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Collaboration on Campus—Nanotechnology & Contemporary ArtKimsooja

November 10, 2015

In this Art21-produced special feature, artist Kimsooja collaborates with scientists and nanotechnologists to create an iridescent steel and polymer sculpture for the Cornell University campus in Ithaca, NY. Developed in collaboration with architect Jaeho Chong and Cornell nano material engineer Ulirich Wiesner, Ph. D., the 46-foot-tall needle-shaped structure A Needle Woman: Galaxy was a Memory, Earth is a Souvenir (2014) is the result of the artist’s first-ever collaboration with scientists.

“This tradition of bringing art and science together precedes modernism,” says Stephanie Owens, director of Cornell Council for the Arts. “So [Kimsooja] and [Wiesner] working at a similar interface related to light and objects was a definite continuation of this tradition.”

The sculpture’s plexi-glass panels are coated with a nano polymer film—molecularly engineered by Cornell materials scientists in Wiesner’s lab—to produce experiences inspired by naturally-occurring light phenomenon. “We use iridescence as a principle in order to mimic the effect of the butterfly wing,” says Wiesner.

A Needle Woman: Galaxy was a Memory, Earth is a Souvenir was created as part of the artist’s residency for the Cornell Council for the Arts 2014 Biennial.

More information and credits


Featured: Kimsooja; Ulrich Wiesner, Ph. D., Professor of Materials Science and Engineering, Cornell University; Jaeho Chong, Architecht; Stephanie Owens, Curator & Director, Cornell Council for the Arts; Ferdinand Kohle, Ph. D. student, Cornell University; Hiroaki Sai, Postdoctoral student, Cornell Univerity.

Producers: Ian Forster & Eve Moros Ortega. Camera: Joel Shapiro. Additional Camera: Jaeho Chong; Jason Koski; Well Said Media; & Aaron Wax. Sound: Tom Bergin. Editor: Morgan Riles. Digital Imaging & Animation: Jaeho Chong. Still Photography: Lindsay France & Jason Koski. Artwork Courtesy: Kimsooja and the Cornell Council for the Arts. Special Thanks: Erin Lee Emerson; Wiesner Nanomaterials Group; Kent Kleinman; Darrell Schlom; Tracy Vosburgh; & Jason Dombroskie.

An Art21 Workshop Production. © Art21, Inc. 2015. All rights reserved.

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.

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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.