Sung Hwan Kim Exhibits At The Tanks, The Tate Modern
The Tanks: Art In Action festival is taking place in the unlikely setting of the gallery’s subterranean oil tanks, which used to hold five million litres of the stuff.
The opening programme in the east tank includes a major new commission by South Korean artist Sung Hwan Kim. A key artist of his generation, Kim is forever crossing boundaries in the sphere of interdisciplinary video and performance art. We just had to see it for ourselves…
Walking into the space, we were immediately struck by the creepy, almost ephemeral feel created by its exposed concrete and stark flooring. While other exhibitions we’ve visited have directed sole focus to the work on show by providing a clean, unremarkable background, The Tanks actively enhance the artist’s offerings with their absorbing, dark interiors.
Sung Hwan Kim has a unique story to tell, and this womb-like, engaging space is the perfect place to unravel his past. We were immediately plunged into a mysterious, fantastical world of optical illusions and imagery that draws on a rich tapestry of performance and film. Reflective of an upbringing that was, in some senses, rootless, Kim collages an eclectic mix of encounters, sounds, sculptures and images from his changing homes of Seoul, Amsterdam and New York.
Kim divides one of the former oil tanks into two highly atmospheric rooms ,where light and screened images bounce off mirrors, reflective material and walls, while architectural stage-sets act as platforms for four of the artist’s films.
The smaller of the two rooms hosts ‘From the Commanding Heights’, an intriguing film that explores a story set within the renowned South Korean Hyundai apartment complex. Crytic allusions are made to a rumoured affair between an actress and a dictator, provoking questions we’re still trying to find the answers to.
In the second room, a further three films named ‘Dog Video’, ‘Washing Brain and Corn’, and ‘Temper Clay’ play to the by now very inquisitive audience.
We were struck by the masked man and his pet dog, Ruru, in ‘Dog Video’, finding the relationship between this man and his best friend to be particularly revealing when juxtaposed with Kim’s upbringing under South Korea’s autocratic regime. Violently barked orders of “Come Up! Go Down!” are painfully telling of the lifestyle impinged upon civilians of the infamously oppressed country.
We came away feeling thoughtful, if a little provoked – which was probably Kim’s intention.