Infinitely Vibrate with Sensation
Hye Jin Mun
Matter thus resolves itself into numberless vibrations, all linked together in uninterrupted continuity, all bound up with each other, and travelling in every direction like shivers through an immense body.1)
Unclarity, ambiguity, and vagueness. Viewers gazing upon Inbai Kim’s work often experience a sense of ‘untranslatability.’ The bemusement is further amplified, as his works possess a firmness with a considerable degree of internal density. For, this untranslatability is not a confusion that originates from the lack of organization in art work itself (in this case, the cause is exogenous and therefore the viewer is exempt from all responsibility), but is rather an issue of communication or translation. This essay is an attempt to access Kim’s non-language, which differs from the customary language of the symbolic, via the conduit of text. Capturing Kim’s amorphous and constantly elusive works with texts, which by nature fixes and limits significance, may be paradoxical and therefore doomed to failure. However, reaching a (albeit limited) degree of resonance with rhythm in his works can possibly lead to the generation of another meanings.
1. Phases Coexist
Inbai Kim described the process of converting from drawing to sculpture in artist’s note on his first solo exhibition: “I often draw my drawings without specific figures in mind. Then I chose one of my drawings to construct into object. And again, I draw on the surface of it. It doesn't make it into drawing. Honestly, I don't think there's a reason it has to be." The key here is that as the drawing moves on to the solid figure and converts back to another drawing, a certain structural transformation, which is inevitable and unpredictable, is induced. In other words, his earlier works are concerned about the transformative interaction itself between planes and objects, rather than reaching final three dimensional objects by means of drawing, and are based on the gaps between media and the coexistence of dimensions that arise from this process.
The coexistence of dimensions or phases is one of the characteristics that undergird Kim’s works in various layers. Coexistence in his work takes on various forms, such as human-animal hybridity; the fusion of the abstract and the concrete; combination of carving in the round and relief; mixture of lines and masses; coalescence of wall and floor; or the state in between movement and stasis. His earlier works, in particular, clearly delineates his desire to break away from the limitations of mediums in formative art. The works presented at his first and second solo exhibitions belong to this category, as they attempt to nullify the distinction between drawings and sculptures. In his Where Are You Sitting (2003), a relief of a woman acquires three dimensional existence with the legs taken down from the wall and placed on the table. Box (2006) combines the illusions of shadows and representation; the parallelogram shadow of the thin wooden veneers turns to cubic dimensions, forming the upper plane of a rectangular parallelepiped through the drawing. The oscillation between the second and third dimensions become more visible in his free-standing works, as seen in A Woman Who Want to Swim Well (2004). This form in becoming, which looks as if its drawing is in the process of morphing into a sculpture and vice versa, forms a consolidated image only at one fixed point. The hands and feet drawn on the sculpture and the wall complete the illusion of representation while connecting to the statue at a certain moment, but the connection is severed the moment the viewers change the position and the integrated image returns to an individual part soon.
Kim’s interest in formative structures is a consistent theme, but the direction he gazes towards comes closer to the nullification of distinction rather than characterizing each medium’s structure. If drawing creates the illusion of three-dimensionality by adding lines, modeling adduces points and builds mass. The difference between the two mediums becomes lessened due to the technical similarity, one of using the methodology of “adding” to the shared task of representation. What remains merely amounts to the difference between illusion and reality, the second and third dimension; however, this is but a tentative and meagre disparity to Kim, who pursues fundamental non-distinction. As Bergson has noted, in whose theoretical framework the conscious and the unconscious, past and present, material and mind are modes of a cosmic continuity that interacts and inter-penetrates ubiquitously, Kim sees communication among dimensions and modes in the deeper layer, as difference only resides in surficial instantiation. For instance, works that introduce human-animal hybrids such as Mustang (2006) or A Ballerino (2004) attempts to present a peculiar realm that resides in between a wild horse and a man with a regent-style haircut or a swan and a ballerino, rather than their ostensibly formative fusion. The connection between the two nodes can be found in shared properties rather than form; wildness and exaggerated masculinity in Mustang, and gracefulness and muscular tension in A Ballerino. Modal multiplicity remains identical on even more abstract planes. Giridison Bambini (2005), which combines the flank side of the body and the rear of a head, shows the coexistence of two modes that stand spatially apart. Memorization (2009), which describes the before and after stage of penetration in sexual intercourse, realizes the fusion of two temporally disparate states.
