Back To Top

Kim Soo-ja explores body, mind with clay

New York-based Kim, this year’s artist for the MMCA Hyundai Motor Series, presents new works

A huge wooden table fills an entire exhibition hall at the National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, Korea, overwhelming visitors with its scale. A museum employee hands visitors a lump of clay and asks them to make a ball with it on the elliptical wooden table that has a diameter of 19 meters.

“I don’t think I have made anything out of a lump of clay for many years. It used to be a familiar material when we were young,” said artist Kim Soo-ja at the press preview for her solo exhibition at the MMCA in Seoul on Tuesday. The exhibition is part of the annual MMCA Hyundai Motor Series that sponsors distinguished Korean artists to hold solo exhibitions at the museum.

The interactive work aims to make visitors examine their state of mind through the repetitive gesture of rolling a lump of clay into a sphere. 

"Archive of Mind” by Kim Soo-ja (MMCA)

“No matter how many times you try to roll it into a ball, it’s hard to make a perfect globe. I think the accidental edges (formed when creating) the ball is like the edges of your mind,” she explained, referring to the old Korean saying that your mind becomes round and flexible over the years through frustrations and troubles in life.

Her previous works have mainly dealt with cloth, needle and thread, unlike the current one. However, the artist said there were similar “spiritual features.” 

“The experiences with bundles of cloth and the clay ball share a geometrical logic in the acts,” said Kim. “You end up encountering nonmaterial features through the experience with material objects.”

At the exhibition, the artist also presents an old yoga mat she used for nine years from 2006-2015. It bears the traces of the artist’s hands and feet. In her yoga practice, the 59-year-old artist found corporeal geometry that is closely associated with her exploration of the discovery of spiritual values through physical action.

Kim also premieres a new chapter of her ongoing film series “Thread Routes” at the exhibition. The fifth chapter features the weaving culture of the native American-Indian set against the backdrop of geographical wonders in Arizona. The film depicts the basket-weaving and rug-making of North American tribes of Najavo and Hopi, with visual comparisons of rugged canyon cliffs and the complex intersections of Los Angeles highways. 

Artist Kim Soo-ja poses with the sculpture “Deductive Object” in the National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art’s courtyard. (Yoon Byung-chan/The Korea Herald)
Artist Kim Soo-ja poses with the sculpture “Deductive Object” in the National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art’s courtyard. (Yoon Byung-chan/The Korea Herald)

“My film series is a visual poetry, or anthropology,” said Kim.

Kim has explored textile arts as a medium through which to view indigenous cultures around the world. She featured Peruvian weavers, Belgian bobbin lace-makers, descendants of the Incas and Indian textile artisans in previous chapters of “Thread Routes.

The artist has held numerous solo exhibitions at major museums around the world, including the Center Pompidou-Metz in France, Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain, and the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles. She represented the Korean Pavilion at Venice Biennale in 2013.

Kim Soo-ja’s “Archive of Mind” runs until Feb. 5 at the MMCA. For more information, visit

By Lee Woo-young (