Shinwook Kim: Night Break
This series began when the artist worked as a night watchman at the Demilitarised Zone between North and South Korea. Straying from his post one night, and drifting in and out of wakefulness, he stumbled into a tree and mistook it for another man. The photographs that he developed out of his experience of the night watch suture the cleft between blindness and vigilance, recording the sensory experience of an artist with eyes wide shut.
In Shinwook Kim’s contribution to Night Break, the clarity of the camera flash counters the cloudy gaze of the sleepwalker. He exposes skeletal, swaying trees and wrenches them cleanly, without shadows, from their natural surroundings, abstracting them into two dimensions. Eerily and ethereally illuminated by his camera lens, they are flattened and fetishised, almost superimposed onto the night sky.
‘Long exposure’ is a metaphor that permeates the series. The artist himself, during the night watch, was pushed past exhaustion into a waking dream. His camera gradually gathered light to record this comatose nocturnal reality. It can be seen, thus, that night-time registers tangibly in these photographs, both in their conception and in their technical realisation.
In order to produce these images, the artist went in search of borders. The florae that he photographs have spread their roots at territorial boundaries across Europe. Yet, while the Demilitarised Zone is an emotive, contended and mediating space electrified by grand-scale political and civil conflict, the border sites that Shinwook Kim chooses to photograph are comparatively meek and unassuming. In Night Break, he begins to build photographic identities for these otherwise uncelebrated slices of no man’s land.
About the artist
London-based Korean artist Shinwook Kim completed a BA in Fine Art at Goldsmiths in 2012, and is now studying for a Master’s in Photography at the Royal College of Art. After participating in a group show at MOKSPACE in February of this year [Artists in Action for Education]
, and having held a solo exhibition here in 2012 [Korean Folk Painting in Photography]
, he returns for a collaboration with fellow night photographer Taedong Kim.
While at Night Break he exhibits photographs, the artist also works with video, and at previous exhibitions he has experimented with backlit photo frames. His methods and media suggest a desire to tease out the performativity and vitality of the photographic image. Further information about his work, as well as an extended biography, can be found at www.shinwookkim.com
Selected Group Exhibitions
2013: ‘Import/Export,’ Tornio/Harparanda, Finland/Sweden [Nov]
2013: ‘Contemporary Korea Photo Exhibition of Four Young Photographers,’ Guardian Garden, Tokyo, Japan [Oct-Nov]
2013: ‘NordArt 2013,’ Büdelsdorf, Germany [Jun-Oct]
2013: ‘7th International Arte Laguna Prize Finalists Exhibition,’ Venice Arsenale, Venice, Italy [Mar]
2013: ‘14th Photography Criticism Awards Winning Exhibition’, Iyang Gallery, Seoul, South Korea [Jan]
2012: ‘クラウド’ [cloud/crowd] LE DECO gallery, Tokyo, Japan [Oct]
2011: ‘EVERYTHING’ Group Event, The Institute of Contemporary Arts, London, UK [May]
2006: 'ACROSS THE BORDER', Gallery 27, Kyungki‐do, Korea [Feb]
Taedong Kim: Night Break
In a sprawling city that rarely sleeps, the moonlight-lamplight hours divest urban architecture of its quotidian functions, and phantom figures meander between hollow walls and abandoned streets.
Taedong Kim’s localised photographic study builds a bridge between ethnography and fiction. While a camera flashing in the darkness promises to reveal elusive and occluded faces of the city, the photographer also fabricates realities, and these half-staged, half-candid scenarios suggest latent, off-camera narratives.
Yet, so arresting are the protagonists’ stares, we could suspect they had been wandering the streets in search of Taedong Kim’s camera lens, simply to find these images with him. In Night Break, the photographer clots the lifeblood of the megacity and juxtaposes it with barren architecture. The visual weight of these static-kinetic humans is at once dwarfed and foregrounded by the towering, lifeless structures and empty roads that surround them.
For the spectator, the haunting anthropocentrism of these images stimulates identification and alienation. Amid the titanic concrete and stone of the dusky metropolis, the solitary human figure fascinates. For viewers at MOKSPACE in London, Taedong Kim’s photographs may seem to uncover faces of a supranational urban experience. Yet the subjects’ own faces infuse the images with a specific (and homogeneous) ethnicity, branding them as distinctly Korean and adding an ethnographic, and perhaps even orientalising, aspect to the series. So, while these subjects are in certain ways identifiable, they remain anonymous and fugitive apparitions in the night.
Indeed, what is perhaps most captivating about these images is their volatility. They are the product of chance meetings between photographer and subject on cold nights in Seoul. People wander, time flies, and in every moment the balance between light and darkness is unique. These photographic traces seduce, as they simultaneously instantiate and dispute the evanescence of the artist’s nocturnal encounters.
About the artist
Seoul-based photographic artist, Taedong Kim, has studied photography at undergraduate and postgraduate level at Chung-Ang University in his home capital. Earlier this year, he exhibited at Korea’s National Museum of Contemporary Art and he has held solo exhibitions in Seoul as winner of the Ilwoo Photography Award at Ilwoo Space, and for the Gallery Lux Young Artist Support Program. His photographic work also features in the collections of the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston, Texas, the Donggang Museum of Photography in Gangwon Province, Korea, and the KT&G Sangsang Madang cultural centre in Seoul.
Taedong Kim’s practice can be read as sociology-through-photography. Like his Night Break collaborator Shinwook Kim, Taedong Kim finds inspiration in boundaries and borders. In his 2010 series ‘Symmetrical,’ for example, he explores Korean ethnic identities by taking photo portraits of Korean migrants on the margins of New York City.
Selected Group Exhibitions
2013: ‘International Discovery IV’ at Houston Fotofest, Houston, Texas, USA
2013: ‘Young Korean Artists 2013’ at the National Museum of Contemporary Art, Seoul, Korea
2012: ‘New Force of Photography’ at the GoEun Museum of Photography, Busan, Korea
2009: ‘The Scenes from Yeongwol’ for Donggang International Photo Festival at Donggang Museum of Photography, Korea
2007: ‘Light of the Academy’ at Xi’an Academy of Fine Arts, Beijing, China
2007: JungAng Art Festival at Artspace-hyun, Seoul, Korea
2007: ‘HP TURN ON AWARD’ at Noam Gallery, Seoul, Korea
2006: ‘Haze’ at TTL Zone Gallery, Seoul, Korea
- Text by Ralph Day
, Assistant Curator at MOKSPACE
*All content is copyright of Mokspace, the exhibiting artists or the photographer.
Please obtain prior consent before reproducing any images.