“…Let’s put some anguished screaming into it. A long scream that sounds like when you’re hurt, as if someone yanked your arm behind you or pulled you by the hair.”
These directives are from Kim Beom’s video Yellow Scream (2012). The work’s comic effect, which spoofs how-to videos, is sustained through language, repetition, a flip in logic, and the absurd. Along with information on mixing paint with linseed oil to acquire varied textures, and to strategize composition, the instructor inserts long and short affected screams as he moves his brush across the canvas. Most instructional art videos teach verisimilitude and technique over concept and meaning. Kim slips into the abstract, overlaying an ambiguity. He dually implies the formulaic qualities of creating abstract paintings and alleges the overall implausibility of teaching art-making, which itself is an intangible practice that averts direct meaning.
Artists often have to justify the ambiguities of their own making: What does it mean to make art? What is art’s purpose? And how is an audience meant to interpret their work? Continuing Studies is a collection of drawing, video, sculpture, installation and painting by Kim, spanning twenty years, that rests these questions within a larger framework of education and learning. How does one teach someone to understand, and inversely, how does someone come to understand the teachings of another? The works in this exhibition take their structure from conventional strategies of learning (lectures, books, how-to videos), but lead away from expectations as a rock is taught the entire oeuvre of the Modernist Korean poet Jung Jiyong or a model ship learns it will never touch the sea.
Pedagogical inference is made explicit in these two works, but the professor who specializes in the work of Jung Jiyong or the scientist who methodically informs the ship, will never know the success of their teaching. How can they test their students? How can these objects convey their understanding? What are the markers of knowledge? Props #3 and #5 are small intimate watercolours that resemble graduation diplomas. The definition of language and accreditation are left to lines and shapes. Proof of one’s knowledge blurs into graphic compositions of standardized order, as in Kim’s drawing, A Draft of a School of Inversion (2009) which depicts a generic institutional building perfect for learning the tools of one’s trade, but which is inverted like a photographic negative.
Kim’s humour is immediate, but also drifts into a slow questioning of perception that resides in the self. Two simple drawings Self-injury Handbook (1994) and Self Accusation Glossary (1994) are direct plays on self-help books, but with a dark self-effacing, self-inflicting edge that seems to close in on common anxieties. The drive to learn, to educate oneself, to be better are deeply sown social mores that transpire numerous cultures and are made manifest in the ways we are taught. This exhibition’s title, Continuing Studies, follows a line through Kim’s works that is directed inward and out onto the educational structures that come to define and give credit to what we know. But also, it is self-referential of the institution that presents this exhibition, which is situated on the University of Winnipeg campus in a building that houses part of the continuing education department where learning is marked and graded. The exhibition of this select work by Kim is not a direct critique of the institutions it inhabits, but is a push at the rigidity of what these structures take for granted. Even this text stands rigid in interpreting work that pokes the fabric of how meaning is conveyed and read. What information it offers should unfurl in place of the artist and work it references.
Kim Beom is a South Korean artist whose singular practice defies simple categorization. Working with drawing, painting, video, sculpture, and performance, Kim poetically uncovers and dismantles conventions surrounding pedagogy and education. Further working to question and invert preconceived notions of perspective, Kim often employs animism within his works, collapsing the boundaries of living beings and inanimate objects. Kim’s investigations of socio-political structures are characterized by his idiosyncratic sense of humour and a penchant for the absurd. The artist obtained a BFA and an MFA from Seoul National University, and a second MFA from the School of Visual Arts, New York. His work has been extensively featured in solo exhibitions including The School of Inversion, Hayward Gallery’s Project Space, London; Animalia,REDCAT Gallery, Los Angeles; Objects Being Taught They are Nothing but Tools, The Cleveland Museum of Art, and most recently the survey exhibition Kim Beom at the Contemporary Art Gallery, Vancouver. In addition, his work has been included in notable international exhibitions including the Istanbul Biennial, the Venice Biennale, and Media City Seoul.
Plug In ICA gratefully acknowledges the support of the Canada Council for the Arts, the Manitoba Arts Council and Winnipeg Arts Council. We thank the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts for their support of our 2016 and 2017 program, and we extend gratitude to The Winnipeg Foundation and all our generous donors, valued members and dedicated volunteers.
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