To Breathe and its latest installment at Centre Pompidou Metz seeks to be the sum of the artist's early meditation on painting, where the surface of the canvas is intuited to become a mirror that wraps identity, space, and time; and where brushstrokes are destined to dematerialize into a splitting of light.
For this exhibition Kimsooja takes on the spaces of Centre Pompidou Metz's ingenuous architecture to create a three-dimensional tableau that transforms a long span of the museum's gallery and its bay windows into a liquid-like mirrored surface, that the artist expressed to be in previous installations an ever-expanding "fabric that is sewn by our gaze1."
Thinking of mirrors as an opportunity to fold and unfold spaces (A continuation of the artist's involvement with the Korean tradition of wrapping belongings into travel bundles known as Bottari in Korean), Kimsooja first made use of mirrors for Harald Szeemann's 1999 Venice Biennale where she reflected a loaded truck onto a wall sized mirror that provided a virtual exit for the vehicle. The piece was dedicated to the refugees of Kosovo. She further explored infinite spaces by installing mirrors on the walls of a laundry installation of abandoned Korean bedcovers for A Mirror Woman (2002), and pointed to the migratory perspective opened by mirrors while reflecting the sky on the ground of her mirrored installation The Ground to Nowhere (Honolulu City Hall, 2003). Always in search of wrapping space and time, Kimsooja enveloped the transparent building structure of the Palacio de Cristal in Madrid with mirrors and diffraction films (To Breathe/Respirare, 2006); and the Korean Pavilion in Venice with diffracting spectrums and reflective surfaces (To Breathe: Bottari, 2013) that invited the audience into a journey inside and outside of themselves, and into a poetic space where our perception of light, color and orientation is deconstructed and exposed as an unfolding plane.
To Breathe, performed for the Centre Pompidou Metz spans the museum's entrance forum area, the 80 meters long Gallery 2, and the breadth of the opposite ends of two bay windows. The space of the museum's gallery will find its utmost expression as a tableau: from the windows light is split, to be reflected on an almost liquid surface and reunited inside the projection of the artist's video piece To Breathe: a series of digital monochromes accompanied by the sound of a chorus of the artist's inhalation and exhalation.
Kimsooja's everlasting examination of the dualism of light and surface, sewing and weaving, wrapping and unwrapping; her transposition of the concept of point as the pin of a needle and that of line as a thread, and of plane as the reflecting surface of a mirror, questions the foundation of materiality as it pertains to migration and exile, and exposes the complex relations of art and humanity, cultural and political existence.
Image credit: Kimsooja, To Breathe: Bottari, 2013, mixed media installation, partial installation view with the artist at the Korean Pavilion, The 55th Biennale di Venezia, photograph by Jaeho Chong, courtesy of Kukje Gallery, Seoul, Arts Council Korea, and Kimsooja Studio