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K.NOTe no.41

Haemin Kim


K.NOTe no.41

Haemin Kim


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 Coordinator Taeseong Yi Designer Heiin Son Sponsor Arts Council Korea Date of Publication 2018.01 Š Author and artist The reproduction of the contents of this magazine in whole or in part without written permission if prohibited.


Tide of Candles Sindoan 1994 360×1620cm Mixed media on canvas 2017

K.NOTe #41 Meeting Him in the Relational Space Min Hijung Art Theorist 1 Haemin Kim first began drawing attention as a media artist with TV Hammer, a 1992 work with a striking scene in which a hammer adorned with spiky hair smashed at a cathode ray tube as if it might burst out of the TV screen. It was the product of Kim’s mature consideration of media as someone who had explored the video medium since the 1980s - his contemplation of the new role demanded of the artist in contemporary culture, namely that of attuning the currents of cultural energy and generating waves of new energy. Roy Ascott, one of the early observers of behavioral tendency in modern art, saw artist, artwork, and viewer as forming relationships with a behavioral context. He felt that the boundary between the artwork’s production and the work itself, as well the experience of the work, were no longer clearly defined - a tendency he believed would only intensify. Where past aesthetics had emerged in a deterministic culture in which messages defined and individuated by the artist were transmitted to a passive viewer, art was positioned in a cultural context where artists and viewers participated to incite aesthetic events, expanding it into an open, public discourse. As if to bear out Ascott’s prediction, Haemin Kim has continued to present boundary-breaking works centering around interaction. In contextual terms, he does not appear to have followed Ascott. As an artist produced by his era, he has diligently devoted himself to his convictions, assuming a quite unique place in the historical current of Korean media art in the process. Unlike artists according to the traditional concept - those who began as painters - Kim is the first person to establish himself firmly as an artist using the camera from the outside, without ever picking up a brush. 6

Haemin Kim describes the art as “one who relates.” This reflects a world view that sees the artist as performing the role of mediator or modifier, someone using his or her work to form a cognitive relationship or strike a balance among such issues to enable interaction as a community. He has also followed a path that applies to his strength as an editor, assembling temporal puzzle pieces and linking different spaces so that media art achieves artistic resonance beyond a mere cognitive debate at the level of aesthetic experience or information. At a time when the media art debate was just beginning in Korea, he broke away from the work at the symbolic level and video as a contemplative object to present a video world where actual experiences take place. 2 Haemin Kim’s choice of the mediator role starts from a deep understanding of space. He focuses on the way in which a single incident can never exist without a relationship to the outside. To infuse immediacy into two-dimensional media, he did not approach it in terms of painting, which was evolving along with mathematical lines, but noted instead the frame. He was ultimately fascinated by the relational structures that emerged as endlessly woven temporal slices were rearranged spatially through angles. Adopting this as his aesthetic terrain, he launched an aesthetic exploration of delving in and out of the frame. Shamanism is the theme through which he has been able to present the artist’s role as go-between most clearly. Not only does it perform the mediating role of linking different spaces - “then and there” and  “here and now” - but it also enables endless questions about one of humankind’s most fundamental desires to know. In his work Sindoan(1994), he transferred a cultural thread that had gone underground as “superstition” into a white cube with an exhibitional function, where the religious rites offered a new consciousness to the audience in the form of an unfamiliar experience.  7

In addition, he considered the existential problem by dialectically expanding the events from a new position from the A Crescent and a Decrecent (1991), Red and White Man(1994). Kim thus does not insist on separating imaginary from existing. When we encounter a video, we already see the space within it as one that encompasses our own lives. Within his terrain, Kim draws on the well of time, linking independent spaces organically and growing them like stem cells in a relationship of vitality. This is not a relationship that goes away once a mechanical medium has been shut off. Our minds can conjure up the images at any time, constantly segmenting and searching and repeating. Kim seeks out different strategies to create real spaces that are living, breathing, constantly in motion. Representative of this is the way he not only dismantles the interface’s inward and outward aspects, or reality and the virtual, but links virtual worlds together with other virtual worlds to form multidimensional network spaces. As can be seen in works like Emitting Light from Emitting Light (1997), Unreasonable Alibi  (1999) and Seeking for Love (2008), he seems to transpose the videos to a theatrical space, designing spatial systems where two moving images interact and the viewer’s gazes are continuously crossed. As a result, his works have a structure that is capable of consistently generating new outcomes. Another strategy is to inside one interface into another one, or to partition them to create double or multiplex spaces. The intermediate space in the interface is not simply empty space here, but plays a central role in eliciting new relationships. The variability of these spaces in particular transforms them into experiential environments that provide directionality to the viewer’s consciousness and generate new awareness. In Unorderable Connections, he cleverly positions a television cathode ray tube within the interface confronted by the user, which has the effect of ushering the viewer’s space a step forward and leading him or her into a kind of trance. 8

