards winner in February. Then her work was exhibited at Dominique Lang Gallery in March. This Summer she will perform in London at the ICA (Pick-me-ups & pick-ups) take part in a group show based around text in Basel (Title tbc, S.A.L.T.S.) While in September, she will do a joint show with her grandmother, the artist Germaine Hoffman, in Luxembourg at the Galerie Op der Kap as well as a solo at Belle Air, Essen. Finally, in November she will be in Vienna for a joint show with Shana Moulton at the Medienwerkstatt and in a Groupshow titled Panda Sex at State of Concept in Athens.
You come from a family of well-known artists in Luxembourg. Your father is the actor André Jung, your uncle the TNL director Frank Hoffman, your grandmother Germaine Hoffman is a visual artist, and your sister is an actress. Did this help you to find your way as an artist or is it more difficult to differentiate yourself?
Oh, don’t forget – my granddad was a poet, Leopold Hoffmann. It worked both ways – I think it took me a while to overcome my initial post-pubescent denial of anything arty in me. I was one of those very stubborn teenagers negating every aspect of their elders within them. So once I managed to overcome this silliness I realised that the one thing I’m good at in life is seeing things “differently”. I have no specific craft, no specialisation, I guess I might have been too old by the time I got into art. But then I think it’s a blessing really – since it allows me to dabble my fingers in anything I fancy and synergise categories of artistic production without being better at one or the other. Writing, directing, performing, composing imagery – I have known all these things from an early age on and yet I am not masterful in any one in particular. Instead I can expand each field through naïve amateurism and interconnecting. So, in the end, yes. I am proud and thankful to have had so many different influences so early on. And always shifting around I feel I’m not invading anyone’s territory and I don’t have the burden of “living up to” etc.
You began by taking photos, but you also do sculpture, video art, performance and even write. Which mean of expression inspires you the most?
That is impossible to say. At the moment I really enjoy writing. I think as I’m moving around so much right now I feel relieved not to be confined to object-based studio practice. As soon as I’m in London for more than a week, though, I’d say I love making things in space. And then when I see a stage and a spotlight: heaven help I need to jump and …“deliver”.
I really can’t say but I guess the aura of the stage is what carries itself through my work. The sculptures are a bit like props oozing narrative potential, the writing has an inherent “to be performed” quality about it – my videos adress the “audience”, breaking the virtual proscenium in youtube but also Beckett style.
Is the dialogue with the public essential in the act of creation?
Yes. And that may be where the theatrical shows itself most: No audience: No work. If I can’t picture the moment of reception I have no motivation to “make”. The liveness of it is something I really depend upon.
You did your training in Switzerland, Germany, the Netherlands and now in London. Would you have chosen to pursue a part of your studies in Luxembourg if there was an art school?
No, I think not. I found Switzerland difficult enough. I love my cosy home, and it’s essential for letting things settle, but in order to be urged to show something to the world I need to see diversity, be faced with dilemmas, with injustice, even. With the weirdness of life and the roughness of it. I need to see how different a thing is from everything else at the time. And then how similar. Luxembourg is too homogenous for any of the day-to-day revelations to happen consistently. London is just the right place for that at the moment.
What artistic techniques and what administrative tools have you learned during your course of study?
I’ve learned how to deal with criticism. That there is no such thing as a “positive reception”. You’ll always have haters, you’ll always have supporters. Do not try and please anyone, ever. Try and shake things up. I was meant to learn other things, but I’m not sure I did. I have very few technical skills but years of experience in talking about art. For what it’s worth: twisting concepts, molding ideas, analyzing motivation. That’s what I learned, but then that’s the hardest thing to remember when you’re in the middle of producing, riddled with self doubt…yet again.
Which one did you have to acquire while performing your job?
The most important one is to deal with negative feedback and not to make things that are expected of you. Still learning. Always learning.
What would be the additional value of a school of art in Luxembourg?
I think it’d be brilliant to have an art-school for teenagers. But I think, let’s be honest, art needs diversity. If you’re born and raised in Luxembourg it’s time to go and discover different textures, smells, cuts. And if you’re from “abroad”, well, wouldn’t you want to study art in a place that can offer abundance of sensual input? I daresay, Luxemburg may not be the optimum place for a BA/MA in fine art. But certainly it would profit from having something like solfège for the arts. No?
I have to say, though, my grandmother visited 26 “Summerakademie” courses in her life – some better some worse but the diversity of practices she dabbled in made her develop a style that is so unique, I have yet to come across anyone working like that – be it in the UK, NL or anywhere else. So we do have great offers available already, I guess?
Is the concept of "statut d’artiste" important for your artistic activity?
Since I still (still!!) study, I can’t profit from it, but it will be and I am infinitely glad I know I can rely on it in the future. I can’t live from what I do, not yet at least. Since I don’t make paintings, not much that you can “put on your wall”, it takes longer to establish a market for myself.
You share your life between London where you study and Basel. At the same time you’re the winner of the 5th Edward Steichen Award and has just been elected one of the « Five Luxembourgeoises of the Year » by the weekly newspaper Le Jeudi. What is your relationship to Luxembourg?
I was nominated – did not get elected in the end. I think somebody much more worthy won, to be honest. Luxembourg is my home. It’s where I’m from. It’s where I don’t feel I have to explain myself. I just AM when I’m here – the smell is right. Something like that.
Do you already have ideas regarding the work you’ll create in New York as part of the residence you got under the Edward Steichen Award?
None at all – I have so many projects coming up ahead of New York that I know my practice will be at a completely different point again by the time I get there. And then New York itself will most likely rock my world so hard that it’d be limiting to think of a specific project already.
Do you have any other projects planned in the meantime?
I just finished working on a performative Kiosk installation in Basel for Haus für elektronische Künste, I am working on a performance in relation to Robilliard’s show at the ICA, London. I’m writing a text for a groupshow at S.A.L.T.S. during Art Basel, a solo show at Belle Air in Essen this summer, I will be in a two-girl show with my heroine Shana Moulton at Medienwerkstatt Wien this autumn, in a show with my most amazing grandmother in September, in Athens in November – Yep, got lots of things to prepare. Thankfully.
Would you have any advice for a young artist from Luxembourg?
Do not try to please! Do not think of selling! Be audacious – leave home, dare to have no money, dare to not know the way, be proud to be insecure – basically: get away from the safety of our lovely country and be blown away by weirdness that comes with unexpected experience.
Zlata Rodionova & Tessy Fritz, Culture.lu, published on 02/06, updated on