Byoungho Kim: The Sentiment of Nature in Rationality
At an atelier in Seongsu-dong, where car factories and fabric warehouses line the street, I met Byoungho Kim. Many 3D printed objects found within, including various pipes, corn-shaped brass metalworks, red copper cups and stainless steel hemispheres, are ripe for becoming understood as artworks rather than merely materials. Byoungho Kim makes this phenomenon, in which human life and relationships since the beginning of human civilisation are arguably standardized by the efficiency and rationality pursued by society, a precondition of his work, producing a module by using machine systems, assembling them to complete artworks. This interview pursues clues as to what kind of turning point his work, which is started from a module, is situated, by surveying his large-scale projects and a new work in preparation. interviewed by Woo Hyunjung |materials provided by the Artist (unless otherwise indicated)
Byoungho Kim, Vertical Garden, Urethane coating on brass, stainless steel, piezo, arduino, 350(h)×210×500cm, 2016/ Photographed by Myungsoo Kang
Woo Hyunjung: You use a module, which means a basic measurement and unit for spatial division, as the basis of your work. You said an artist him/herself is one of modules in the social relationship. What is the meaning of ‘module’ across all of your work?
Byoungho Kim: I don’t think that an artwork is produced only according to the artist’s own will. Different machines and engineers who handle them produce the parts of artwork through a specialized production system, not in an atelier. I interpret them as a single ‘part’. Most particularly these parts have formative, aesthetic and functional link with each other. I call them ‘modules’ because they are correlative. Artworks consisting of modules have a meaning as a work that makes their relationship visible. I also exist in a thoroughly specialized production system. That is, I am functioning as a part of different stages that make up an artwork. To make a robust artwork, one requires a thorough plan. Therefore the most important thing in the production of artwork is planning, and it is beyond the value of an artist’s drawing. In practice, most contents of an initial drawing are reasonably reconstructed at the drafting stages of a blueprint. It is because the plan should meet the international production standards, the conditions of suitable materials, efficient structure and the mode of assembly. A blueprint is another way to communicate with the world, not only with the art world, and it also becomes a constructive environment to be a module.
Woo Hyunjung: When did you begin your modular works, and how did you come up with the idea?
Byoungho Kim: A modular component has been continuously present in my drawings and works since when I was a university student, but the major motive behind its materialization was the desire to make sculpture. Works, including The Manipulation, were showed for the first time in the solo Exhibition ‘Garden in the Garden’ in 2013. In this exhibition, the modular works were exhibited in a state of an objet, not as structures. However, the meaning of the module is valid when they are gathered together, and it is only really a methodology of production. The most important thing is what the artwork says. The module in recent works looks like a bowling pin or a cannonball, but it is not extracted from a specific subject. It is a structure that is efficiently connected across both horizontal and vertical positions made by planning. Thus, it is a form that is drawn from a relationship. Lately, I use the module as a unit that has a more active function by putting a loadable board to arrange modules vertically.
Byoungho Kim, The Manipulation, Brass, 16(h)×21cm in diameter, 2013/ Courtesy of the Artist & Arario gallery / Photographed by Wooheon Lee
Byoungho Kim, Garden, Aluminum, steel, powder coating, 280(h)×750×250cm, 2013/ Courtesy of the Artist & Arario gallery / Photographed by Wooheon Lee
Woo Hyunjung: Vertical Garden installed at the Sinsegae Department Store in Centum City, Busan and Doubts about the Memory at SKMS Research Lab in Icheon reveal geometrically the aesthetic value of sculpture, and they resemble nature at the same time. How do the two opposite things-the artifical and natural aspects-connect in your works?
Byoungho Kim: A garden is not natural. The word already presents an artificiality. When marking territory on an area, it should be understand as personal or public property. Furthermore, gardens are made to embrace the problems of human ambition, such as urban planning. Vertical Garden is a work installed in the rooftop garden at Sinsegae Department Store in Busan. ‘Vertical’ means non-natural, and it is used to connote supernatural things. Through a well-pruned garden, I wanted to make a statement about our environmental conditions in the contemporary society and the human relationships that belong to our society. It is also a story about the identity of civilisation, so that we feel peace from staying in functional buildings composed in horizontal and vertical, and the garden, which is a part of architecture. The first related work was Garden in 2013. It aimed to visualize in ‘Artificial Garden in the Nature’. I tried to ruminate upon living conditions, environments, and humans by connecting geometry and nature with matched and varied colours.
Byoungho Kim, Doubts about the Memory, Nano & fluorine coating on stainless steel, 530(h)×280×175cm, 2016
Woo Hyunjung: You have carried out many outdoor projects, some installed outside of museums. In those cases, the relationship between artwork and space becomes important above all else. How do you draw ideas and apply them to your works?
Byoungho Kim: It would be good to explain my answer with an example. I had participated an exhibition ‘Between Waves’ with a public art project APMAP 2014 that began in 2013. The location was Jeju Island. When I visited there for my initial research, I realised that the land had always been subject to change by capital, war, and natural phenomena. So I planned a work that showed current conditions of the exhibition place objectively. Under the topic ‘the ridge of the land is history’, I selected fifteen furrows of green tea farm at Seogwang Tea Garden, and performed GPS altitude leveling with a surveyor, receiving help from the Jeju Cultural Heritage Institute. I input the result into CAD, and extracted nine to ten spots. A curve was generated when I connected each of the points, and by copying the curve in four directions, upside and downside, it then became a sculpture that was combined in eight parts. Fifteen Landscapes looked like an artefact from the Bronze Age, from some viewpoints. The location had a current appearance through repeated developments. I transformed the place into an abstracted and geometric form, and monumentalized it.
