Sora Kim’s 2,3 is her first solo show in London, put together as part of the second outing of the KCCUK’s Artist of the Year programme whose objective is to “introduce aspects of Korea’s vibrant art scene to a UK audience.”
The exhibition is an interesting concept in which none of the individual works presented on the walls at the KCC is actually “by” the headlined artist. Instead, Sora Kim’s role can be likened to that of a composer or orchestrator of an experimental piece of music. Just as a composer might instruct a musician via a score to play a particular defined or indeterminate sequence of notes in a particular way for a particular length of time, leaving the musicians to interpret the instructions as they see fit at the time, Kim prepared a “score” in which she gave brief instructions to fifteen different artists and asked them to record the results of their interpretation on video. The score came first, and once that was perfected, Kim had to come up with the performers. She matched thirteen of the parts with artists within her own circle of acquaintance, and the remaining two artists were suggested by the KCC curator Moon Jeyun.
The brief given to the artists was to interpret her laconic instructions in a performance lasting two to three minutes at 22:00 GMT / 23:00 BST on 13 September, wherever they happened to be in the world at the time, and record that performance on video or audio as appropriate. Thus, at precisely that time there were 15 artists performing Kim’s concept simultaneously in 13 different cities around the world. Some of the artists happened to start the performance early so that they were in mid-flow at the appointed time; others started more or less on the hour.
Observers were also invited to participate in the performance in whatever way they felt appropriate, again, wherever they were in the world. We were given copies of the scores to assist in the participation. Thus, at 23:00 BST on 13 September 2015, as I sat silently at my blogging desk in Southwest London I was briefly with cellist Okkyung Kim in New York (18:00 EDT), wondering how she was interpreting her element of the score, “Pain: a physical technique of measuring depth by reaching into an abstract”, before swooping over to Seoul to be with Uhuhboo Project’s Jang Young-gyu (7:00 KST). I was trying to visualise the projection of the sound of the human voice through space, in sympathy with the instructions which he was trying to realise: “Voice/horizontal: formation of flat space due to movement of one point from and to an identical point.” Of course, neither of them were aware of my silent participation, which was rather like observing the communal minute’s silence on Armistice Day.
It was of course impossible for any observer to experience in its completeness the short symphony that Kim had conceived, at the time of its original performance. The only way to experience the work was to bring together the recordings of each artist’s individual performance into the same location and hit “Play”. The location of course was the KCC.
To continue the musical metaphor, at this point the curator and artist together took on the role of orchestral conductor – directing how the performances by the individual artists should be coordinated and combined and thus how the audience should experience the work as a whole.
There were four sound recordings and eleven video recordings which needed to be assembled, and these needed to be divided between eight LCD screens for video and four soundstages for the audio recordings. Each of the screens had two or three individual performances playing in a loop, sequenced to replicate the slightly randomised start times noted above.
One abiding feature of the installation is that each visitor will have received a different assemblage of sound and images as he or she wandered around the space. Only certain images or soundtracks could be experienced at any one time and what you see would depend on where each screen was in its cycle of videos. This controlled anarchy overlaid Kim’s original conception, itself slightly anarchic in its whimsical instructions to the participating artists.
2,3 was at the KCCUK 12 October – 5 December 2015.