Kimsooja’s art practice, described by esteemed curator Harald Szeeman as ‘existential doing’, has been dedicated over a span of thirty years to discovering and expressing the inherent oneness of life, unifying the physical and the metaphysical. Her beliefs locate readily within Buddhism, Zen, Conficianism or the age-old role of the artist as shaman. Through installation, performative actions and video, Kimsooja employs specific settings within our harried globalised world as the object, and often inserts her own body as the subject in a central role in her works: to experience and transmit the power of stillness, of the void, of anonymity, of the quietude of contemplation; inviting the viewer to use her body as a locus from which to reflect on the human condition, and the condition of humanity.
Intent on bringing attention to women’s work and to the potency of everyday objects and actions, and the memory and narrative bound therein, Kimsooja has transformed the traditional Korean bedcover into a sculptural and symbolic device much utilized in physical form and in her films. The site of birth and loving and death, the used cloth bundles one’s belongings when relocating, then known as bottari in Korean. Bottari convey physical and metaphorical readings of the stitching together of life’s essence and of location and dislocation. For Kimsooja, ‘breathing is another kind of fabric – another way of weaving and another way of sewing – another way of connecting life and death and awareness of my body as both a physicality and impermanency.’
Kimsooja graduated with an MFA in 1984 from Hong-IK University, Seoul, and gained international recognition following a residency in 1992-93 at MoMA P.S.1 in New York. She has made projects in countries as diverse as Egypt, Greenland, India, Nigeria and Japan, and in 2014, China, as the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship. Her work has been included four times in the Venice Biennale (1999, 2001, 2005 and in 2013 Kimsooja represented Korea). Other Biennales where Kimsooja’s work has been presented are Istanbul (1997); Sao Paolo (1998); Sydney (1998); Asia-Pacific Triennale (1999); Whitney (2002).
Kimsooja’s work has been widely exhibited internationally, including Secession, Vienna, Austria; Louisiana Museum of Art, Copenhagen, Denmark; Hayward Gallery, London, UK; KIASMA, Helsinki, Finland; Miami Art Museum, USA; Perm Contemporary Art Museum, Russia; The National Institute of Contemporary Art, South Korea; and D’Art Moderne de Saint Etienne, France. In 2013 the Vancouver Art Gallery, Canada, mounted a retrospective of her work, Kimsooja, Unfolding.
Kimsooja lives and works in New York.