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With trendy spectacle-like domestic and international exhibitions galore, Kim Beom’s exhibition is like a humble breakfast. It’s not easy for a modern man to have the time for a breakfast, but the experts always stress the importance of it to the human health. One can truly feel the power of a humble breakfast in maintaining health when it is consumed. Kim emits the powerful strength that nurtures our mental health through each meaningful works in his humble exhibition.

A graduate of Seoul National University and School of Visual Arts in New York, Kim is a leading conceptual artist. His Sci-fi-like exhibition title suggesting ‘what you see’ may ‘not be what you see’ places a twisted outlook on objects, while depicting the easily by-passed world of ‘invisible things’ through surreal imagination. The nature of animation to bestow life onto objects is the fundamental tool in the 2010 work Objects Being Taught They are Nothing but Tools, in which matters suggested through a materialistic point of view are personified as if to have life. The humble meal prepared by such recipes is incomparably the best. His art works of text and images that deal with notions of the private self and public society, regulations and institutionalization that Kim experienced throughout his life as a mid-career artist, are above all, witty and humorous. His drawings, relatively small media works and installations surrounded by white gallery walls instantly and powerfully capture the audience with wit and humor. For example, the audience cannot take their eyes off his comic drawings that depict a horse sitting atop another galloping horse, a stone in a tree like a bird, a teacher educating the stone that it is a bird, and a typical but bizarre classroom scene where an iron, pesticide, fan and other objects assume their seats like students. So simple that our undivided attention is seized by the works, we suddenly come to see that a horse, not a human, is on a galloping horse, and a stone, not a bird, is on the tree. Being institutionalized and conditioned that their sole purpose for existence is to serve the humans as a tool, the everyday objects even begin to beg our pity. Such formal aspects of personification and metaphor in Kim’s works point to the fact that the objects conditioned as tools for humans revert to signifying an ‘instrumental human.’ Kim’s questioning of illusion and truth in ‘visible things’ that may ‘not be what they seem,’ in turn, suggests the audience to meditate on the true nature of ‘invisible things.’

 




Animation Rhetoric

To refer to someone who cannot understand things easily, one uses the expression “to sing psalms to a dead cow.” Although a dead cow may not understand words, the cow in Kim’s works is somehow different. It ploughs the land like a human being, using a horse. The scene in which reappearing subjects like horse, cow, bird and other animals as well as other everyday objects are being educated like students, discloses the rules of animation that bestows life to a still object through movement. The single-channel video Inanimated Objects is an animation work which shows a purely materialistic perspective by capturing everyday objects like a clock or a bomb undergoing a transformation process like dying and decaying animals. Kim showed a variety of animation works, including the 2008 video Inanimated Objects and drawing animations 10 Animated Drawings, Horse Riding Horse and Flower. 10 Animated Drawings (2007) is a 3 min. 10 sec. single-channel drawing animation which is a continuation of 26 Untitled Drawings from early 1990s. An animated version of flat drawings in 26 Untitled Drawings, the 10 Animated Drawings deal with personal and universal notions of anxiety, frustration, relationship with objects, difficulties of existence, uncertainties, violence and sarcasm. The animated pencil drawings make the audience laugh, or at least smile. A cow ploughs a field, and a thought becomes a reality as one imagines someone aiming a gun at him and actually physically tries to avoid the bullet. A spoon transfigures into a winged bird, then into a cross. Like an irrational spectacle that unfolds between two beings of the same species, Horse Riding Horse is a drawing animation of a horse, rather than a person, riding a horse. Using animals that might appear in children’s animation such as Lion King or Fantasia, the animation signifies a world in which the prey chases the weak, alluding to the unjust social structure of human existence. Like his animations, the documentary video series of ‘educated objects’ such as A Rock That Learned the Poetry of JUNG Jiyong, A Rock That Was Taught It Was a Bird, A Ship That Was Taught There is No Sea and Objects Being Taught They are Nothing but Tools follows the animation format in the sense that objects are personified. Teachers educating stones, boats and other objects, is truly a comic spectacle. A Rock That Learned the Poetry of JUNG Jiyong is a 12-hour video that recorded the reading and explaining of JUNG Jiyong’s poem, which became a taboo due to him returning to North Korea.The teachers nonchalantly explain to the rocks that a famous prose in JUNG Jiyong’s poem is “stars, drenched in water, sparkle like jewels.” It’s impossible for the audience to view this 12-hour work from beginning to end. His animation works that started from 2007 is an attempt to deliver his materialistic approach of his flat works into a video work that’s easier for the audience to understand. This stems from the fact that there is a big difference between in the meaning derived from viewing a moving image and a series of flat images. Image speaks louder than words, and the ‘moving image’ delivers more effectively than a still image. Kim’s early painting works that personified objects developed into 12-hour documentary of ‘moving images.’ One can infer from the artist’s powerful message through his experimentation on the new media that broadens expression and the artist’s insistence on capturing a 12-hour scene on education.