Red and white Nobility 1992


By showing the familiar outward appearance of a TV that might have existed in someone’s space in the past, along with someone’s hand flipping through channels, he gives viewers a taste of telepresence, where they seem to be the ones changing the channels themselves. In contrast, TV Hammer disrupts the viewer’s perceptions, superimposing and adhering two glass interfaces to give the illusion that the relation context between image and watcher seems to be situated in the same space. In this way, Haemin Kim positions the video frame in just the right place to generate a vivid interaction even without the power of the New Technology. Even single-channel video is converted to three-dimensional memory through partitioning of the interface to compose spaces. In Once Upon a Time in Panmunjeom, the elderly speaker plays the role of both interface guiding us into a new place and medium replaying his own memories as source record. Here, Kim opens up a new interface so the signified fragments do not simply scatter, expanding them into multilayered space to elicit the viewer’s awareness in response. 3 The different spaces that appear in Haemin Kim’s work only become relational spaces capable of full interaction once the artist’s unique aesthetic coloring has been added in. Kim’s distinctive, painstaking coloration process is a means of evoking characteristically Korean elements. At all times, the artist coordinates these elements to modern jangdan, adding hae-hak as he moves them to the stage. The Korean word jangdan(장단), meaning a kind of “rhythm,” can be written in Chinese with the characters 長短, or literally “longshort.” As a native Korean word, however, it refers to a key aesthetic element in Korean culture and art. Jangdan is typically understood to refer to a particular beat and tempo in traditional Korean music. But as its use in the idiom jangdan yi matda (“to be attuned”) suggests, it also exists in various derivations outside of musical terminology, suggesting the meaning of harmony. It is a sense that is also deeply imbued in the emotions of the Korean people, where differing 10

elements seek out a harmony together - as can be seen in the cries of  “eolssigu, jeolss-gu” or “eya-, diya-” that accompany the jang-dan rhythm. Many examples of Western culture and technology have entered Korea and been adopted since the modern era, but the jangdan lives on in embodied aspects such as Koreans’ gait and manner of speaking, and in the symbols of their entertainment culture. In addition to his adept command of different rhythms, Haemin Kim also generates aesthetic resonance by showing the pleasure of things coming together briskly in his work. Jangdan is not a matter of simply dictating harmony, serenity, or perfection between two objects. It is a harmony and resonance achieved amid clashing and conflict, an accidental yet purposeful flow, a contextual element that can only be seen by viewing the whole. In adopting jang-dan as its central aesthetic, Kim’s artistic universe assumes a structure where no one is otherized, where things can interact even as the component elements do not dissipate their individuality. Jangdan has been a sign eliciting Kim’s characteristic form of dialectical logic from his early work Red and White Nobility 1994 to the pieces shown as his solo exhibition ‹지록위마 Ji-Rok-We-Ma, 指鹿爲馬› (Calling a Deer a Horse) a few years ago, including HE and SHE(2011), Other Portrait (2014), and Man and Woman with a Gat (2014). It functions on one hand to encourage viewers to pose questions to themselves and create logic, as through solving a riddle through their search for the relational space structure, and on the other to drive them into a state of confusion. If jangdan functions as a current of the signified throughout Kim’s work, then Hae-hak(해학) is an element generating its signifying aspects.  “hae-hak” here means a critical stance that is waggish without sacrificing its dignity. In generating well-meaning laughter, it presumes sympathy, understanding, a positive view toward humankind. As an artistic approach, it reflects the resistance mentality of the masses seeking to escape oppression and restrictions, capturing the Korean way of living and mindset - one of never losing sight of love 11

or pleasure even amid the ordeals of history. Readily apparently in the very titles of Kim’s work, this humorous quality solidifies aspects that are at once playful and defiant, be it through magic effects, literary elements from theatrical mise-en-scène, and forms of play like jokes or games. Pushing and pulling inward and out, the correspondence of two gazes - red, then deep blue - that appears in his work like an obvious virtue serves to generate a three-dimensional density.


Other Portrait 2014



He and She 2011


A Crescent and a Decrecent 1991




Proximity of Longing, 1channel, color, 16'50'', 2016


Trick of Standing Erect 1998


Unorderable Connections 2006



Man and Woman with Korean traditional hat 2014


Seeking for nothingness 1992


Seeking for love 2008


Haemin Kim By exploring the relationship between the attributes of the media media and the visual perception of human beings, Haemin Kim has been working on the media to discern and insight the relationship between the image and the real world. He is Korea's early media artist who has been presenting media works from the time when the video media became popular in the mid 1980's. He is interested in oriental thinking system such as five elements of the universe, shaman, he thinks that all things are connected and structured. It links these concepts to the production of his media works. ‘TV Hammer’(1992), which clarifies the relationship between the virtual image and the reality, which is the phase of the image that transforms a virtual image into a real space. He has presented nine solo media solo exhibitions including 'Bang' Smash (Arario Museum, Seoul, 2016), and many other exhibitions including '5th Fukui Video Biennale' (1993, Japan) and '2th Gwangju Biennale' (1997).

Min Hijung Min Hijung is involved in research activity with a focus on modern art and media theory. She was responsible for the research and text of the exhibition The Future Is Now (National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, Korea, 2014) and the Art and Science Fusion Project Dynamic Structure & Fluid (Arko Art Center, 2014). Recently published papers and articles are as follows: “A Study of Media Arts of Park Hyun-Ki with Focus on His Early Works from 1978 to 1982” (Korean Society of Art Theories, 2015), “A Study on Park Hyun-Ki’s Transcendental Technology Art -Focused on His Mirror Works-” (Korean Society of Basic Design & Art, 2016), and “A Study on Initial Discourse in Korean Media Art -Focused on the Change of Terms from the 1960’s to 1990’s-” (Korea Society of Image Arts and Media, 2016).



Haemin Kim

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