For the last thirty years Kimsooja has worked on an ever-evolving tableau, a continuation of the artist’s early work with painting and drawing. The work presented at Centre Pompidou Metz will further her commitment to create an encounter with the public whose focus is a moment of active concentration, a revelation of one’s body in space and time that defies horizontality and verticality.
In 2006 the artist noted in an interview: “For me, making space means creating a different space, rather than making a new one. The space is always there in a certain form and fluidity, which can be transformed into a completely different substance (…) My interest in void lies in the relationship between Yin and Yang, as a way of inhaling and exhaling, which is the natural process of breathing, as a law of living.” (1)
To Breathe and its latest installment at Centre Pompidou Metz seeks to be the sum of the artist’s early meditation on painting, where the surface of the canvas is intuited to become a mirror that wraps identity, space and time; and where brushstrokes are destined to dematerialize into a splitting of light.
For this exhibition Kimsooja takes on the spaces of Centre Pompidou Metz’s ingenuous architecture to create a tri-dimensional tableau that transforms the long span of the museum’s gallery and its bay windows into a liquid-like mirrored surface, that the artist expressed to be in previous installations an ever-expanding “fabric that is sewn by our gaze.” (2)
Thinking of mirrors as an opportunity to fold and unfold spaces (a continuation of the artist’s involvement with the Korean tradition of wrapping belongings into travel bundles known as Bottari in Korean), Kimsooja first made use of a mirrors for Harald Szeemann’s curated 1999 Venice Biennale where she reflected a loaded truck onto a wall sized mirror that provided a virtual exit for the vehicle. The piece was dedicated to the refugees of Kosovo. She further explored infinite spaces by installing mirrors on the walls of a laundry installation of abandoned Korean bedcovers for A Mirror Woman (2002), and pointed to the migratory perspective opened by mirrors while reflecting the sky on the ground of her mirrored installation The Ground to Nowhere (Honolulu City Hall, 2003). Always in search of wrapping spaces Kimsooja enveloped the transparent structure of the Palacio de Cristal in Madrid with mirrors and diffraction films (To Breathe/Respirare, 2006); and the Korean Pavilion in Venice with diffracting spectrums and reflective surfaces (To Breathe: Bottari, 2013) that invited the audience into a journey inside and outside of themselves, and into a poetic space where our perception of light, color and orientation is deconstructed and exposed as an unfolding plane.
To Breathe, performed for the Centre Pompidou Metz will be one of the artist’s most complete installation to date: spanning the museum’s entrance, the 80 meters long Gallery 2 and the breadth of the opposite ends of two bay windows, the space of the museum’s gallery will find its utmost expression as a transient path: from the windows light is split, to be reflected on an almost liquid surface and reunited inside the projection of the artist’s video piece To Breathe: a series of digital monochromes accompanied by the sound of a chorus of the artist’s inhalation and exhalation.
Concerned with early experiences of dislocation in her native country of Korea, Kimsooja has seamlessly devoted her 30 year long career and participation in over 30 international biennales and triennials, to transcend issues of migration and displacement into a life-long poem devoted to fluidity, folding and unfolding; always looking beyond material conditions and the act of making. As Doris Von Drathen noted in her essay Concrete Metaphysics: “Kimsooja has created a profoundly ethical anthropological work. The universe she stretched open when she started out as an artist has evolved into a truly committed condition of “being in the world.” Which for the artist herself only makes sense as a political embodiment of our spatial and temporal experience. The full dimensions of her pictorial world are only properly revealed when one perceives it as fostering a sphere of concrete metaphysics – but one which seeks its raison d’être in ethics.” (3)
Kimsooja’s everlasting examination of the dualism of light and surface, sewing and weaving, wrapping and unwrapping; her transposition of the concept of point as the pin of a needle and that of line as a thread, and of plane as the reflecting surface of a mirror, questions the foundation of materiality as it pertains to migration and exile, and exposes the complex relations of art and political existence.
*1 In An Interview with Kimsooja, Francesca Pasini, on the occasion of To Breathe/ Respirare, 2006, Teatro La Fenice, Venice
*2 In An Interview with Kimsooja, Olivia Maria Rubio, 2006, on the occasion of To Breathe/ Respirare, Palacio de Cristal, Parque del Retiro, Madrid
*3 In Concrete Metaphysics, Doris Von Drathen, 2005 for “Always a Little further,” the 51st Venice Biennale in Arsenale, Venice