– Spring/Summer 2006

Sora Kim's Karmic Practice of Art

Doryun Chong

Had you visited Sora Kim's 2004 exhibition 'Elephant Island' you would have entered into a world composed of a series of alluring but mystifying constructions and aggregations of things.1

In the middle of a half-moon-shaped gallery lay a large white object consisting of a stack of ten progressively smaller platforms, all distinctly malformed circles resembling the diagrams of small islands or atolls on a map. On the top of this was a little yellow popcorn machine regularly spitting out snacks for un-wary visitors to the exhibition. Around this structure stood several irregular shaped, roundish columns built out of Styrofoam and plywood, which conjured up a little forest of dripstones and functioned as bookshelves. In the midst of all this, lit by a mishmash of retro-looking chandeliers, stood a table and some chairs. The walls and existing round columns in the space were painted in bands of deep hues - purple, lavender, mint green and so on. What was the organising concept or theme? The titles of the various parts - Volcano, Library and Paging - at first seemed to offer few clues.

All in all, this room-sized installation, with its natural forms and eclectic design vocabularies, created an immediately inviting, eye-catching environment - one that would not look out of place in a self-consciously outrageous photo-spread that you might find in Wallpaper* magazine. That this environment creatively seemed to appropriate some language of contemporary design, and that

  1. The two-person exhibition with Gimhongsok entitled 'Antarctica' took place at Artsonje Center in Seoul in 2004. The following discussion of 'Elephant Island' greatly benefited from a thorough description in Eungie Joo's essay 'Escape to Elephant Island', in Sun-wong Kim (ed.), Elephant Island: Sora Kim (exh. cat.), Seoul: Artsonje Center, 2005, pp.132-35

  2. This is the interpretative thesis forwarded by Sung-won Kim, the curator of the exhibition and author of the main catalogue essay. She argues that the project, 'an idea of a contemporary city', does not 'plan a city but instead "infers" an idea and suggests a tool for its activation.' Sun-wong Kim (ed.), op.cit., p.93

  3. Eungie Joo also makes the same claim in her essay.

  4. Landscape was presented at the Gwangju Biennale 2002, and CHIS in 'Z. O. U.(Zone of Urgency)' at the 50th Venice Biennale in 2003.

  5. Andrea Fraser, 'How to Provide an Artistic Service: An Introduction', in Alexander Alberro (ed.), Museum Highlights: The Writings of Andrea Fraser, Cambridge: MIT Press, 2005, p.153