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From the Perspective of the Choreographic Object:Kim Ku-lim is a Choreographer!

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작성자ART 댓글 0건 조회 176회 작성일 19-04-08 22:58

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Kim Nam-su




#1 It is futile effort to linger in thought over the action of a lightning bolt: when thought sound of thunder fills the sky, you will hardly have time to cover your ears.

The Blue Cliff Record, Thirty-seventh case


#2 The trace is a movement, which goes from a disappearance to the other, and does not conclude, like unique, but boundless pen strokes on the empty paper. This movement has no ends because it never starts accurately. There is always something of it, and there are more nothings of it already. More precisely, it never ends. There are already more nothings, and remain something.

Jean-Luc Nancy, The Traces


#3 Spinoza declared the devotion to the republic is the best value that human can fulfill while defining human being as zoon politikon (political animal). Even though he was a metaphysician, he stated that a rational man who recognizes inevitability of human existence through a contemplative life should realize that following the collective decisions within the republic is the true life of the freedom. The trace of the brushstroke covers humdrum phenomena of ‘now here’, and draws to the world of existence, not of an image.

Cho Seung-rae, For the Republic


From time unknown, we can find a repeated episode from Kim Ku-lim’s interviews. It is probably because he put weight on the association with Nam June Paik in the late 1980s in New York. One day, Paik called Kim to his atelier and said, “I’m eager to drive a brush to draw these days.” So Kim said, “Just daub it randomly, as you like. ‘Drawing’ a picture does not always become a work.” Considering the fact that it was the late 1980s when Paik started to draw paintings, and when these paintings were sold well, his bold and liberal advise had a noticeable effect. And as you must realize, it is understandable that flowers, animals, and sentences in Paik’s works, such as ‘A man who can see this picture for an hour succeeds in the stock market,’ freely and randomly forms an irregular graffiti. Because he had not received formal education in art. Anyway, after Paik works started to be sold, he can finally overcome poverty and make a lot of money at last. The first thing he did with the money was dental treatments, and then he was able to be free from long-standing pain. It could be attributable to Kim Ku-lim’s encouragement.


Objectively, a very tiny particle brings big impacts. In chaos theory, this is a graph of ‘strange attractor’ of E. Lorentz, which looks like owl’s face. It shows that an initial condition could largely change its results. This is ‘sensitive dependence on the initial condition’ as we call it. In brief, the butterfly effect in the art world of Nam June Paik begins Kim Ku-lim’s this meaningful advice: “Just daub it randomly, as you like. To ‘draw’ a picture does not always become a work.”


This sentence looks like a categorical imperative to Paik who claimed “I always do works unconsciously” like as a single path, but it could be a returnable condition to him in fact. It is because he has been against the order of hyperconscious, and released his subconscious. This is YIn and Yang series that Kim has worked since the late 2000s. There is a variety of opinions concerning this series between critics, or some are unconcerned about it. This series also has been addressed as an evidence of the retrogression of invincible avant-garde. However, it is reminiscent of Picasso’s work in the film The Mystery of Picasso directed by Henry-Georges Clouzot in 1956. Picasso appeared in the film and drew a picture in person. Even though the short space of time, he painted repeatedly in layers quite calmly, so that the images stratified. “Like unique, but boundless pen strokes on the empty paper (Jean-Luc Nancy), Kim’s YIn and Yang series also has covered the image world, such as flower, pea, and woman body, with free swinging strokes. This trace of the brushstrokes is covering the humdrumness, and trying to pull it to the world of existence, not of image.


One day, when I red reviews of art in a bookstore in Seoul, I was astonished by a critics expression for Kim Ku-lim’s YIn and Yang series; It is like looking a rock art. This expression rather comes from the point where those questions are connected into humane issues: How did life begin? What are the two streams that give birth to life? How does the order generate in this world the entropy, which leads everything into the chaos ruthlessly, rules? This random and free brushstrokes cover and reveal the hidden stratum behind history as if Picasso lays an image over another without hesitation. It means figurative images such as a whale on ‘rock art’ and every non-figurative image as if geometric patterns affect each other as a kind of ‘YIn and Yang’. I think it is very acceptable explanation. Why? It is because those impersonal actions form a choreographic level. Kim Ku-lim is, as it were, a sort of choreographer.


