Indepth Arts News: |
"Bottari: An Installation by Soo-Ja Kim"
2001-08-01 until 2001-10-21
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.