Consideration on ‘Nogada’
Now that fall is here, and the wind has begun to blow from the west. The brilliant sun which this soft and keen wind couldn't shake was beating down, throwing hard-edged shadows on the man's face. As he looked around, the sun was beating down on everyone's faces, and shadows appeared. Staying within the stillness for a while, the man was thankful to everyone in the world, and to the sun for equally beating down on even his old, faded shoes, and then he felt overflowing emotions for being able to labor under the sun. He thought labor had played a more important role than anything else in human history and civilization had developed due to labor. And he regarded a sacred labor, which was equally given, as an object of gratitude, like the sun which beat down equally from heaven. His thoughts were very positive and optimistic but also excessively romantic.
Citing Henry George's 'theory of Land Sharing', Lev Nikolajevic Tolstoj said, in the novel 『Resurrection』, "Land belongs to all people. All of them have the right to have it equally." He also said that the possibility that you could live on the land and live on the fruits produced on the land was always one of the major conditions in the most happy and independent life of an individual. But Tolstoj's opinion is also somewhat romantic. That's because labor, in fact, isn't equally given to everyone, and people to labor and people to enjoy the products produced by laborers have been clearly separated. For that reason, Maxime Gorikki might eventually declare his intent to separate from Tolstoj. That's because Gorikki, who evenly experienced various areas of labor in flesh and blood, could not help considering Tolstoj's labor theory and anarchism as the things that were at the other side of reality.
We can, here, ask questions as follows. Should the experience of labor preexist in order to achieve authenticity when speaking of labor? Can authenticity be achieved only through intense experiences and active participation? The answers will probably be "Yes, first". That's because, like Marx's words, "Labor is a human intrinsic property to distinguish human beings from other animals, in other words, labor makes human beings realize and prove themselves as their presence", labor is sacred and honorable than you might think. However, you can differently answer to the above, that is, "There is a possibility that it seems not". That's because you can bring up a new question that the area of labor is from where to where. That's also because 'authenticity' is possible when it is equipped with a deep reflection and introspection, a sincere interest in others and a mental intervention in the lives of others.
These stories are for speaking of the work of KIM Soo-hwan, artist. His family history has sunk or swum together with the sudden changes in Korean modern history, and it has been related with the whole changes that has taken place in labor. Moreover, a base for labor which his grandmother, father, uncle and brother have been in is the city of Incheon which has marked with the most obvious point of change in our modern and contemporary history. Therefore, the 'Nogada', construction workers, is, for him, familiar and grateful like family as well as uncomfortable and inaccessible at some point.
KIM Soo-hwan has showed various aspects of 'Nogada' through the several methods of work. KIM built a house in the middle of Incheon redevelopment area-the house was demolished by force afterward- and also did an exhibition space by directly decorating the interior. Also, KIM infused life into SINO, a tool which became familiar with him during laboring on construction sites, raising it like a plant, and made toys from it, offering them to spectators. The distinctive features of his work are that the context of all this is not marked by melancholy and darkness and that he infuses his own peculiar humor and wit into the works.
When we think again about this point, we will know the fact that, when 'labor' becomes a reality and 'real', all the laborers won't 'labor' with the hostility and antipathy against the people to enjoy the labor of others, and that labor will become the source of microscopic lives for a long time, and be sometimes grateful and thankful to us, and be sometimes able to give us pleasure. And also, we will realize the weariness and tiredness gained when labor becomes life will emerge more deeply. However, the expressions derived from this are not overly romantic or radical, just like PARK Young-geun‘s light and witty poetry. As someone pointed it out, it is likely to be excessively intense or realistic that those who have not experienced it express their opinions of it. Their opinions are sometimes biased; overly romantic and sentimental, or analytical and scientific. But what KIM Sou-hwan has acquired is that KIM talks of the phenomenon with candor, by being deeply involved in it but keeping his distance from it.
Especially the drawings and the texts, of his work, leave a strong impression. It seems that various scenes are created with candor from his fingertips, grow up, and form a flora which isn't splendid but has vitality. His drawings are, at a glance, more connected with Gorikki than Tolstoj. That's because his work certainly starts from his own experiences and his very microscopic family history. This can be understood in the same context as Rancière criticized Althusser, but the difference between Gorikki and Kim Sou-hwan would be that Gorikki's weight of despair or hostility has been relieved.
In addition, the various texts written by KIM very openly and with candor give us a fresh impression with 'authenticity'. (In fact, the artist seems to have a considerable literary sensibility.) In these times when all people try to give a stimulation that is strong enough to stimulate brain cells and an impression that is intense enough to pound hearts, and when they consider all these things as the virtues of arts, KIM Sou-hwan's work which touches our hearts with a weak but authentic stimulation leaves a good taste for a long time. It's like a brilliant sunlight, which comes down an autumn day and creates same shadows on my and your faces, makes a deep impression.
- KIM Ji-hye (aesthetics)
KIM Ji-hye: Graduated from the master's course at the Dept. of Aesthetics, Hongik University, and finished the Dept. of Art History, Sookmyung Women's University, and now is in the doctor's course at the Dept. of Aesthetics, Hongik University. Worked as a curator at Alternative Space Loop, KT Art Hall, KTF Gallery, etc, and planned, as an independent curator, the exhibitions including《Durian Third Pie Factory》(Seogyo Arts Experiment Center, Seoul, Korea), 《Durian Pie Factory》(Ho Chi Minh City Fine Arts University, Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam), 《Huynh Mai's Letter》(KT&G Sangsangmadang, Seoul, Korea), 《Look for an Aunt》(Seogyo Arts Experiment Center, Seoul, Korea), and《Gongga Gong Galdan》(Munwha Ilbo Gallery, Seoul, Korea). She has written for the public and children in a variety of media.