ART News
YUNCHUL KIM
CHALLENGES THE BOUNDARIES OF MATTER
28th April 2022 | Guest Writer: Rachele Rosina
At the Venice Art Biennale, the artist’s installations question the relationship between human and technology.

The Milk of Dreams, a book by the surrealist artist Leonora Carrington (1917 - 2011), set the theme of the long-waited 59th edition of the Venice Art Biennale that opened its door on the 23rd of February. In her work, Carrington describes a world in constant change and transformation, where boundaries between reality and imagination are thinned or wholly dissolved, allowing a constant re-imagination of what is life.
This year, in the historical period where life on Earth is threatened by climate change, global pandemics and wars, artists have been invited to reflect on questions such as “how is the definition of human transforming?” or “what constitutes life? What are our responsibilities towards our home, Earth, and our neighbours - human, animal, and other forms of life?”
Three main themes emerged from these guiding questions: the representation and transformation of the bodies, the relationship between humans and technologies, and the connection between the individual and the Planet.

Installation view of "Argos - the Swollen Suns,” Yunchul Kim, Korean Pavilion, 2022, photo by Roman Marz, courtesy of the artist

Yunchul Kim (b. 1970, South Korea), a visual artist and electroacoustic music composer, has given his personal answer to this topic in Gyre, five large scale installations for the National Pavilion of Korea.

The artist’s practice merges art and science, combining in trans-disciplinary research seemingly incompatible subjects such as physics, mathematics and chemistry with cosmology, anthropology and religion. His recent work shows the potential of fluid dynamics, meta-materials (“a new class of functional materials, designed around unique patterns or structures, which cause them to interact with light and other forms of energy in ways not found in nature”) and magnetohydrodynamics, “the study of the magnetic properties and behaviour of electrically conducting fluids.”

Installation view of "Chroma V,” Yunchul Kim, Korean Pavili on, 2022, photo by Roman Marz, courtesy of the artist

At the Venice Art Biennale, Yunchul Kim turned the Korean pavilion into a laboratory inhabited by creatures. Tubes, shining materials, liquids and colours all merge into incredible sculptures such as the newly created Argos – the Swollen Suns, Chroma V and La Poussière de Soleils (“The Dust of Suns”) (2022) and Impulse an artwork commissioned from the CERN (European Organization for Nuclear Research) in 2018.

Installation view of "La Poussie re de Soleils,” Yunchul Kim, Korean Pavilion, 2022, photo by Roman Marz, courtesy of the artist

The installations invite the visitors to question the relationship between us and technology, living and non-living matter. Impulse (2018) is connected to the outer world by an intricate system of tubes that, similarly to blood veins, funnel seawater from the laguna into the sculpture. People who suffer from meteoropathy might instead relate to La Poussière de Soleils, as this installation can change the colour of the liquid in its three hexagonal screens according to the weather, hardening with cold temperatures and flowing more easily in warm conditions.

The sculptures react not only to the external environment but also to the space and the universe. The artwork Argos – The Swollen Suns responds with flashes of light to the signal of muons, particles created by cosmic rays colliding with the atmosphere. It then communicates with Chroma V, a gigantic, entangled snake-like sculpture that, thanks to a unique algorithm created by the artist, can automatically change the colours and patterns of 764 LED screens. The “scales” also contort and move as if of their own will, making Choma V the body and Argos the brain of this inanimate creature.

The naked figures stand on slim metallic legs, their intertwined tubes run across by fluids - a sleeping Frankenstein that would not surprise if it suddenly awakened.

Installation view of "Impulse ,” Yunchul Kim, Korean Pavili on, 2022, photo by Roman Marz, courtesy of the artist

Reading about this artist reminded me of the quote from Nomadland, the 2020 Oscar-winning film directed by Chloé Zhao, where the protagonist, not by choice but forced by the transforming society, explores the possibilities of an alternative way of living: “Stars blow up, and they shoot plasma and atoms out into space. Sometimes land on Earth. Nourish the soil. They become part of you. So, hold out your right hand and look at a star.”

The work of Yunchul Kim offers us an alternative perspective where humans are not the only creatures capable of thoughts and communication and where inanimate particles can generate reactions and “life” through flashes and contortion: Gyre challenges the anthropocentric vision of the world, making us hold out our hands and look into the universe

About the Writer
Rachele Rosina specialises in Art of China, Japan and Korea.

After graduating from Beijing in Chinese Language and Culture, Rachele moved to London in 2018 to complete her MA in History of Art and Archaeology of East Asia at SOAS University of London.
Fascinated by the city’s restless art scene, she now works in the art industry.

With a focus on contemporary art and cultural studies, she is interested in the stories behind the artworks and wonders a lot about the future of art.

@luoqian_art


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