Kim’s tendency to refuse categorization and distinction goes beyond the formative realm of mediums and applies to social systems, such as norms, morality and consensual values. Among them, time scale is a recurring motif. Homogenized time, equally applied across scales of time and space, is a reflection of a desire to standardize and control time – a concept that eludes our grasp – which grows stronger with material progress. 60 Hours 12 Minutes 60 Seconds (2007) instantly relativizes time by simply replacing the minute hand with the hour hand, second hand with the minute hand and the hour hand with the second hand. In this morphed time scale, in which the slowest hour hand moves fastest, reduces the scale of time. Scale-morphing has been a consistent theme in Kim’s work, as seen in Unassembled Clock (2011), where time axes with different units coexist on one sphere, or non-linear clocks that stand sequential in spiral progression but present mixed-up numbers in the frontal view.
2. Sensation Moves
The written and spoken words we generally use are cognitive languages. These languages conceptualize material through the referentiality of signifier and signified, and structuralize with unique grammatical systems. If Kim’s works are experienced as untranslatable, this is because they do not conform to the cognitive language of logic and rationality. Instead, he uses the language of the body. All of Kim’s works depart from bodily-felt senses, and he realizes these sensitivity by transforming them into the materiality of the plastic figure. The artist’s statement that he models while reminiscing on the feelings he experienced in certain body postures demonstrates how the sensation of flesh, experienced on the bare tissue level, is the fundamentals of his craft. This methodology also connects to the medium-specificity of the plastic arts, which involves the formation of mass by kneading flesh-like materials. Indeed, his sculptures precisely capture the shape or texture of muscles as they transform in accordance with applied force. The sagging shapes of two breasts that differ depending on applied gravity and the arm-stretching posture in A Woman Who Want to Swim Well or the stretched-out shape of the tense legs in A Ballerino conveys pulsing vitality, making the viewers feel as if they are inhabiting that very pose. The senses of the flesh, felt in that very posture, travels along the tactile materiality of the form and is delivered to the viewer. This correspondence can be attributed to a resonance between the maker’s and viewers’ sensational memory. What connects these two nodes are the actuality of the body and the senses that experience this reality. In this sense, Deleuze’s exposition of Francis Bacon’s paintings can be readily applied to Kim’s works.2)
In Kim’s art world, sensation not only refers to a certain property felt through our five senses, but also the state which is generated by a force or energy moving through the body. Deller Hon Dainy (2007) is a prime example of sense-conveyance via the materiality of mass. The work presents three different states of emotion, branching out from one shape. The first sculpture, which represents a black face devoid of expression, has a soft and organized surface with no protruding or discernable shape. The sense of volume in the lump-mass materially conveys a sense of pre-division and non-existence. The other two correlated sculptures show modal transference. In one of these works, the facial features, reduced to points on the plane, literally embody the convergence of energy occurring at moments of concentration. In the other sculpture that shows irritated scribbles on the plane of the face materializes bursts of emotional energies such as rage or frustration. In such shapes, form becomes variable, subjective and empirical, rather than a solid, objective and conceptual substance.
Rising Fastball (2010-2011) dramatically reveals the difference between subjective cognitions in accordance with applied force. In this work, which summarizes the posture of a fastball-throwing pitcher, the concentration of physical force or psychological tension distorts the ratio between areas that receive the force and those that do not. Each part of the body, according to the forces allotted by the throwing posture, becomes increased or decreased. The face is omitted due to its relative unnecessariness, and the extremities below the elbow, carrying less force, is lumped into one mass. On the contrary, the left leg, which sustains the weight of the entire body, is fully emphasized; the tension of the tendons and muscles leading from the thigh, knee and ankle remains high. In particular, the sizes of the two feet highlight the contrast between emphasis and reduction. The left foot, serving as the fulcrum of the swinging motion, retains a ponderous bulk and exudes a sense of heavy weight to the extent that the viewers feel the formidable force of the toes pressing down on the floor. In contrast, the right foot stands relatively lightly, reduced and shriveled to a mere trace.
