Kimsooja: To Breathe
Exhibition Dates: August 29 – October 10, 2012
Opening reception: August 29, 5-7pm
Kukje Gallery is pleased to present ‘To Breathe’, a solo exhibition of new works by Kimsooja (b.1957) on view from August 29 through October 10. An internationally acclaimed artist well known for investigating metaphysical themes of consciousness and the complex nature of social identity, Kimsooja’s works are haunting and exquisitely beautiful portrayals of humanity. The artist’s work transcends formal imagery to reveal diverse cultural and anthropological aspects of everyday life — framed by her rigorous inquiry into spiritual and philosophical values and the importance of site. This solo exhibition highlights some of the artist’s most significant works including the recurring subject of the ‘needle woman’ and ‘bottari.’
Two years since her last exhibition in Korea, ‘To Breathe’ includes major works completed over the last decade; the large-scale video exhibition installed in Kukje’s K3 and K2 galleries will present an extensive survey of the artist’s oeuvre. The exhibition will be comprised of ten video works, including the first two chapters (Chapter 1 & 2) from her recently completed 16mm six-part documentary film Thread Routes in addition to the four channel video installation Mumbai: A Laundry Field, and To Breathe: Invisible Mirror / Invisible Needle.
Throughout her work Kimsooja explores themes of place, what it means to be of a region, and how culture is shaped by its context in ways both explicit and subtle. The multipart works weave together the different strands of disparate and foreign cultures, portraying the world as an integrated albeit complex whole. In addition, the exhibition confronts aesthetic distinctions that have often been overlooked and oversimplified by the West — having been labeled as being ‘Eastern’ or ‘Korean’.
This comprehensive exhibition of the artist’s work presents an exciting opportunity to view projects spanning over a decade and to see how the artist’s background in painting and drawing have evolved in her most recent multi-media works. ‘To Breathe’ provides an invaluable opportunity to see the stunning breadth of one of Korea’s most critically acclaimed contemporary artists.
About the Works
The first chapter of the six part Thread Routes was recorded in Peru on 16mm film, it focuses on the region’s indigenous history by exploring the simple and repetitive acts of sewing and weaving. Unearthing the diverse culture of textiles and how it reflects on different customs and cultural values, Thread Route – Chapter I embarks on a captivating visual journey through the Sacred Valley of Peru near the city of Cusco, before moving on to Machu Picchu and finally arriving at the villages of Tequile Island. Quietly capturing the diverse cultures of textiles and how they reflect on different social and cultural values, the work portrays the people and landscapes in Peru by framing their customs and popular art forms.
Similar in spirit, Thread Routes – Chapter 2 (being shown for the first time during the exhibit) documents the art of traditional lace-making in various European regions including Bruges in Belgium, Lepoglava and Pag in Croatia, and Alhambra in Granada.
Using the various points of textile culture as its backdrop, Thread Routes portrays the way psychological and formal principles are embodied by thread and how weaving affects people in everyday life. Furthermore, through the performative act of weaving, Kimsooja frames the structural relationship between unaltered, natural landscape and the region’s distinct color and architecture. This film reveals the vital role of thread through a vividly region-specific portrayal of everyday life, firmly establishing its importance and many formal associations. In Kimsooja’s unique cultural anthropology and aesthetic vocabulary viewers experience a weaving together of many scenes, just as thread pulls together and connects pieces of fabric. The poignant work stitches together different traditions and cultures blurring the cultural, racial, and geographical boundaries that define our contemporary era. In so doing, the work reflects on the way in which the outsider or “Other” becomes an observer within these socio-cultural milieus.
Installed on the first floor of K2 To Breathe: Invisible Needle / Invisible Mirror is a single-channel video projection and sound piece of the artist’s breathing and humming. In 2006 when Kimsooja screened To Breathe: Invisible Needle / Invisible Mirror at Teatro La Fenice, she concurrently performed her sound piece, The Weaving Factory (2004), in which the body becomes symbolic of a loom. In the work she draws a connection between the pulse of nature– traversing the line between life and death–with a visualization of breathing via digital color abstraction. This work marks a departure from some of her older video works that were concerned with the subject of natural phenomenon. The artist began the work attempting to reveal the meaning of tableau by measuring the depth of the two dimensional surface. This led her to explore the digital color spectrum in video technology and how it endlessly transforms, a mutability that leads the audience to question its physical materiality. In presenting the work in the form of video, which essentially exists yet is mirage-like at the same time, the artist continually challenges it definition and function.
The second floor of K2 features one of the artist’s signature works, Mumbai: A Laundry Field. Began in 2007, the work consists of four screens each showing 10 minute videos depicting various scenes in Mumbai, India such as the laundry fields, street scenes at dawn, the slums, and overcrowded commuter trains bursting with passengers getting a ride by hanging onto the doors. Mumbai: A Laundry Field is evocative of the artist’s earlier works that are related to the subjects of fabric, the human body and humanity. The artist stated in the early 1990s that although the daily domestic chores associated with women, such as “sewing, laundry, cleaning, and cooking” were not regarded with significance in the realm of art, they are in fact fundamental acts akin to paintings, sculptural installation and performance art in their aesthetic, cultural, social and psychological importance.
In addition, Kimsooja’s video work Bottari – Alfa Beach (2001) is being shown. Set on Alfa Beach in Nigeria, a notorious site of the slave trade, Bottari – Alfa Beach confronts the scars that still remain to this day. The video shows the sky and the sea inverted and slowly transforming. The contrast between the clear and transparent sky against the undulating waves represents the torment of the indigenous people when they were shackled and taken far from their native land and forced into slavery.