Choreography as choreographic objects


“Choreography elicits action upon action: an environment of grammatical rule governed by exception, the contradiction of absolute proof visibly in agreement with the demonstration of its own failure. Choreography’s manifold incarnations are a perfect ecology of idea-logics; they do not insist on a single path to form-of-thought and persist in the hope of being without enduring.”

William Forsythe, Choreographic objects


Contemporary choreography as a constructive work of dance is abridged in a word-in the conventional sense: There is no ‘choreography’. A performative agony to give the real world an epistemic shock dispelled a narrow scope of a view of choreography, which is limited to a series of physical action. Choreography as a conventional isolation was a matter of how does it compose melodious scenery of the aesthetic dancing stage, whereas contemporary choreography advanced in the choreography of ‘choreographic objects’, which exceeds humanism as “a model of potential change carrying one status over the other.”


In this point of view, Kim Ku-lim is an excellent choreographer. Let us recall From Phenomenon to Traces (1969). In April of 1970, he set fire to a bank near Salgoji Bridge, across from Hanyang University, and triangular debris of the grass was revealed. Many critics have debated from a Duchampian critical viewpoint of ‘what is art?’ and talked about the cyclic order of creation and extinction in a language of the chaos theory involuntarily. Kim brought its motif from Jwibulnori—a traditional play making a fire on paddies and fields to exterminate harmful insects and rats during the first full moon of the year. His statement converged on an East-Asian sense of the beginning and the end, which Lau-Tzu’s void and the end connects with the beginning. However, I recognize that the sequential work of debris that fireweed grows from the ruins of the fire is a form of ‘choreographic objects’. When Jean-Luc Nancy said about ‘the trace’, the trace means something is left, but this is consisted by “two boundaries which nothings pull and draws each other”—creation and extinction, or Yin and Yang, so to speak. This nothing or surplus eventually traces the disuse of the existence and conceal it simultaneously as a trace. To be brief, it is a characteristic of double restriction ‘the trace of the thought about painting as a movement’ has.


An action is accomplished, and creates ecology by touching off the other one. It is a process, however, that an artist’s thought proceeds to the impersonal world, and to external realization of subconscious. There are the impulse and the volition that of ‘randomly, as fancy dictates’, and a conceptual intervention that ‘art is not technique, art must have logicality.’ The process is the choreography and the choreography is a result of thoughts or of suggests about a series of implementable action as an assembly of many ideas.


In other words, ‘derivation an action from an action’ is the contemporary choreography. In that sense, The Meaning of 1/24 Second (1969), considered as the first Korean Avant-garde film, also choreographic work. The focus of the review is on this film itself by this time. By editing everyday documentary as a straight cuts, which short films carried over, it shows a gap between the temporality of media and of daily life. Normally, 24 frames are needed for one second of film. This means there is a meaning like Zeno’s paradoxes that motion is nothing but an illusion. The meaning of a single frames that is The Meaning of 1/24 Second.


“Media have become privileged models, according to which our own self-understanding is shaped, precisely because their declared aim is to deceive and circumvent this very self-understanding. To be able to experience a film, as it is so wonderfully called, one must simply not be able to see that 24 individual images appear on the screen every second, images that were possibly filmed under entirely different conditions.”

Friedrich Kittler, Optical Media


Does Kim take attitude that is showing a frame out of 24 frames of one second of the film to disclose the mechanical image composition of 24 frames itself? It is possible, but at the introspective level of media, everything was solved already. The significance of the work is related with his performance, which failed to go off its premiere in 1969. The Meaning of 1/24 Second could not officially announce because it could not overcome an adverse physical conditions to project on the screen. He showed his choreographic work by projecting four overlapped films on dancing men and women who wore white tights with rectangular objets. (Kim Ku-lim, Dance itself as a material)