In summary, what Kim creates is sensation – a sense that is the concrete experience of the flesh coursing through the body, rather than an abstract concept. The clear gender markers and a general lack of women in Kim’s human sculptures can be traced back to the fact that the artist as experiencing subject is male. As the works are based on physical rather than conceptual memories, and due to the impossibility of comprehending the sense-perceptions of the other sex, it is natural that the invocation of sensation slants towards the male. The frequent occurrence of sexual motifs in Kim’s works could also be understood in this light, as seen in the case of Clock (2009-2011), which describes the escalation and decline of sexual excitement, or Alarm (2009-2011) where flipped female bodies are aligned. However, interpreting such pieces as surface-level sensual responses (e.g. male desire towards female bodies) can be misleading. Kim’s art indeed spring from the practical senses of the flesh, but his focus lies not on the body itself, but the concentration and diffusion of the forces that pass through the bodies, the very flow of energy. In fact, what Clock conveys is the change in the intensity of a specific energy, and Alarm displays the calm yet provocative property generated by the ambivalent form of concreteness and abstraction. Physical directness is important to the extent that “wriggle” would be a better modifier than “dynamic,” but pursuing abstraction beyond the surface is the other side of his duality. This ambivalence is the key characteristic and powerful appeal of Kim’s art works.
3. Vibrate with Rhythm
Kim’s works expand towards the plane of abstraction such as strength, force or energy, pushing beyond mere representations of specific senses, because his art is based on the progress of continuous movement rather than a fixed moment. Indeed, all his works are either “becoming” or “transforming.” The multi-dimensional aspect of his works, encompassing the in-between, here and there, comes from the fact that his sculptures constitute parts of a flexible flow rather than an isolated object. Kim’s art at once denotes and connotes “change”; transference from one state to another cross the boundaries within a single sculpture, among one series, in the exhibition, and the entire sphere of his work, executing movement itself.
His third solo exhibition, in particular, foregrounds his pursuit of movement. Perhaps this is because of the prevalence of groups, as the works directly exposes the shape of primary movements. Spin (2009-2011), which looks like a three-dimensional rendering of E. J. Marey’s chronophotography, realizes the physical movement generated in the action of throwing a sculptured head. The weight and volume of the slightly curved sphere determine the modality of movement (of course, this piece also embodies the materialization of tactile senses). The complex movement that combines rotation and parabolic throw is represented through the shifting directionality of the head and the increasing distance between the heads. Each head corresponds to the fixed points that emerge from a suspended flow, and the points return to lines through association. Whereas Spin materializes the physical change of states in our daily lives, Disco of the Right Angle (2010) compiles states that cannot coexist on one temporal and spatial plane. The figure, with the right arm folded over the left shoulder and the right shoulder protruding forward, repeats itself four times in four different right-angles. The continual movement of going around the piece, which changes its shape depending on the perspective, is cut up into four moments and juxtaposed.
Turbulent O’Clock (2010) is the one that most strongly expresses his intentions among all his works that layer different dimensions of temporality. As implied in the title, this line-based work, in which states that cannot coexist stand comingled, appears to be fossilizing the progressive state in itself. Moments of boxing, tumbling, swinging and sword-fighting become consolidated – following a certain order but also at times irregularly. The lines realize movement rather than the frame of the shape or the silhouette. The piece looks like a lump of movement-in-progress by fast-forwarding, or even a restoration of the turbulent state before the divide; here, changes in the flow of movement form a rhythm, repeating the cycle of condensation and relaxation.
