Kimsooja: My Body Is a Needle
"I am trying to find the answers to existential questions."
The artist Kimsooja was born at the border between North and South Korea, and this experience influenced her work, which deals with how to transgress borders using Korean craft and even filmed herself “as a needle” in the middle of the crowd in order to touch somebody’s mind. Read more …
Kimsooja started as a painter and keeps her identity as a painter. She says that all the evolution and experiments she has been doing are based on the question of the painter and the question of the surface of the canvas.
Kimsooja’s work is about “the society and the world we live in, searching for humanity and trying to find the answers to existential questions,” she says.
She spent her childhood growing up on the border between North and South Korea due to her father’s occupation working in military service. “The period was sometimes dangerous, casualties were happening, and people were hurt,” Kimsooja remembers. “Maybe that is also one reason I am so conscious about the borders and borderlines,” she concludes.
Kimsooja works closely connected to Korean craft tradition: “Bottari is a bundle in Korean, it is not used much in contemporary society, but it still exists. I use it as a major component of my practice.” According to the artist, the Bottari work developed into three-dimensional sewing, which has many components: “It is a daily object as well as a three-dimensional sculpture, and it has performative elements in it. When it is a spread bed cover, it is more about family, love, kids, comfortable life, and stability. But when it is wrapped, it signifies departure or arrival. But it is also the site of the bed where we get born, love, dream, and die,” Kimsooja explains and concludes: “It is also wrapping the life and unfolding it.”
At some point, the artist discovered “that my body almost looked like a needle, a symbolic needle that weaves nature.” As a result, Kimsooja did a series of performance pieces called “Woman as a Needle” – as she says, “the camera lens and video screen are another way of wrapping the world and the people.” She started recording herself at Tokyo’s most crowded area filming herself from the back “using video and filming as a wrapping process”. “You don’t say anything, but you can touch somebody’s mind and reach to the other person to have a certain kind of unity. I think that is very beautiful.”
It was a very intense experience, and, in the end, Kimsooja found herself “very peaceful. I was almost smiling, looking at the horizon of humanity (coming and going), even feeling compassion for humanity. It was such an extraordinary experience for me.
Kimsooja (born 1957 in Daegu, South Korea) is a South Korean, multi-disciplinary conceptual artist based in New York, Paris, and Seoul. Her practice combines performance, film, photo, and site-specific installation using textile, light, and sound. Kimsooja’s work investigates questions concerning the conditions of humanity while engaging issues of aesthetics, culture, politics, and the environment. Kimsooja’s work has been shown at major institutions worldwide, including MoMA PS1 in 2001 and Guggenheim Museum Bilbao in 2015. She represented Korea at the 55th Venice Biennale in 2013. She participated in Documenta 14 in Kassel, the ANTIDORON – The EMST Collection in 2017. She has participated in international biennials and triennials in Busan, Venice Gwangju, Moscow, Istanbul, and Manifesta 1, 1996, among others.
Christian Lund interviewed Kimsooja in January 2023 in connection to her exhibition ‘Weaving the Light in Cisternerne, Copenhagen, Denmark.
Camera: Rasmus Quistgaard
Edit: Malte Bruun Fals
Produced by Christian Lund
Copyright Louisiana Channel, Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, 2023.
Louisiana Channel is supported by Den A.P. Møllerske Støttefond, Ny Carlsbergfondet and C.L. Davids Fond og Samling.
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