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K.NOTe no.23

Jinhee Kim


K.NOTe no.23

Jinhee Kim

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Publisher Total Museum Press Pyungchang 32gil 10, Jongno-gu, Seoul Korea (03004) Tel. 82-2-379-7037 total.museum.press@gmail.com Director Jooneui Noh Editor in Chief Nathalie Boseul Shin, Yoon Jeong Koh Cordinator Hyosup Jung, Taeseong Yi Intern Minseo Park, Eunyoung Park Designer Hein Sohn Sponsor Arts Council Korea Date of Publication 2017. 4 Š Author and artist The reproduction of the contents of this magazine in whole or in part without written permission if prohibited.

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K.NOTe #23 Shaking Eyes and a “Bad” Collection Hyun See-won independent curator In this day and age, what does it mean to use a particular person as a photographic model? What Jinhee Kim produces are images of “today’s” women in their twenties. In a contemporary image distribution environment teeming with indiscriminate sourcing and footnoting, Kim seeks to create images with individuals encountered in one-on-one meetings. The artist uses her camera to capture young women sitting in front of her, staring straight ahead. Her images consist chiefly of people looking to the sides, or with their pupils not taking anything in. In that sense, the idea of “adopting a forward pose” could be described as Kim’s own stance in creating her photographs. In her last work whisper(ing) (which focuses on the sexuality of women in their twenties), the Jindo-set April, and various other unreleased works, Jinhee Kim repeatedly, freely approaches and confronts her subjects. Images of women are processed and edited, torn and stripped, in countless storage sites both on- and offline. The kind of subject these image producers are most after is clear. (Women in their twenties on the street account for a sizable portion of selfie sticks – both the greatest invention of the last year and the subject of some notoriety.) Female images are some of the most frequently distributed material around, and are prone to being beautified and misinterpreted. Kim also takes women in their twenties as her primary photographic models. If her chief subjects are the bodies of twentysomething women, then the intimate dialogue between the women and the artist becomes another model of its own. Before and after this came numerous other young faces, including the “Self-Portrait” images taken by the artist. The She series (2014–) evokes a sense of déjà vu with the twentysomething 88

women captured in its frame. Generating the mistaken sense that


> Hate, 56 Ă— 46cm, Embroidery on Digital Pigment Print, 2014

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> Last Summer, 45.5 × 37cm, Embroidery on Digital Pigment Print, 2014

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> Hourglass, 56 Ă— 46cm, Embroidery on Digital Pigment Print, 2014

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we have somehow already seen them before, the women have antisocial expressions on their faces, the kind one would never show to a person they had just met. The deliberately expressionless faces may be the most characteristic of the models: young adults, grown adolescents, women on their own. Boldly skirting such descriptors as “indifferent,” “stone-faced,” or “flat,” their wordless expressions conform to the historical stereotype of the “portrait of a seated woman.” Yet the images are uncompromising. One reason may be that while model and photographer are both in the image, they are not lost in the act of photography. Within images that are not deliberately staged or embellished, the artist is proposing something to the young women: not to simply lend their faces, but to engage in a kind of emotional interchange. What Kim seeks to create is a process in and of itself – meeting today’s young women, photographing them, recording and storing them. Inside and outside the photographs, she applies various additional layers of confession, mediated by the relationship between photographer and model across the camera lens. The confessions first take the form of a dialogue between artist and model, which is deliberately omitted when the work is complete. Second, there is the artist’s dialogue with herself as she coordinates and decides the transition from the whisper(ing) series to She. Before hearing anyone else’s confessions, the artist inquires into her own guilt and position in the photographing of people, which requires constant encounters and confrontation with others. The artist has said she begins the process not with pre-drafted lists of questions to the model, but by asking, “How have things been for you lately?” It is a question that is also directed at the artist herself. The photographs avoid becoming tools for achieving some specific purpose, condensing the confessions of each model as though offering themselves as a means of protecting and preserving their intimate stories. She, which involves a process of exchanging stories through letters, gains a kind of visual sense in which it is not immediately clear where the photographed image becomes complete. It is a kind of correspondence achieved by Jinhee Kim 92