However, the rhythms that arise from the movements are not limited to works that directly materialize movement itself. This is why we could read Kim’s works as a rhythmic movement that is differentiated in different forms depending on the catalyst occasion. The rhythms generated with different intensities of force could occur within a form; stand between disparate shapes; or reside in between different mediums or dimensions. In group sculptures, the representation of the rhythm remains relatively clear as it comes from the interrelation between each sculpture, even in expressions of invisible movements. The rhythm of Deller Hon Dainy is derived from modal transition, which varies in accordance with changes in emotional energy – condensing and relaxing. The flow of emotional energy is essentially continual, but the representational form changes from a lack of expression to concentration, from concentration to rage with the interjection of external stimuli. There is no intended direction in this movement, but the rhythm exists in the repetition of differentiation and undifferentiation. Meanwhile, single-figure sculptures harbor internal rhythms in their forms. In Rising Fastball, the rhythm flows along the ratio that changes with the condensation of physical force. Visually embodied omission and emphasis become rhythm. In Shamoralta Shamoratha (2007), the origin of action resides in mental energy but the fact that change of form translates into modal transformation and rhythm is same. In this work, which describes the state in which a lump of thought continues to linger and pulls one from the rear end of the head, rhythm exists in the lines pulled out from the round head, and the transference of mediums from drawing to sculpture. However, even single-figure sculptures are not fixed in their state or meaning. Rising Fastball, which freezes disparate moments in the continual movement of the pitcher, already harbors transformation from a temporal fixation to the next moment or state. In the continual flow of force, the mode of realization changes with the sensations interjecting in specific moments, but the waves as the baseline remains unsegmented. An indetermined state flows underneath the surface of the determined state, and even determined moments are provisional. The vibration of change pushes Kim’s works to cross over the boundaries between dimensions.
0. Stand at Zero Degree of Dimension
The pieces in this solo exhibition, which is the fifth for him and fourth held in Korea, show seemingly significant difference from his previous works. Unlike in his third exhibition, in which the movements were directly conveyed on smoothly finished surfaces, the works in this show are mostly static, and rough textures are exposed raw. Also, while his past works were more figurative and thus allowed discrimination of human and animal forms, the new works are more abstract, even with figures based on human bodies. The size and surface finishing also vary. A sitting figure that visibly exceeds a life size and standing figures small enough to be displayed on tables are grouped together, and the degree of finishing of FRP differs depending on the degree of sandpapering. Materials include brass in addition to FRP, presenting colorful scenery with a spectrum of white, black, gray and yellow.
However, Kim’s conceptual goal remains unchanged. The rhythms and movements generated across boundaries, the relativity of scale, emphasis on sensation or the coexistence of different dimensions still flow on under the surface in this exhibition. These characteristics, as they recur in each piece or across the entire scope of his work, vibrate in the deep layers of Kim’s world and are embodied in different sections and forms with each exhibition. It seems like the virtual perseveres and becomes divided up into different forms each time whenever it encounters a concrete occasion in the form of reality-based sensation (this conjunction means artist’s physical sensational memory surfaces through the process of formation). In this light, Kim’s exhibitions present the changes of combination, combining identical properties, rather than following the path of linear evolution. Recurring properties vary in their mode in each occasion. The first and second solo exhibition strongly foregrounds the issue of dimension, whereas the third solo exhibition focuses on movement. Then, what form does the actual take in this exhibition?
One notable aspect is that there is a stronger tendency to explore the basic elements of sculpturing. In other words, he’s returning to the zero degree of dimension; moving on from featuring the boundaries of mediums such as drawing or sculpture, he goes back to the essence of forms – the points, lines, and planes. Kim sees a three-dimensional object as a combination of points, lines, and planes. Points come together to form a line; lines compose a plane; and the planes build volume. This principle can also be reverse-engineered. Planes exist in mass; lines are formed from the boundaries of planes; and the edges of lines or planes end in points. In this sense, points, lines, and planes coexist in a three-dimensional object. The artist adds geometric factors to the human body in order to clearly demonstrate this principle of formativeness. If this exhibition appears more abstract, it is because it has more edged forms. In There is no Façade (2012), the frontal façade of the face disappears into a line. Assembly (2013) only has sides, and three lines are generated in front, at the back, and above. With Pin Hue (2013), where the curve of the head figure is gone, four sides of triangles form six lines and three points. Meanwhile, Gendarloake (2013) has a face divided into two pyramids; the curved and flat planes conclude with cusp. Flash (2013) is a line seen from the front side, and points at each ends. The coexistence of points, lines, and planes belong to the indiscernibility of dimensions, which is a recurring theme in Kim’s works. When force is levied upon a specific point in an undifferentiated mass, the form condenses into angles, and the volume becomes elongated into lines and points. The boundaries between points, lines, and planes disappear, and instead, a simultaneously generated reciprocal cycle emerges. In this complex nexus, discrete points, lines, and planes disappear.