 






Power Game

Kim sharply points out the everyday things, beliefs and institutionalization in our lives through black humor in his works, such as in Objects Being Taught They are Nothing but Tools, as well as in works like Slave Key Ring, A Draft of a Safe House for a Tyrant and Spectacle, a video in which a cheetah chasing an antelope is edited and reversed to a cheetah being chased by an antelope. Kim’s works are composed of events that cannot take place in reality. In the distortion of abnormally twisted images, we can read countless structures of power, from obvious political powers and master-servant power struggles, to microscopic power struggles in relationships with people and the power struggle to ‘otherize’ each other. Kim’s work is an utterance about a delightful world that is stimulating yet inviting humor, suggesting the audience to see that ‘invisible things’ and ‘visible things’ are reversible, and to be considerate of difference in people.

Such works derive from Michel Foucault’s interpretations on the problems of knowledge and power. Approaching and analyzing the dangerous ‘abnormal’ individuals in terms of religious, medical and legal basis of the 19th Century, Michel Foucault criticized that authority confined and ‘abnormalized’ the insane as well as others, and stressed the importance of an individual’s existence. In his book Les Anormaux, Foucault criticized the royal authority in 16th Century, regarding the king as the ‘tiger of a primitive society,’ a prey that loiters the society. Furthermore, Foucault points out the fact that ‘surveillance technology’ was being developed in the 19th century when different administrations of power were being established, giving birth to terminology like as surveillance for children, the insane, the poor and the laborers. To summarize his message through analyzing the examples of the insane in history, or precisely the French history, we are to be reminded of the historical instances in which power and discipline alienated people from the society, and to realize the importance of a human being as it is. Through institutionalization in this society, we become infinitely standardized and uniformed. The private education fever in the heat of university entrance examination system in Korea might be mass producing ‘monsters’ in this society where a student cannot go to university without private education. It’s hard to find the considerate attitude that respects the difference between the self and others within the education system that emphasizes knowledge rather than character. In this current Korean society where multi-cultural families are on the rise, there is a need to ruminate over the Korean history in which Koreans were alienated as the ‘other’ for being an exile or displaced. The memories of being alienated and repressed for being an ‘other’ is being played out in exactly the same way on the foreigners coming into Korea. This is the reason that the irrational master-servant relationship as portrayed by Horse Riding Horse does not simply end in laughter. According to Foucault, we might just be a mere ‘tool’ or ‘subject of surveillance’ in the power system of a mega power. Actual education of children are portrayed through a rock being educated that it’s a bird or a boat being conditioned that there is no ocean, leaving a bitter plaintive taste in the audience when viewing Kim’s work.

It may be a bitter in the grown-up world of regulations where the strong prey upon the weak. However, like portrayed by Kim’s Spectacle, in which a cheetah is being preyed by an antelope, and where regulations, institutionalization and power is being counterattacked, one can see glimpses of hopeful possibilities and spurts of optimistic energy.

 

(This text was an on-site review written by a critic selected and supported by ‘Art Critic Support Program’ by Seoul Foundation for Arts and Culture, for artist selected by ‘2010 Seoul Foundation for Arts and Culture Support Program.’)


IAN, Art Critic


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Posted by EYEBALL_Media Arts Webzine


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