Seoul, October 31, 2016, http://kyounghokim.com/
My first encounter with Kim Kyoungho’s work took place at his solo exhibition Magic Bullet Broadcasting Network at Art Space Pool in 2013. That exhibition investigated the production process of news reporting and broadcasting across international borders. I saw his work again at the Real DMZ Project 2015. Here he further pursued his interest in the process of showing and re-presenting recent and historical events, a topic which cannot be avoided within the context of the DMZ. He showed two works there: One was a set of photographs of locations covered in green foliage that have once been the sites of mass killings. Another one was a virtual reality movie (via 3D goggles) showing a ruin of a building remaining in the DMZ as a reminder of the war that swept through the area. In the movie, the scene has been augmented by slowly falling synthetic snow, which made it look even more dream-like than it already was. Both works intersected at the question – posed already by Berthold Brecht and quoted in Walter Benjamin’s Little History of Photography – how a photographic image can communicate something that is immaterial and invisible: social, political and economic relationships, or the pain, the memory and the horror of an individual’s experience at a certain site.
My studio visit happened in order to make up for missing Kim Kyoungho’s latest solo exhibition Oceanic Affection that took place in September 2016 at Sansumunhwa, a recently established artist-run space in the Southwest of Seoul. The show presented another chapter in his creative endeavor, moving towards a different subject matter while keeping to his central topic of questioning the representative power of specific sites’ images in relation to events that took or are taking place there.
For the show, Kim Kyoungho drew on the history and present of Geoje City on Geoje Island, located nearby the southern shore of Korea and connected to the Korean mainland via two bridges. It is his own hometown and thus the show was a return to his roots, applying the investigative approaches employed in previous projects onto a subject matter intimately familiar to him. Shipbuilding is the main industry on the island and a majority of the population work in this sector. Unfortunately the shipping industry is not in a good shape and plagued by overcapacity, which in turn has its effects of the shipbuilding industry: A lot of people lost their jobs, and there is not much else they can do in the nearby region. The local government has made attempts to reorient towards the tourist industry, nevertheless that all takes time.
In the exhibition Kim Kyoungho combined photographs, videos and a VR movie that documented specific sites on Geoje Island. As in previous works, the sites have been selected according to events that took place there. Two types of events intermingled in the presented images. One referred to the past, represented by sites where mass killings disguised as anti-communist purges took place during the Korean War. The other referred to the present, represented by sites where jobless and hopeless workers of the closed down shipyards committed suicide. Nominally, all of the still and moving images showed landscapes from Geoje Island that are all being incorporated into the hope of a tourism-driven future of the region, represented by the wide-screen video shot from a cable car gondola.
We did not talk about future projects. I like to leave that as a surprise, both for me and you. Looking forward to them.