The status of absence and an extemporaneous performance filling the absence brought a form of choreographic objects near to Bricolage. That provides a new point of view on The Meaning of 1/24 Second at the potential level, not of fetishism. Against the backdrop of the film, the scenery that men and women are dancing as a realistic objets shows the intervention of the status the glowing film denies object, This may reveal the condition that ‘media is an intersecting point or an interface’. Of course, Kim only stated, “stapled films were detached,” with perfect composure, and stayed fudge and mudge about his work. However, Paik Nam-jun's Zen for film was not an empty projection that is projecting a film not developed. “Paik performed a series of simple actions or meditated in front of the projector. Therefore he becomes a living movie.” (Sheldon Renan, Expanded Cinema) John Cage made a Zen Buddhistic comment about ‘void’ of Paik and Robert Rauschenberg, but it was a misapprehension. The works that connects light and time through flash of lights with exposure of the interface, which a body intervenes into media, was so different with fetishism.


This ‘living movie’ is quite natural for him. The Meaning of 1/24 Second also takes a way that dance and performance intervene on video image; therefore, the failure of its first premiere was not a failure. In a certain sense, the primal condition of the film is mythical by him. An alternative already wrapped with nothing or performance of McGuffin still works as a trace of thought as the logic of creation and extinction.


The important thing for Kim is the attitude of “‘Drawing’ a picture does not always become a work,” and that radical attitude creates the world. This is connected with what Thomas Kuhn said: “Under normal conditions the research scientist is not an innovator but a solver of puzzles.”


The Environment of Choreography


It was in 1969 when Kim Ku-lim actively engaged in performing arts. This is very important time regionally and internationally. From May 68 Event in France in 1968 until 1973 oil crisis, it was one of the very few and the most happiest period in the history of man, which material affluence and psychological frustration stood against each other. After 1973 oil shock, Taoism thrived as a form of ‘Stationary Nomad’ in the field of art and philosophy. We can find its potential in 1969.


On the other hand, in Korea, it was the time that many drama companies, such as the theatre troupe Ja-yu and Theatre, were created and started to stage plays. There was only the National Drama Company of Korea at that time. It was the time that the theatre of absurd, such as of Fernando Arrabal and of Eugene Ionesco, excited the audience as ‘a complete unknown’. Moreover, it was the time that people gradually has to know about something: “When the existentialism and Absurdes Theater were in vogue, those were not introduced properly, so people were totally confused. The eyes are on the side; nose is there in a painting of Picasso. This is strange but a new tide today.” (Lee Byung-boc)


One of the most intelligent theatre directors Oh Tae-seok suggested this thesis from When a drum rolls: “Live as a fake note!” This means, “The play is a clownery. It is refusal of given time and space”, therefore it is the era that people anguished ‘where in this era we can be confident” as a clown who is “a fake note.” There was fierceness as if the Korean theatrical world hatched Thousand-yen Bill Incident of Hi-Red Center in Japan in 1963.


A choreographer Kim Ku-lim may be indirectly being affected by the incident. Carl Jung stated synchronicity, which the experience of two or more events that are apparently causally unrelated or unlikely to occur together by chance, yet are experienced as occurring together in a meaningful manner. Normally, it is called ‘an acausal connecting principle’, yet Jung stated that there is a meaningful causal relation between incidents that are occurring at the same time and different places. It could be a realization of an intuition that cannot be proved the causal relation. Maybe people called it ‘the Zeitgeist (the spirit of the times)’ in the old days.


Was it like that from the beginning? It may not. The first work Kim participated in stage art is The Mountains and Streams in Countless Years (1969) was a product of the arts policy, which is the first of today’s arts and literature promotion project called ‘the arts and literature creation supporting plan of Ministry of Culture and Information’ (a choreography critic, Kang Yi-moon) of the time. It entered successfully into the Korean performing art. However, Kim related real difficulties of the performance as its stage artist. 


Moreover, Kim showed a performance named Relics of Mass Media in collaboration with an artist Kim Tchah-sup

in October 1969. It seems like a monumental change. The performance was made at the beginning of military dictatorship, so that many people showed fear response recalling the Central Intelligence Agency of Korea and espionage agents in the South. Nevertheless people who could rid themselves of certain fear of the era naturally participated in the performance following a direction in an unidentified letter, therefore they tasted a new virtual reality—at Kittler’s viewpoint, ‘fraud’ in one’s head is ‘virtual reality’ comes from the beginnings of things. If looking the air in a certain time and direction is a theatre of situations, it becomes a distinguished one. I forgot to mention, when Sartre thought about the play at the point of theatre of situations is around this time.


