KIM Soungui: 0 time
Kim Soun-Gui's Voie-Voix Lactée (1988) is a work that takes the journey between Paris and Seoul, and turns it into a one-hour video. The round-trip journey from Paris to Seoul, then Seoul to Paris, simultaneously recorded and edited by the limited time of a sixty-minute videotape, created an artwork where its recorded time is equal to its edited time. In this work, wherein the directions of coming and going, and time are mixed-up and disarranged, she has created the time of another route that travels neither to Paris nor to Seoul, containing the eighteen-hour flight time, sixty-minute of videotape, and the eight-hour time difference of two countries.
For the past fifty years, Kim has been constantly working in the international art world. Perhaps it is because she has held significantly fewer exhibitions in Korea in comparison to her activities on the international stage, but the artist’s ceaselessly-growing oeuvre has been perceived as something difficult to understand. Expecting to encounter an ambiguous, vague aesthetic concept, the explanation I was given was as follows: “Paris - Seoul (+) Seoul - Paris = 0 Time (zero time).” Seeing the concept drawing for 0 Time, with “Zero Time (0 Time)” written upon it, I was at a loss. What kind of trip did Kim take between Paris and Seoul? What does time mean for her?
Before 1990, during the Cold War, air routes to Europe were unable to pass through Soviet and Chinese airspace, and were forced to stopover at the airport in Anchorage on their detour through the Arctic bypass route. Departing from Paris for Amsterdam, then Anchorage, and passing through Tokyo before arriving in Seoul, it was a lengthy eighteen-hour flight. Kim reminisced this flight, saying she enjoyed sitting at the airport waiting for her next plane; that since she could see the sun and moon rise and set twice, the journey was long but not difficult. At the airport in Anchorage, watching an Arctic sun that did not set until very late, Kim would have been in the middle of slipping down into the gap between land and sky, East and West, Korea and France, the eight-hour time difference. She would have been elsewhere, in the artist’s words, “both here and there; neither here nor there”, somewhere of “0 Time.”
Though it seems simple at first glance, the context of this work becomes deeper and more complicated the further we dive into it. Accustomed to Newtonian thinking, to us, time means a flow that cannot be reversed. It means the hands of the clock turn, today passes to tomorrow, and no turning it back. But to Kim, questioning the problem of time and its significance, time is not an arrow signifying past and present and tomorrow, but a possibility enabling the organic and cyclical exchange between parts within the absolute world. This thought is in line with Eastern philosophy that, by an absence of the Ego for true knowledge and also non-knowledge, aims for an openness accepting of all the universe and Nature. Edited by mixing video clips with time stamps marking the beginning and the end (montage editing and realized in real-time, montage-editing et réalisé en temps réel), in Voie-Voix Lactée the boundary between the temporality of yesterday and tomorrow, and the directionality of coming and going becomes meaningless, and the context of traveling between Paris and Seoul is reversed multiple times.
This journey towards 0 by Kim expands its context through video, a medium she enjoys employing. As the artist said, "I made a record, but I needed a new, vivid language to capture real-time, not a record of representation to show the past by restoring it. At the time, a video that could be drawn in light and time came to me.” She explained multimedia as “an open act and an undefined arena”. In addition, she calls this “open media,” saying, “A Stroke of the Brush, the step. It ignores forms, distinctions, hierarchies yet has the capacity to change indefinitely and includes all domains and times simultaneously.” According to her, open possibility, a new world, is made possible through zero, mu (nothing), and silence, as well as the chaos and paradox they produce, while the tense silence where nothing exists or nothing can be said, is a situation that grants, to human life, value as the true reality (réel).
The title Voie-Voix Lactée is also intriguing. It is a play on words made by arranging voie (way) from Voie lactée (Milky Way) together with voix (voice), its homonym. Such an example can be frequently found in works by Kim, who is known to love ‘language games’. To Kim, playing does not simply mean playing with someone. In an interview, she spoke of “all the attitudes and openness outside languages beyond the limits and disciplines of languages.”Her play naturally and coincidentally comes across areas where objectively empirical categories are invisible. Yes and no, inside and outside, up and down, tradition and modernity, spirit and matter, dream and reality—it is a process realized in the freehearted crossing of conventionally-set boundaries such as these. Passing beyond the limitations of Eastern and Western ideas and embracing even the conditions that cause confrontation and contradiction, Voie-Voix Lactée conceals the diverse weaves of interpretation.
The artist’s exhibition at ARARIO GALLERY, 0 Time, is composed in a structure like a communicating vessel, in which the concepts of time, traversing, and Il-pil (one single stroke) are connected cyclically. To reach the concept of ‘0 Time,’ she had to traverse across many nations of the world; and this ‘traverse (traversé)’ is entangled with a spirit that allows infinite openings beyond boundaries, limits and prejudices, a ‘one-stroke (Il-pil).’ This exhibition method does not develop into a temporal flow or theme, but presents the situation in which the opposite concepts coexist paradoxically. This allows for a glimpse into Kim’s way of thinking itself, which poetically transforms the accidental possibility gained by chance in this process.
So, where is the artist today? Today, a day when we are accustomed to defining things and can recall the past on the Internet, anytime and anywhere. As we face works by the artist, who interprets everything as an open possibility, this exhibition is an opportunity to find a hope for understanding life, for what we do not know while knowing, what we know while not knowing, and what we do not know yet and may not know in the future. Unseeable through rational sight, a true order of life, that is, her art, might not be so far away. Or, like the artist, who fell from a quite farm in Viels-Maisons into the Milky Way to be suddenly dropped into Seoul, it may actually already be here with us.