Cities on the move - 2727 kilometers Bottari Truck, 1997, 11 days journey throughout Korea. Photo by Lee Sang Gil.

Interview

Hans Ulrich Obrist, 1998

Hans Ulrich Obrist:  Your "Cities on the Move" project takes place on several layers: as a real-time event, as videos, as a sound installation, as an exhibition on airplanes, as a book. Marcel Broodthaers said, "The Museum is one truth which is surrounded by many other truths which are worth being explored."

Kim Soo-Ja:  Cities on the Move is our mind and spirit, sewing this whole globe. It is my oxygen - it is my being.

HUO:  Alighiero e Boetti wrote, "It all moves across waves and waves are made of high and low intervals, pauses, and silences."

KSJ:  Across the waves of mountains and valleys, across the waves of our body and spirit, a breath.

HUO:  Do you see the "Bottari Truck" as a social sculpture?

KSJ:  Bottari Truck is a loaded self, a loaded others, a loaded meanings, a loaded history, a loaded in-between.

HUO:  Everything is in-between.

KSJ:  Nothing is in-between.

HUO:  Time has become more important than space throughout the '90's in art. Could you tell me about the way your "Cities on the Move" projects in progress are happening in time — rather a process than a product, or rather oscillating between the process and the object?

KSJ:  Time is mental space we can never grab, as physical presence is space we can never escape from. We can always recall the time when we want, but can never locate our body the moment we want to.

Bottari Truck is a processing object throughout space and time, locating and dislocating ourselves to the place where we came from, and where we are going to.

HUO:  Could you tell me about the "Cities on the Move" sound piece you created in Vienna? You told me that you had previously recorded the sounds of "Cities" in Asia.

KSJ:  Since 1993, I used to record the environmental sound including my footsteps and vehicles, people chatting on the street and in the restaurant, as well as the sound of train stations in New York, Paris, Tokyo, Milan... etc.

Actually, since my stay in New York in 1992, I was very much aware of all those different languages and communication sounds weaving in the public spaces. Once we had a table of friends from Russia, Finland, Ireland, Norway, Germany, France, England, Korea...in a Vietnamese restaurant. It was great to be in the middle of these languages sharing food together, and I recorded that day's sounds on the table.

For the sound piece at the Secession, I recorded a series of sounds from a subway circulation in Seoul from one station to another, including sounds of compartments of the train, station announcements, people's footsteps and conversations with continuous chattering sound of the train. In this piece, I tried to relocate this drawing sound of Seoul to the Secession space, Vienna, which I perceive as another kind of "Bundles on the Move."

HUO:  Who are your heroes?

KSJ:  Unfamiliar word for me... but if there are, they will be anonymous victims of heroism, hierarchy, customs, fixed ideas, discrimination, ignorance, and untruth of the society. It could be me, it could be you.

HUO:  Helio Oiticica referred to marginal heroes, Deleuze to minor heroes.

HUO:  Could you tell me how the magazine exhibition on all Asiana Airlines happened? Through the fact that you exhibit on all board bulletin magazines, the show is on view 1000 meters altitude. Andreas Slominski called the page of a board bulletin on a plane "A Flying Carpet" in his show for Museum in Progress on board Austrian Airlines.

KSJ:  Asiana Airlines in-flight magazine project was possible with the support of SSAMZIE, which asked me to do an advertisement in Asiana Magazine for their company with the image of my work. A plane is an interesting object and site which connects one city to another, containing people on the move. So instead of doing a usual advertisement, I asked the company if I could do this as my Cities on the Move project and they accepted my idea.

I've been thinking of realizing a project in the plane for many years — it could be on monitors, magazines, seats, carpets, foods, sounds, costumes of the crews in the plane. It is always exciting to imagine the incredible altitude from the plane — also from the ground.

HUO:  Has the art world in Korea changed since the economic crash last year? I heard from Chitti-Kasemkitvatana that in Bangkok there are recently lots of new initiatives popping up in empty buildings, but also exhibitions in cafes. Are there similar new structures in Seoul?

