South Korean artist Taeyoon Kim (b. 1982) studied Live Action at the California Institute of Arts in Los Angeles before earning a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Film and Video from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. He’s been living in Seoul for the past seven years while continuing his passion to create art from elements of moving images and to portray aspects of visual communication as something that can be formed and shaped. Due to Kim’s lack of interest in traditional production structure for visual media, his video pieces are also distinguished by a lack of narrative. Instead, the artist focuses on two elements, the flow of time and uncertainty, as the essential ingredients of his work. This culminates in what Kim describes as the connection woven between moving images that, while similar, portray small variances that create a new sense of rhythm and physicality for the viewer.
On May 4th, 2016 at his Hannam-dong studio in Seoul, Taeyoon Kim spoke with MAAP researcher Seolhui Lee about his art. His answers have been edited for length & clarity.
Seolhui Lee: Can you tell us about your art practice? What are your key areas of interest?
Taeyoon Kim: I was studying film in college; however, I was not really fascinated with the production structures for making videos or films because those put too much weight on the narrative element. And it involved too many people; I wanted the production to be agile. So, I have been seeking a method for which I could use video in my own way, and I thought if I could highlight the basic attributes of the video medium, there might be different ways to experiment. I asked myself, ‘What are the basic attributes and characteristics of the video?’
I tried to find out how to give prominence to video as a medium to reveal the means with less narrative but more sense of time. My recent practices focus on diminishing the boundary between a beginning and an ending, which is done by presenting the clips on a random continuous loop. Multiple layers of videos in random loops create coincidental rhythms through time where the rhythm plays with the sense of time. And the coincidences sustain the duration to much longer periods.
The placement of the screens enables people to physically move their bodies and look around. Usually, when people watch a video, they need to recognize which part they are in, but while viewing my video, people are free to have random thoughts based on the input of multiple channels set to an absent narrative and unlimited duration.
You studied in the United States and are now living in Seoul. How is it to be working again in Seoul? Does this influence your practice?
I was born in Seoul, then spent my youth in the United States. I moved back to Seoul after college. After 10 years of absence, Seoul was still very natural to me. It is a vibrant city where you are surrounded by traces of time. Here in the capital, I worked in advertising for 5 years where I met new friends who are software engineers. Working with them influenced me to think about a new way to produce videos by using computer languages, and the videos could have infinite durations.
Earlier in your practice, you wanted to simplify your working process, and you made the shift from ‘narrative film and video’ to ‘non-linear construction in digital media.’ You have mentioned that the crucial concern behind this change was the ‘influence of time.’ By visually revealing this flow of time in your art, what are you trying to pursue?
I’m wondering about the circulating attribute of time. For instance, I’d say the universe works in the repetition of different cycles. All the elements have their own cycle which come together to create differences. Each cycle is different with unexpected alterations. These unexpected things also happen in our daily routines, and lead to coincidences. These unexpected relationships/happenings make our lives and time more vibrant and energetic. Without them, every day would be the same.
That’s why I tend to use loops which are set to playback in random order. When these random cycles are put together it creates coincidences. These coincidences are actually not really coincidences but are destined to happen. Even computers cannot keep precise timing and create gaps in between cycles. I think these coincidences or tiny cracks or accidents in between each routine raise questions in our current sense of time.
Your videos show that the boundary between the beginning and end is soft as there is always something constantly in motion. My mind connects this very simple style of movement to concepts involving the spiritual and sublime. Was that your intention?
The spiritual elements came up unexpectedly. I didn’t intend to do that, but I’m satisfied that it happened. Maybe it comes from the usage of time? The controlled (faux) randomness? I am not sure. But I want the viewers to able to spend more time in the space. The videos can also work as ambience that shapes the mood of the space.
I think that the common distinction between virtual and physical reality has become more elusive. Do you agree? If so, how does your work engage with this idea?
We are living under the circumstances of technology and the internet. That’s why we can feel like there is no boundary between the virtual and physical. As I mentioned, I generate videos using looped codes or algorithms. There is no start or end because the computer is continuously circulating multiple algorithms at once. As a result, the time-boundary is ambiguous, and I think that phenomenon can vaguely explain how the concept of physicality and the property of matter is changing constantly. I’m currently experimenting with physical materials, such as clay, to explore the differences and the similarities of the real and virtual.
Your MAAP exhibition is about to open, and your most famous work, Steady Griffins (2014), will be on display. Could you talk about this piece?
Do you know the animation ‘Family Guy’? Griffin is the family name of the characters. While watching ‘Family Guy,’ my eyes caught the animated movements and colors in it. If we watch animations from big companies like Pixar or Disney, the main characters and elements in the background are always moving. But, TV animation only animates the crucial parts due to lower budgets and time issues. I was always fascinated with close-up shots of monitor screens, so while watching the show on my iPhone, I re-scanned the screen with another iPhone on top. I edited the video and divided it into multiple clips, and Steady Griffins displays this on multiple screens. The video randomly unspools through a loop that results in its own unique rhythm.
My final question is about how you install your videos. It’s easy to recognize that you have a fondness for building structures to house your displays. For example, in Triple Rhythm (2014), you put the monitors on pedestals that look like stairs. You also built a board over the back of one of the monitors in Steady Griffins (2014). What is the role of these kinds of structures in your art?
When people watch the video, they usually watch it as series of sequences. So, I wondered what could make people perceive it as non-linear experiences? Viewing traditional video only allows viewers to have one point of view at a time, therefore I’m trying to deconstruct time-based media and install them throughout the space so people can move around and have different perspectives.
If a scene is cut and edited really well people don’t notice, but people could naturally self edit with their own thoughts or ideas while looking at my work. I add structures that can help people choose what to watch first and then put different weights on each scene. The sculptural element of the video is also important. I tend to show all the hardware and cables in the installation space as they are also an important element that makes up the video work.
Seolhui Lee is an independent curator living in South Korea. She studied sculpture and fine arts as an undergrad and is finishing her master’s thesis on the 1980s Korean contemporary art movement group “Reality and Speak.” Seolhui has worked at multiple museums such as the MMCA (National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art) and SeMA (Seoul Museum of Art), participated in the Doosan Gallery’s Curator Workshop, and also co-curated the exhibition Discrete Use of Reality in 2016. She’s currently a researcher at MAAP (Media Art Asia Pacific), multimedia artist and documentary filmmaker Minouk Lim’s international communications manager, and art & culture writer for South Korea’s #1 English publication, Groove Magazine.