Kimsooja (b. 1957; Korea) is an internationally acclaimed conceptual multi-media artist whose practice combines performance, film, photo, and site-specific installation using textile, light, and sound. Her principle of ‘non-doing’ and ‘non-making’ are key to a conceptual and structural investigation of performance that inverts the notion of the artist as the predominant actor. Emphasizing stillness of mind, and drawing on the meditation practices inherent to Hindu and Buddhist philosophies, Kimsooja’s work brings us to an awareness of both self and others.
As the first artist to exhibit at Meridiano, Kimsooja is conscious of the gallery’s name, which originates from meridian — a circular line connecting the north and south poles of the earth at the shortest vertical distance — as well as the exhibition space’s architectural elements, which are exposed to the intense direct sunlight along Oaxaca’s Pacific Coast. Jaoseon’s initiates a performance that places the verticality of the body at the moment when the light is transformed into a geometric structure within the gallery.
The exhibition features the work, Deductive Object – Bottari, 2023, a stone the artist discovered during her stay in Puerto Escondido. She placed this in the center of Meridiano’s square room, which is the first space that visitors enter. The open-air space is exposed to the sky and natural elements, and Kimsooja considers the stone as a bottari that can replace the artist’s body during the exhibition’s duration. The stone’s surface was painted matte black as an attempt to dematerialize the rock’s weight, gravity, and inherent temporality. The stone by its nature conveys the essence of presence and solidity, and with its black colour, it also conveys an intriguing depth and absence. The act of painting may be understood in the context of wrapping an object with cloth like a bundle, and serves as a symbolic contrast to the diffraction film installation work that the artist has been steadily presenting since 2006 in that it simultaneously conceals and reveals the inner space. This represents the core of Kimsooja’s practice, in which she addresses formalistic questions and sensitive issues of the human condition such as migration, poverty, violence, and the displaced self, combining performance, video, photo, and site-specific installations. Kimsooja brings together a conceptual and structural investigation of performance through mobility/immobility that inverts the notion of the artist as the predominant actor based on her “non-doing” and “non-making” principle.
During the gallery’s opening, the artist activated Meridiano’s space with a ritual performance of fire. The work, titled Geometry of Fire, consisted of a deliberate pattern of bricks that was laid on the bare floor and covered with sand. A stack of firewood was placed atop in a grid shape to slowly build a rolling bonfire until it collapses in ash. The flames emitted a smoke that rose through the rectangular-shaped frame for the open ceiling. As the smoke disperses in the air, it reveals the organic, constantly evolving shape of the wind and the fire’s invisible but powerful aroma. The sun’s rays shined through the space delineating both the architecture and rising shadowy smoke. The performance, which will be repeated at specified moments throughout the exhibition’s duration, heightens viewers’ sense of space, time, reality, and fundamental elements.
Jaoseon initiates questions of materiality and ephemerality in Meridiano’s two exhibition spaces with the combination of sculpture and performance that simultaneously complement and interrogate each other. This work by artist Kimsooja is based on the lying, standing, and sitting (Buddhist zazen) shown in her (well-known) performance videos A Laundry Woman, A Homeless Woman, and A Needle Woman, as well as elements of nature and textiles that are organically connected and circulated in the exponential painting style. The artist brings the familiar, yet timeless elements viewers experience in life into the realm of the exhibition space to think and look at things anew.