“It was a time when the diagnosis was that contemporary conclusion of theater of cruelty was ‘happening’. To be more precise, an actual event that was taking place. There is no stage, and it happens in the seats or in the middle of the seats for the audience, or else on the streets or by the seaside. There is only a temporary difference between the audience and those who are named subjects instead of actors. In other words, there is only the difference of time. Subjects actually perform something, but it really does not matter what that something is. Those that are provocative result in actual events—it does not matter what event it is. I watched happenings where cocks’ necks were twisted and bloods splattered on the audience.” Sartre, A Theatre of Situations


Kim Ku-lim, of course, clearly states the difference between ‘happening’ and ‘event’. It is the contingency. To lay emphasis on it, or to set it aside. He unexpectedly insisted the affect and strong appeal of dance without speaking in the practical choreographic work in A Letter to A Dancer, while he held on his opinion that “showing dance itself as a material”. Isn’t it contradictory? Isn’t it a double bind?


He seems to put emphasis on the choreography, which is a movement of human aspect and is an impersonal operation. If that is so, he is considered to preempt the origin of post-modern dance of Judson church group in United States, headed by John Cage.


It seems that Kim was immersed in the ‘event’ that unleashes ‘potential of perceptual phenomena to instigate action’ (William Forsythe). This made it possible to experience “sensory elements of every existence that surrounding ‘I’” in person through the composition of material environment itself. The event Relics of Mass Media is a good illustration of it. It borrowed a form of letter, a very traditional media. Therefore, to speak in the manner of Hegel, it is a performance that “the eternal truth actualized through ‘a letter’”. It is not easy that people who received an unidentified, strange letter to reject, unlike electronic media. It is difficult to reject the way the truth that characters on the letter carrying translates into reality. Why? ‘The letter’ has a function that make sure of the communication between people who love each other, that is because the love letter have modified the ontology of media. (Osawa Masachi) The denial is the betrayal. However, there is an imperative sentence, which could be put you in danger, in the letter. Then, what would you do?


The test of Kim Ku-lim would be an adventure of nap or nothing. And by participating the adventure as ‘the devotion of the whole personality’ (Sartre), it changed into the new experience of regeneration like escaping from the throes of death, like falling of a cliff and flying up to the sky. Therefore, some participants witnessed what they saw in the air like an optical placebo effect.


There is an expression in East Asia: “I am a wavering existence.” While thinking about ‘I’, it does not wear the mask called ‘persona’. It cannot be defined by the word ‘identity’. In the East, people consider a human being as ‘a wavering existence’. This is a different view of human being with the West.


Even if it is not a work of Vienna actionists, which wrings a chicken’s neck and spills blood to the audience, Kim’s choreography of ‘choreographic objects’ astounds the self as ‘a wavering existence’. Throwing entire itself by determination of a wavering existence, entering into the level of nothing as a wavering body, and this trace of throwing, and entering leave something. A thrill of the new regeneration follows this series of the participation process, a direct experience of the inspiration like shamanism. From ordinary life, not the stage, from inside of everyday life, and from the breakaway from time and space, a characteristic of a given situation itself would turn over. It was an amazing event.


Meanwhile, make a comparison between this and Nam June Paik’s Liberation Sonata for Fish with an anchovy and a letter that said, “Please, return the fish to the sea.”


Another Government, Another Republic


Kim Ku-lim sets store by the ontological level, which is nothing short of complete awakening, rather than the epistemic level of the new potential of sense and perception that touches new actions off by an action. “I think the characteristic of the age is important.” Everything that constructs Kim’s unique style, which crosses every media, genre, and territory, while protecting his characteristic of “avant-garde that makes people dazed” (Nam June Paik) seems to be compressed in this sentence. In a certain sense, it may be that South Korean society is hostile to the amorphous nomadic culture, for instance, works of Kim Ku-lim. It is because Korean society, which has been experienced the Galapagos syndrome after the division of territory and the Korean War, is overflowing with the custom of sedentary culture that artists who have kept a single style for a long time take cultural power.


