In quick succession, London has had three exhibitions by Korean artists who use books as a medium. All three artists destroy the book: Kwon Jukhee shreds the pages into tiny strips to transform the books into sculptures in which the paper cascades like a waterfall; Chun Kwang-young tears pages out of the books and uses them to wrap triangular pieces of styrofoam before aggregating them into a complex moonscape; and now Kim Jihee. While the first two artists both regard the book as something with history and continuity, an object which somehow reflects the energy and souls of past owners, and is therefore something to be respected (even though the book ends up in an unrecognisable condition), Kim Jihee’s response is of hostility or alienation.
As a student whose first language is not English, books – particularly academic text books – are objects without a soul, almost an object of oppression. She takes these unfriendly objects and defaces them: with doodles, with cut-outs from magazines; and now with needle and thread — anything to make them personal and homely. The pages become the background for pop-culture collages; or the lines of text are struck through with horizontal lines of cotton thread reflecting the frustration and boredom of being forced to read them.
In one particularly intimate doodle, Kim draws an intricately detailed female coiffure, which was one of the two themes of her show in St Pancras’s Church crypt last year. More than any of the other defaced books on show here, this is the one which stamps Kim’s personality on the object. The others seem to reflect the book as an object of rage and frustration. And be honest: who hasn’t wanted to take out a pen and deface a tedious article, even when it’s written in your own language? Kim’s work is a release which talks to bored and enraged students everywhere.
Between the Lines is at cueB Gallery until 27 April