through the medium of photography, overlapping with a different time period within the act of exchange. “How have things been for you lately?” As one way of processing the dense narrative of confession shared with her models, Kim deploys approaches of showing less and using storage devices elsewhere. Rather than using captions to position the stories shared and heard, she strives as much as possible to avoid or disrupt the text’s physical position and meaning. Stripped of words and action, the only things adopting the gesture of speech within the stop-button frame are the sentences running across it. Bearing such colloquially phrased titles as “Last Summer,” “A Very Weird Feeling,” “I Don’t Want To,” and “Always Making Up Secrets,” the works in She show the frozen subjects from their young faces down to the top halves of their bodies. Images of women who have confessed something – as opposed to the women consumed in trailer images – have diminished effective value. They are difficult images to sell, images of exhausted narrative. They are also records of confessions rather than information. She offers no objective indicator for the viewer to understand about the models. The props, devices, and information that appeared over the six years of Kim’s whisper(ing) series are silent in She. Where whisper(ing) had undressed women in their twenties performing specific actions such as sitting near a bed bearing traces of their presence or objects or burning things with lit cigarettes, She is like an object suspended, recording the human state. Jinhee Kim, the one holding the camera, is herself a female artist born in 1985 – not too far removed from the twentysomething subjects she has encountered. The questions she asks are totally dependent on the model’s situation; the responses she elicits are personal feelings, as dense and confessional as a diary read in private. The approach of using the act of confession as a basis for photography is a method of collection used by Kim in both She and whisper(ing). The collection is focused on the act of “searching,” 93


> Letter to her _ Love from Mary, 30 Ă— 45cm, Embroidery on Digital Pigment Print, 2016

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> Letter to her_Here is much warmer now, framed-67 Ă— 54ccm, Embroidery on Digital Pigment Print, 2016

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in that Kim creates new texts through the act of filming. In approaching its potential models with a focus on the sexuality and interior lives of young women, Kim’s attitude may seem reminiscent of an oral history researcher. Yet the dialogues she has gathered are “bad,” heterogenous, scribbled out in heated emotion. The extreme emotions captured, and the rejection of “editing,” prevent it from serving as a universal record for a particular group. In its deeply pure confessions, unsparingly revealing of the speaker’s wounds, the writing represents something true. 1 1

In the process of moving from the whisper(ing) series to She, Kim had this to say about wounds: “It was also an attempt to heal and empathize, but I began to realize that we weren’t empathizing perfectly, that it was an act of clumsy consolation. All of us have our wounds, but we can’t explain or understand those wounds perfectly. I wanted to express those wounds that are not fully comprehensible.” (Jinhee Kim, “Artist’s Notes”)

Interestingly, the other materials that the artist adds to her images are sewn on by needle, a tool often described as representative of women’s handicrafts. Jinhee Kim uses her needlework to introduce her subjects’ private experiences and feelings. The embroidered texts that appear on the images are akin to declarations – yet ones that at the same time seem to say, “You won’t be able to figure anything out.” The artist excerpts sentences from the stories and correspondence exchanged with models, which she translates into languages such as German, English, and French. The artist’s approach changes from that of “good listener” to that of receiver, storing and protecting stories in different ways. What is noteworthy here is that she also does not trust in the lexical or grammatical accuracy of the short sentence-length translations into foreign languages. The inevitable mistranslations that arise from excerpting the short sentences and translating them word-for-word are a defensive means of storing their intimate exchange, which at the same time ties in with the aggressive gesture of drilling a hole in the photograph to apply the needlework. Embroidery, a process of fabric and thread intersecting one stitch at a time, becomes in Jinhee Kim’s hands an approach of penetrating through the photograph’s network of physical thickness. In the process, it becomes less embroidery than a vertical act of puncturing and headlong hurtling. The appearance of needlework in the artist’s work was necessitated

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by a very urgent set of circumstances. While Kim was working on her whisper(ing) series, one participant who had initially agreed to the use of her image apparently pleaded with the artist after the fact not to use it. Committed to obscuring the model’s face and part of her body, Kim first applied needlework to faces and bodies in the whisper(ing) series. In the process, she found a way of using the sewing to enable enclosure and the existence of different times without excising or deleting existing subjects. Passing across the frame, the thread conveys a commitment to sharing the experience of the young women’s presence and images in a fragmented, dispersed way – similar, but with a different face. What is notable here is that the moment the young woman in her twenties transforms into a model, sitting across from the artist’s camera and being captured in its frame, the image transforms into one of the oldest conventions in the world: the seated woman. The image of the seated woman has, after all, been represented by countless male artists since the history of portraiture began. And hasn’t sewing been prone to omission from the higher orders of art, regarded as the province of good wives and mothers – a prop, an amateur pastime? In 1815, Mary Lamb, older sister of the English essayist Charles Lamb, called for an end to this when she wrote that people would be much happier, and women would gain equality with men, once no one engaged in sewing except to make money. Kim’s work bears ties with the historical network of women’s representation and the feminist art lineage, yet it arrives at the question of what new topics in terms of “today’s women” and “image production” we should be delving into. The hints that the artist offers in her notes – “scars” and “hope” – are vast, weighty topics compared to the light images that float about online and elsewhere these days. The surfeit of photographs in copy-and-paste form has qualitatively tainted and quantitatively overwhelmed the value of the face and landscape. In that sense, Jinhee Kim is tackling a very urgent issue in questioning how the themes of “scars” and “hope” can be viewed as individual 97


