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"Bottari: An Installation by Soo-Ja Kim"
2001-08-01 until 2001-10-21
Sprengel Museum
Hannover, , DE

The classic Bottari is defined as a bundle in which non-breakables, such as clothing, bedclothes, household utensils and books are kept. The Korean critic Airung Kim suggests that the Bottari are a symbol of not knowing one's direction. This is especially important in a country like Korea where so many people had to leave their homes, whether because of war and suffering or in search of work; these Bottari are therefore historically significant symbols. Both refugees and tradesmen used them to carry things. As a metaphor, the Bottari are an important emblem of mobility in an unlimited space, yet they remain containers for what they hold.

Soo-Ja Kim's installation deals not only with travel of one's own free will or journeys brought about by external forces. Another important facet of the work are the large curtains, which refer to the place of women in Asian societies. Korean women sew bedclothes for their families from this fabric. The artist sewed these pieces together to refer to the discrepancy between emancipation and the restrictive nature of women's work. Beyond references to her own cultural identity, her Bottaris combine a very feminist perspective with the deeply personal. Soo-Ja Kim described her decision to use this material thus: One day, when I was sewing bedclothes for my mother, I experienced something unusual, in that my thoughts, feelings and activity seemed to fit together. I experienced a new opportunity to express suppressed feelings and pain and a silent passion of life. I was fascinated by the fundamental, orthogonal structure of the fabric, from the needle and thread and how they moved through the surface of the smooth material and from the emotional and expressive intensity of the colourful, traditional fabric. (Kim Airung )

Soo-Ja Kim has been using this material in her work since the mid-1980s. Her earlier projects with the Bottari emphasised the abstract, formal qualities, that is to say the quality of the image, and yet even the wall pieces contain memories of and references to her past, as well as that of the former owners of the material. The performance and interactive dimensions of the work developed, for example, in her installations, such as when she used the coloured fabric as tablecloths in museum cafés. Her installation at the KwangJu Biennale, garments strewn in a forest on which the viewer could tread and even select something to take home, involved the viewer directly. This has the effect of creating a momento mori out of formerly private attire. At the same time, Soo-Ja Kim reflects on global migration and her own cultural tradition, rendering her art universal.


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