Anyway, it is may be a custom that only an artist who has a certain style and identity can have its theory, but it would be a sorrow of the pioneer who claims an indomitable avant-garde. Times may change, but our ‘sense’ always sets in the arrested present. Moreover, two layers of time format called past and future that support the present is certain to be forgotten.


Above all, like Kim Ku-lim, the gesture of imaginaries and psychoanalysis of Lacan does not affect an artist who has pierce release of ‘unrepressed subconscious’. The psychoanalysis of Bateson, Deleuze, and Matte Blanco placed the unconscious world, which is expressed like a flesh in depth. A magical sentence, “The unconscious one structuralized in the language,” does not affect on the unconscious world of East Asia at all. This is one of bad conditions to express his works in language.


Anyway, ‘unrepressed subconscious’ always desires wolves. Then, art’s original sense of identity and the consciousness of opposition spring up against the power called nation. He’s specialty is not the organization of ‘the forth group’. He aimed ‘the totalization of art’ gathering every genre of art in Korean society. This work of alternative-level seemed to finish in a short period. Kim always sticks to the attitude that he exists solitarily aloof and unharmed, but he temporarily loses his cool when it comes to the process of organization and dissolution of The Fourth Group. It is because its time of existence is testified variously from few months to a year by unidentified rumors and remythologiztion at the present point. Of course, Kim’s testimony has a power of authoritative interpretation.


However, It is an outstanding idea of ‘choreographic objects’ that he conceptualizes the thought of Lao-Tzu “over the action of a lightning bolt” as ‘incorporeal’—not useless. It could be interpreted as inessentiality, but ‘incorporeal’ means to erase every boundaries, outlines, and traces of art, so that it considered an anti-art declaration. It can be considered as a phenomenon of synchronicity like as an anti-composition, anti-music declaration of John Cage, Nam June Paik, and Fluxus. “Making a body as nothing” means a work of movement that eventually does not finished, and goes from extinction to the other. It is marvelous to state this declaration at that time. When he appears, people get frightened, and it seems to be true that he stated, “every artists in every genre are so good. I debated with them to the finish for four days. Then I succeeded to persuade them.”


The Fourth Group had him for the president—its actual form would be similar to Roman dictator. This is the position Napoleon put up when he staged coup d’état at Toulon and took the power. It is the head of republic, not of the monarchy. In a certain sense, the most important thing at his statement is a part that an agent of Central Intelligence Service of Korea kept watch on him for several months. Kim deconstructed The Fourth Group having a pity for the agent who complained. This might be a virtue of a chief who leads ‘a society against a nation’ (Pierre Clastres). If a society without power, a society that their member agonized about the process of absolute power is the republic, it is may be that Kim suggested an ideology of new republic from the art society.


In this contemporary society, Kim Ku-lim’s activity of The Fourth Group should be getting the bottom of the affair. It was wonderful the way proceeds to the unlimited action against the governing system of art and limited government like a march The Funeral of Existing Culture and Art started from Park Sang-ik on 15th August in 1970. And a performance that can be interpreted like ‘New mirror world, new anarchism is there” like Condom and Carbamide intervenes into it. Under the dictatorship, dreaming a society that ‘the ruler is under the rule, and the subjects rules’ (Aristotle), and organizing The Fourth Group as a place of dreaming social subconscious are the points where we should appreciate. Spinoza admired the politics of community in the republic of Dutch free citizens as a basement that makes possible a meditation of pantheism like Ethica. It is difficult to be desired in a nation has strong autocratic habitus like Korean society. The Fourth Group did not strike the politics as an institution like a subject of National Security Law, but therefore a political system felt embarrassment from a phenomenon that concentrated social actions of artists. A revolution as an inner resonance, a revolution like the butterfly effect that creates chaos starts from a conversion of the way that a society senses and perceives phenomena. We should pay attention that he opened 1970s by the preoccupancy of new life, not by physical revolution.





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