landscapes without transforming them into a hasty healing process. Approaching her work as a female South Korean speaker in her twenties, the artist is trying to see to it that the images tumbling about “today” are able to speak for themselves. The function of her work as low-lying ground, preserving its individual state without being captured into a unified whole, can also be seen in her April series. For April (2014–), the artist visited Jindo, site of the Sewol ferry tragedy of April 16, 2014. With the works in this series, she uses sewing to overlay images from different points, lines, and planes on the Jindo landscape and the people within it. Applying bright shades of yellow, pink, and light green on photographs of the Jindo landscape and slide photos purchased at a U.S. flea market, the thread is an attempt to transport the setting into a new dimension. But it is a vain hope, which repeatedly ends in foregone failure. Individual scenes in April recall falling snow or large fruit hanging from trees with their tiny, white embroidered circles. This encourages us to imagine other narratives, but it is a fruitless endeavor. Real life and photography actually live in different realities. “The real thing and the photograph seem to be really different,” the artist says. This is a kind of signpost, showing that her focus is on the possibilities of reality’s shallowness. The abstracted point, line, and plane images reflect her intent to create a different kind of landscape, one that refuses to be interpreted through any single, stereotypical meaning. She has the models’ words delve into and transect the photographs, generating a different name for the female image. In this way, Jinhee Kim is doing something akin to uncrinkling paper to erase and rewrite the words on it, seeking out new papers as she explores the principles by which the wounded interior lives and landscapes of “others” today are captured by the camera.

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> April-038, 153 × 120cm, Embroidery on Digital Pigment Print, 2016

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> April-050, 153 x 120cm, Embroidery on Digital Pigment Print, 2017

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> April-053, 120 x 153cm, Embroidery on Digital Pigment Print, 2017

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> April-058, 100 × 100cm, Embroidery on Digital Pigment Print, 2017

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> April-017, 75 × 75 cm, Embroidery on Digital Pigment Print, 2014

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> April-011, 72 × 72 cm, Embroidery on Digital Pigment Print, 2014

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> April-047, 42 ×42cm, Embroidery on Digital Pigment Print, 2016

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> labor of love 1, framed-73 Ă— 103, Embroidery on Digital Pigment Print, 2016

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> >

labor of love-003, framed-34 Ă— 201cm, Embroidery on Digital Pigment Print, 2017

labor of love-004, framed-34 Ă— 118.5cm, Embroidery on Digital Pigment Print, 2017

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< From the past-001, 105 Ă&#x2014; 156cm, Embroidery on Digital Pigment Print, 2016

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> April-035, 120 Ã&#x2014; 153cm, Embroidery on Digital Pigment Print, 2016

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Jinhee Kim Jinhee Kim graduated from the photography department of the Chung-Ang University College of Art. For many years, she was focused on her work on the hidden interior lives and emotional memories of women, adopting different approaches to explore and reflect her interest in individualsâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; relationships and memories. She has held the solo exhibitions whisper(ing) (Trunk Gallery, Seoul, 2012) and A Nameless Woman, She (Songeun Artcube, Seoul, 2014). She has also taken part in numerous other exhibitions in South Korea and overseas, including Young Portfolio Acquisitions 2013 (Kiyosato Museum of Photographic Arts, Japan, 2014) and the 12th Photography Criticism Award Honoreesâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; Exhibition (Gallery Illum, Seoul, 2011). Her work has been included in the collection of the Kiyasato Museum of Photographic Arts. jinheekim0423@gmail.com

Hyun See-won Hyun See-won writes about images and art. She has planned such exhibitions and projects as Read the Next Sentence (2014, Ilmin Museum of Art, with Park Hae-cheon and Yun Won-hwa) and no mountain high enough (2013). She runs the Audio-Visual Pavilion (audiovisualpavilion.org) and has published such books as Samul Yuram (Sightseeing Objects, 2014).

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Jinhee Kim

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#23_Jinhee Kim  

May 19, 2017

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