Meanwhile, physical sensitivity is less highlighted in his new pieces. Of course, even movement towards abstraction is based on the human body, and the new works still depart from experienced, concrete senses. Factors such as posture or the shapes of muscles still maintain tactile concreteness in the new works. In Flash, the formidable presence of the wide male shoulders or the curved back in the leaning posture cannot but arise from actual bodies. However, the emphasis in this exhibition lies not in properties experienced with our five senses, but the conceptual aspects such as transformation or dimensions. Therefore, there is less of any direct conveyance of physically experienced senses. Instead, he highlights the texture of sculptures based on materials or finishing techniques. The variety of surface finishing is a notable tendency. Especially, Flash or Read (2013) is built with brush-layering instead of conventional sculpting methods such as adding or carving off. The traces of brush strokes remain on the surface, creating a rough texture. On the contrary, Gendarloake or There is no Façade present smooth surfaces with sandpapered FRP. Interestingly, the intensity and degree of sandpapering changes the color of the material as well as the smoothness of the surface. The base of There is no Façade is black, whereas the head part is gray; the only difference is that the base went through extra layers of sandpapering.
Lastly, the issue of rhythm and movement is the key focus in this exhibition. It is interesting to see the difference between surface-level impression and internal properties. As mentioned above, the new works lack visual motion and therefore may appear static. However, inside, there exist movements that are stronger than ever. A powerful vibration exists beneath the serene cover. The works in this exhibition strongly tend towards transition from one state to another. The works are transforming with their entirety. Change is evident, from form to material, color, technique, size, finishing, and display. The Heavy Light is Light (2014) series, in particular, effectively present the process of transformation across all levels. The first in this three-piece series was originated from a previous work entitled Shake Your Eyes and Dedicate them to the Heart (2010). The original piece, which embodies the experience of one’s teeth being twisted and misaligned due to physical shock or mental stress, carries transformation in itself. Heavy Light is Light - Crown literally piles up new work on old one, adding yet another transformation to something already in the process of change. Meanwhile, the other two pieces, subtitled “Column” and “Ruin,” are diverged versions of the first piece. These are in the process of rising out of masses, or figures falling apart. These series visualize mobility based on the degree of differentiation an identical form goes through. The rhythm of change resides in the conjugation of two different temporalities, and the circulation of three disparate forms.
Rhythm flows through the entire exhibition, traversing the abstract and the concrete, more differentiated and less differentiated, one piece and another. Rhythm is present in the distorted proportions of the body and hand in Don’t Pull (2014), and the display of Flash, in which the hand is separated. Rhythm, which mainly resided with the works, is now expanding throughout space. Pieces of different size, material and color are juxtaposed, forming tension, which leads to the dynamics of space. A state in which the eyes are closed but the mind shake violently. Convulsion of a tied up body. This is why this exhibition is a storm in silence. The surface is serene, but repressed waves tumble about in the undercurrent. Where will this vibration lead to in the future?
1) Henri Bergson, Matter and Memory, trans. Nancy Margaret Paul and W. Scott Palmer, New York: the Macmillan Company, 1929, p. 276.
2) "at one and the same time I become in the sensation and something happens through the sensation, one through the other, one in the other.1 And at the limit, it is the same body which, being both subject and object, gives and receives the sensation. As a spectator, I experience the sensation only by entering the painting, by reaching the unity of the sensing and the sensed." Gilles Deleuze, Francis Bacon: The Logic of Sensation, trans. Daniel W. Smith, London: Continuum, 2012, p. 47-48