Lives and Works: Korea
Sookang Kim readily acknowledges that her subject matter is insignificant. Yet this is precisely what attracts her to the objects she photographs. She is not interested in things that already matter, that are perceived as important or profound. Instead, she is intrigued by the challenge of the mundane: how to turn a trivial object into something compelling; how to give it vitality and meaning. In some ways, working with existing objects is more straight-forward than starting with a blank slate, yet it also imposes limitations. Kim must re-imagine the object as something new and at the same time take into account all of its inherent physical constraints and cognitive associations. It is a complex puzzle of transformation. Kim undertakes this transformation in large part through a difficult photographic process—gum bichromate printing—that was used in the 19th century. In this process, the image is built up through many applications of photographic chemistry on non-photographic paper. In essence, the object is reconstructed, layer upon layer; its form remains intact, but its essential nature is altered. Ultimately, through Kim’s thoughtful reconsidering and reworking, the mundane becomes the sublime.
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