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Kimsooja in "Systems"

Kimsooja’s segment opens with a series of videotaped performances of the artist in crowded cities, her form acting as an unmoving axis on the horizon. Comparing her body to a needle that threads through space and time, she explains that her conceptual “system is very much rooted to the practice of sewing.”

The segment focuses in depth on two recent site-specific works: an installation of 2,000 fuchsia lotus lanterns with a soundtrack of Tibetan, Gregorian, and Islamic chants, and later, an intervention at the Crystal Palace in Madrid in which rainbow-colored sunlight, diffused through diffraction grating film applied to windows, is reflected in a mirrored surface applied to the floor while a pre-recorded performance of the artist’s rhythmic breathing fills the space.

Says the artist on her ethereal and genre-bending work: “My intention is to reach to the totality of our life in art.”

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Closed captionsAvailable in English, German, Romanian, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Chinese, Italian

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Kimsooja’s videos and installations blur the boundaries between aesthetics and transcendent experience through their use of repetitive actions, meditative practices, and serial forms. In many pieces, everyday actions—such as sewing or doing laundry—become two- and three-dimensional or performative activities. Central to her work is the “bottari,” a traditional Korean bed cover used to wrap and protect personal belongings, which Kimsooja transforms into a philosophical metaphor for structure and connection. While striking for their vibrant color and density of imagery, Kimsooja’s works emphasize metaphysical changes within the artist-as-performer as well as the viewer.

“My desire is abandoned and my will is abandoned. With that durational performance, I experience a certain transcendence of myself, and hopefully the audience does too.”

Kimsooja on A Needle Woman (1999)

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It Was Just a Dream

In this interview, conducted in 2008 at Kimsooja’s Hudson Street Studio in New York City, the artist discusses becoming an artist, her earliest influences, and her “breathing room” installations.