KIMSOOJA, Unfolding—Is a retrospective exhibition at the Vancouver Art Gallery, happening now until January 26, 2014. The exhibition assesses the thirty-year career of Korean born artist, Kimsooja. Currently based in Paris, New York and Seoul, Kimsooja’s practice reflects the influence of these diverse sites and her movement between them. Finding beauty in the mundane activities of day-to-day existence, Kimsooja challenges the inorganic divide between art and everyday experience.
A Needle Woman (1999-2001) is an 8-channel video installation and arguably Kimsooja’s most celebrated work. In each video Kimsooja stands motionless with her back to the viewer observing the crowded streets of the Tokyo, New York, London, Mexico City, Cairo, Delhi, Shanghai and Lagos. Acutely aware of her surrounding, she remains unaffected by the physical and verbal contact of passersby. In her static gesture, Kimsooja transcends notions of time, space and geography. A Needle Woman is a profound meditation on the role of the individual in society. The artist’s immobility invites the viewer to experience a moment of calm amidst the chaos of the contemporary city—and evokes questions on the nature of human existence.
A Mirror Woman (2002) is another of Kimsooja’s installation pieces. Here the artist has strung beautiful silk bedcovers along cables that span the width of the gallery space, evoking clotheslines used to hang laundry. On either side of the gallery walls are floor to ceiling mirrors that make the fabric appear infinite. Over the speaker plays Tibetan monk chants. In this work, the bedcovers assume the role of silent performer as viewers make their way through the maze-like space.
Deductive Objects consists of various quotidian objects wrapped in traditional bedcovers. By using conventional methods of handling fabric—folding, dying, wrapping, tying—Kimsooja transforms the everyday, and reveals the often-overlooked relationship between art and life.
In each of Kimsooja’s works the viewer is never passive, but rather an active participant. Whether walking through what appears to be an infinite array of bedcovers or vicariously experiencing the crowded streets of different megacities, one feels involved in Kimsooja’s practice.
One of my favorite works is Mumbai: A Laundry Field (2007-2008), a 4-channel video installation with sound. Filmed in alleyways, laundry districts, commuter trains and street slums of Mumbai, brightly colored fabrics connect each video—from laundry hanging on clothing lines to passengers on the train to clothes being washed at the Dhobi Ghat open-air laundromat; Kimsooja highlights its centrality in Mumbai’s city life. The film investigates the daily experiences of people living in Mumbai—which clearly includes poverty and overcrowding, yet the installation is a perceptive reflection on the importance of finding beauty and meaning in everyday life.
A wonderfully playful exhibit, full of color, texture and sound. Be sure to check it out while you still can before it wraps up on January 26th. *Tuesday’s after 5pm, admission by donation.