KSJ:  There are some cafes where concerts, performances, exhibitions are happening, yet more on commercial levels... but I have a feeling that these will bring more alternative space activities in Seoul. Artists whose work is not saleable have no place to show their work.

HUO:  Do you have unrealized projects? Projects which were too expensive to realize? Projects which were censored? Projects you forgot to realize?

KSJ:  There are projects which were not possible because of economics, time, space, and technical problems. Some forgotten projects will come back to my mind when it is needed. I contain my projects in my body which I find as my studio and I don't try to remember or describe them all.

HUO:  You exhibit in museums, on the street, in an airplane magazine, etc. etc. What seems very important with your "Cities on the Move" project is that there is no hierarchy of these spaces. As de Certeau said, "Space is practiced place (or vice versa)."

KSJ:  If Bottari Truck is a bundle with clothes, an airplane is a bundle of people, same as the compartment of a subway train. Bottari is everywhere, body and mind, womb and tomb, globe and universe, bundle of bundle of bundle... folding and unfolding our mind and geography, time and space.

HUO:  Do you like to be on planes?

KSJ:  I like the non-gravitation like state of time and space on the plane where I situate myself nowhere, in-between, and apart from all relationships... but it's phobic.

HUO:  About mobile housing, Buckminster Fuller made a statement for housing as a service rather than a propriety.

HUO:  I just saw your catalogue from Kassel. Could you tell me about the show there?

KSJ:  I made three different installations in the Museum Fridericianum. One with bundles, another space with video and sound, and in the tower space as a performance piece with covered mannequins and the video documentation of performance. For the Bottari piece, I installed 13 Bottari in a room which has a small window toward outside.

The video piece titled Sewing into Walking - Istiklal Caddesi was the one I made in Istanbul last year. I captured people's walk coming and going on Istiklal Caddesi in Taxim, by just locating the camera beside the tramway, and I left it for an hour without changing any format, angle, or focus. This is an "Image Bottari", wrapped real people's walk by looking through the camera lense and capturing... and I put Tibetan monk chanting sounds onto these images of people.

The third one was a performance piece in relation to the covered figure in the audience, installing mannequin which was fully covered with used bed covers in circular structure of arrangement onto its body from the top to the bottom, in the middle of the cross-shaped room in the tower. I see the audience as performers who are trying to figure out this feature by peeling off these barriers of fabrics which hide the figure by "looking." So the title is Encounter - Sewing into Looking.

It was my intention to set up an unmovable figure as a performer instead of myself, so that people automatically become performers by their movements. I tried to create a kind of tension between audience, and the uncertain figure, while the audience looks at the covered uncertain figure waiting for a performing movement from it which isn't supposed to move. This is the moment when a strange encounter is happening between this unknown figure and the audience with intense look.

HUO:  How do you see the bundles in time? Is it a personified abstraction?

KSJ:  Bottari in time, Bottari as personified abstraction... Bottari is an abstraction of a personage, an abstraction of society and history, and that of time and memory. It is past, present, and future.



— From Cities on the Move artist book published by the artist in the occasion of Cities on the Move exhibition curated by Hans Ulrich Obrist and Hou Hanru, 1997.

Hans Ulrich Obrist was born in May 1968 in Zurich, Switzerland, and currently lives and works in Paris. In 1993, he founded the migratory Museum Robert Walser and began to run the Migrateurs programme at the Musée d'Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris where he now serves as a curator for contemporary art. He is editor in chief of the hybrid artist pages Point d'Ironie, published by agnés b and begun in collaboration with her in 1997. He has been a frequent curator for the Museum in Progress, Vienna and lecturer at Facolta delle Arti, IUAV in Venice. Accompanying his curatorial projects, he has edited the writings of Gerhard Richter, Louise Bourgeois, Gilbert and George, Maria Lassnig and Leon Golub. The first volume of his ongoing interview project was recently collected in Hans Ulrich Obrist: Interviews (Milan: Edizioni Charta, 2003, produced by Pitti Imagine).