Byoungho Kim, Fifteen Landscapes, Transparent urethane & fluorine coating on brass, steel, concrete, 200(h)×25×25cm(15pcs), 2014/ APMAP 2014 jeju ? ‘BETWEEN WAVES’/ Courtesy of Amorepacific Museum of Art
Woo Hyunjung: I heard that you were going to build a pagoda at the Songgwangsa Temple. Explain this project and how it recalls your modules.
Byoungho Kim: I have been growing in interest in my individual projects, because an exhibition becomes a frame for a work of art. The pagoda project means that I can bring my work into the real world for the first time, escaping from the frame. Last year, I visited Songgwangsa Temple in Suncheon with 1:5 scale miniature of pagoda without any assurance. The chief monk and the persons concerned gladly allowed its installation after my explanation. I have long worried about presenting a contemporary sculpture at a traditional temple. It is because Songgwangsa is one of only three Korean temples that has Buddhist significance, and it is also home to many national and designated treasures. I’m looking for a proper location for the sculpture where it will not disrupt the solemn atmosphere of the temple. The design and structural analysis have already been completed, and I have accelerated the production. The work will be shown for
a year from this October. I am looking for the next place to exhibit. The work is originally an artwork, so I hope it remains its artistic value in the art world after the installation in a temple. The title will be changed along with its materials, it is Three Storied Bronze Pagoda this time.
Woo Hyunjung: How did you develop your idea so as to bring your works into the real world?
Byoungho Kim: After making The Manipulation, which was the preparation stage of the pagoda project, the most vague notion I had about the pagoda got clear. At the formative point of view, it can be solved as an aesthetics of antigravity against gravity, but I have concentrated on what I can understand and express within Buddhism, regardless of personal religious convictions. The pagoda, which is for pray for peace of family and country from the past to the present, reflects our common sensibility and sentiment. To approach the ordinary people’s sentiment within the rituals of Buddhist culture is the way the work coexists with the present. Meanwhile, the pagoda project is an approach to monumentality. Like Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe(Denkmals fur die ermordeten Juden Europas), activities to record memories of past are continuously produced. The pagoda is also a kind of monument to the Buddha. The monument is being made and consumed at every moment, but it became a taboo theme because of its nature which is possibly misled by political motivation. I think this project is relevant to how human beings recognise time and space in progressive history. How to look and judge history is linked with our understanding of reality.
Byoungho Kim, 1:5 scale model for Three Storied Bronze Pagoda, Brass, 73(h)×25×25cm, 2016
Woo Hyunjung: Then what is the difference between this work and other large-scale outdoor projects or museum exhibitions?
Byoungho Kim: Life itself should be communicated, not just waiting for an audience in the white cube. In that sense, the core of this work is to find the edge point for reality while minimizing the implied intentions of the artist. It is not to make art sacrosanct through artistic actions. I realized what an artist had to do, and accordingly have explored this much deeper. This is a natural process for me, and I am preparing the pagoda project methodically as a lifelong project, not making it a one-time event. I’m at an important starting point.
Woo Hyunjung: It seems like it cannot be completed by you alone, considering its size and means of production. Do you have collaborators at each working stage?
Byoungho Kim: It was impressive that the engineer of a laser work was in the spotlight as well as its artist at Nam June Paik’s exhibition in Ho-Am Art Museum in 2000. I believe many professionals should be in harmony in order to complete an artwork, and when its process goes smooth, the meaning of the work will be completed. Mechanical design and structural analyses using the CATIA programme have been carried by Kim Dongju for a pagoda project. Aside from this, as an extension of work about monumentality, I have been working with Kim Homin (director, poly.m.ur) and Yoo WonJoon (director, online media channel AliceOn) in the group ‘The Unit’ since 2013. We are planning projects based on our common interests and interdisciplinary research in art and architecture.
Byoungho Kim obtained his B.F.A in Dept of Printmaking, College of Fine Arts at Hongik University and M.S in Major of Technology Art, Graduate School of Advanced Imaging science, Multimedia & Film at Chungang University. Beside his several solo exhibitions including ‘Garden in the Garden’(Arario Gallery, Cheonan, Korea, 2013), other prominent exhibitions are as followed; ‘Artificial Fairyland’(Suzhou Jinji Lake Art Museum, Suzhou, China, 2015), ‘Korea Tomorrow’(DDP, Seoul, Korea, 2014), APMAP 2014 jeju?‘BETWEEN WAVES’(Seogwang Tea Garden/OSULLOC, Jeju, Korea, 2014), ‘Jing’an International Sculpture Project’ (Jing’an Sculpture Park, Shanghai, China, 2012) and ‘Korean Eye’ (Saatchi Gallery, London, UK, 2012). His artworks are held in numerous collections such as IFC Seoul, Johnnie Walker House Seoul, Amore Pacific Museum, ILSHIN Foundation, SEONHWA Art and Culture Foundation and Government Complex Sejong.