by Shraddha NairJun 27, 2022
South Korean visual artist and music producer Yunchul Kim is presenting five installations at this year’s Venice Art Biennale. In his glorious chromium cyberpunk, Isaac Asimov meets Dune aesthetic, Kim brings an edgy and mysterious quality to the 2022 Korean Pavilion. The works on view include Argos - The Swollen Suns (2022), Chroma V (2022), La Poussière de Soleils (2022), Impulse (2018) and Flare (2014). The large kinetic sculptural installations are accompanied by a site-specific wall-drawing also made by Kim.
Kim is informed by his trans-disciplinary research which combines philosophy, chemistry, physics, mathematics, cosmology, anthropology and mythology. He considers the complex entanglement of beings between human, non-human and things by examining the ‘world of materials’. His most recent works are an exploration of fluid dynamics, photonics crystals and magnetohydrodynamics. Apart from being a practicing artist and music producer, Kim is also the founder of Studio Locus Solus in Seoul. The artist has won multiple accolades, including CERN’s Collide International Awards (2016), and has showcased at several renowned institutes internationally - Ars Electronica (Austria), International Triennial of New Media Art (China), ISEA (Germany) to name a few.
With such a diverse repertoire, the word ‘dynamic’ is an easy fit for the artist. He takes on multiple roles seamlessly, with an eager focus on the conceptual universe and universal concepts. When I ask Kim about his early introduction to the language of art he shares, “For the majority of artists of my generation in Korea, art or music was not welcomed as a profession by the family members. So, for me, I think coming to engage with music and art deeply was not a choice but a destiny. When I was young, I was very absorbed in music which exposed me to other genres of art such as theatre, film, dance, and painting - it was as if meeting new friends through a good friend…”.
Kim’s inspirations are manifold. The artist finds himself inspired and stimulated by a variety of subject matters including literature, architecture, fashion and philosophy. However, he finds himself most stimulated by music and poetry. He says, “I wonder if there is an art genre that is as closely related to the artist's life and works as poetry. I think the imaginations and emotions that poetry creates are very personal, but they also transcend any generation and culture. The title of the exhibition Gyre is also inspired by a poem by the British poet William Yeats Butler.” The artist tells us how he uses music to create a specific environment conducive to his creative flow saying, “I listen to all kinds of music, from the almost sacred abstract music of Bach, to pop music and electronic music. In particular, when I plan and produce new works, I often listen to one song over and over again. It's not because I am listening to a particular musical melody, but because the music itself creates another space-time, transforming my studio into an unfamiliar space.”
Like countless other artists I have spoken to over the years, Kim also leans on the magic of music to create a space conducive to creating. His practice, however, reaches further into the depths of musical study. In fact, Kim’s visual art practice is birthed from his interest in music. Having studied to be a composer, his lens is guided by the element of time itself. The artwork created in the process, therefore, unfolds according to the parameters set essentially by the nature of time. Kim says, “I think all of my work started with music. I studied composition, and studying contemporary music composition was like thinking about music with other disciplines like natural sciences such as mathematics, physics and astronomy, humanities like philosophy and aesthetics, and architecture and art. There is a lot of evidence supporting that Pythagoras in Greece and Confucius in China also devised ways to tune notes….”
The artist’s musical inclinations have led him to the doorstep of other worlds, especially the scientific aspects. This curiosity has molded into a trans-disciplinary practice. In the installations at VAB 2022, his fascination with physics, our approach to time, and the influence of time upon nature is presented, with a clarity that emerges from exploration and investigation. Kim says, “Actually, I have more interactions with scientists than artists, and personally, I think it is an important element to have a variety of perspectives on a single topic alongside other fields. For example, when mathematicians, philosophers, and artists talk about the infinity, there are many layers of pretty interesting stories and they create a depth that we don't even think of.” The artist’s presentation at VAB 2022 leaves me reflecting on the multiplicity of our reality itself… Our constructed notion of ‘reality’ is in fact myriad dimensions (personal, natural, social, spiritual, energetic, etc.) melded and meshing into each other, a fact we frequently and so easily take for granted.
Gyre, presented at the Korean Pavilion, is Kim’s first show in Venice. Of the six artworks presented at the Biennale, three were produced specifically for the exhibition. The works were developed keeping in mind the architectural structure and environment of the Korean Pavilion. Kim shares with us saying, “Each work requires a number of experimental and research processes. A process of humanistic research related to the subject matter and various practices behind the actual production are intertwined to develop a work.”
Chroma V, a kinetic art installation consisting of nearly 400 individual cells, is a huge knot structure. Kim tells us how the large artwork was created. “When I planned it, I was inspired by Decartes’s Plenum, which is the imaginary space completely filled with particles, ancient ouroboros that is a snake devouring its own tail, and the knot theory of mathematics and biology. To realise it, the knot was generated by a computer, in particular, the curve was created through the gravity and collision algorithm which was converted into a parametric structure. Each knot contains a single kinetic device, which causes multiple layers of transparent polymers to bend, producing various spectrum and patterns. Intuitive decisions and sometimes scientific methodologies are met in these technical processes.” The result of this interaction between artistic concept and scientific principle, is a large, looming, hypnotising installation, continuously morphing both shape and colour.
Chroma V stands in the central space of the pavilion, the core of the presentation both visually and conceptually. The serpentine installation pulsates and breathes as it receives signals from Argos - The Swollen Suns. Argos consists of hundreds of glass tubes that flash with light as it detects muon particles, making this imperceptible matter visible. Once detected, it scatters signals and triggers the movement of the 50 metre-long kinetic piece Chroma V (2022). The keystone sculpture links all the artworks and the surrounding spaces together, and is curated to resemble the central nerves connecting different parts of the body.
Each installation, from Argos (2022) to Flare (2014), is a playful inquiry into principles of physics. Every one of them offers an enticing visual mystery, toying with light, movement and space - the components that make up time. These nearly-mystical sculptural creatures are enveloped and held by the wall painting Gyre (2022) by Kim. The space acts as a venue for people to access a sense of wonderment - a moment to engage with the unknowns and the magic that lies in the web of our physical reality.
The pavilion is curated by Young-chul Lee. Young-chul Lee is a South Korean curator, art critic and expert in urban public design. Lee was the first director of the Nam June Paik Art Center, the artistic director of the second Gwangju Biennale (1997), and the founder of the Anyang Public Art Project (2005). The Korean Pavilion is commissioned by Arts Council Korea, in partnership with Hyundai Motor Company. An accompanying catalogue for the exhibition is due to launch in September 2022. The pavilion showcase will be on view until the closure of VAB 2022.
The 59th International Art Exhibition of La Biennale di Venezia, titled The Milk of Dreams is open to the public from April 23-November 27, 2022, at the Giardini and the Arsenale, Venice.
Click here to read more about STIRring Dreams, a series of articles by STIR that explore some of the best presentations at this year's edition of the art biennale.