Cloth artworks to represent Korea at Venice Biennale

By Lee Woo-young

Kim Sooja will present site-specific installation reflecting natural disasters around the world

  • Published : Jan 17, 2013 - 19:44
  • Updated : Jan 17, 2013 - 19:44

Internationally-renowned South Korean artist Kim Sooja will present a new “bottari” series at the Korean Pavilion of the Venice Biennale this year.

Kim has been chosen as the sole artist to represent the Korean Pavilion for the 55th Venice Biennale. The world’s leading art event is scheduled to be held from June 1 to Nov. 24 at various venues in Venice.

The bottari series is the artist’s representative artwork that features cloth bundles in various contexts. The artwork was shown at the biennale twice ― in 1995 and 1999. Bottari is a Korean term for a cloth bundle.
Commissioner for the Korean Pavilion of the 2013 Venice Biennale Kim Seung-duk (left) and artist Kim Sooja pose for a photo at a press conference on Wednesday in Seoul. (Yonhap News)

According to Kim Seung-duk, commissioner for the Korean exhibition, Kim was invited to work for the exhibition because of her well-known exploration of nonmaterial things such as light and sound through her conceptual art forms.

“The exhibition will be an architectural and site-specific installation that utilizes characteristics of the building and surroundings of the Korean Pavilion,” said the commissioner. “I think she is the right person who can balance out different characteristics existing inside and outside the building,” she said.

The Korean Pavilion features various building materials such as glass, steel and wood and has a curved wall. The interior is often modified to house each exhibition.

The artist said she would consider the mirror wall of the building as a cloth bundle and explore the process of tying and untying the bundle.

“The building itself will be a huge bottari and I will utilize lights and sound to present the nature of the bottari,” she said. 
Artist Kim Sooja sits on bottari made with Korean cloth and bedcovers in 1994. (Ju Myung Duk/Kimsooja.com)

The artist has twice presented her works at the biennale, but this is the first time she has been invited to hold an exhibition at the Korean Pavilion.

In 1999, she presented a bottari series on which she worked with refugees of Kosovo during the Kosovo War. In 2005, she presented the second version of her another famous series “Needle Woman,” with accompanying performances taking place in six different cities mired in conflict related to the Iraq War.

This time, the exhibition will feature natural disaster-related elements, she said.

“I lived without electricity, gas and hot water for a weak when the storm Sandy hit New York. I thought many things during the time. My new work will involve frequent natural disasters happening around the world,” she said.

“Visitors to the exhibition will be able to experience meditation through nonmaterial elements such as sound, light and color with their body,” said the artist.

The Korean exhibition, sponsored by the Arts Council Korea and online game developer Nexon, will take place at Giardini, Venice, during the biennale.

By Lee Woo-young  (wylee@heraldcorp.com)