Mandala: Zone of Zero. 2003, 4-channel sound installation with jukebox, mixed sound from Tibetan monk chant, Gregorian chant, and Islamic chant, 9:50 loop.

Mandala: Zone of Zero

Linda Yablonsky, 2003

Visitors arriving at this gallery, recently relocated to midtown from Harlem, will step into a darkened room carpeted and painted meditative, deep-space blue. Sitting down risks becoming entranced by the little bubbles moving around one of the four circular red-yellow-and-blue jukebox speakers placed on each wall, where they emit a warm, tap-room glow.

Some viewers may be as struck by the speakers' resemblance to Tibetan mandalas (symbolizing the design of the universe) as was Kimsooja, who arrived in New York from South Korea in 1998 and saw in these artifacts of American pop culture a perfect meld of East and West. Others maybe reminded of stained-glass windows, since what pours out is an ethereal mix of Gregorian, Islamic and Tibetan chants that circulate, like those bubbles, in an endless loop of male voices, both rumbling and sweet.

In her previous installations and videos, Kimsooja focused on the body as a protective cover for powerful emotions. Korean textiles figured prominently, wrapping immigrants or outcasts as they moved from place to place with belongings that survived them and were passed to others. It is the unmoving viewer being wrapped this time, in waves of sound and light. But because there is more here to experience internally than to see, viewers may dismiss the work as a literalized notion of the-gallery-as-chapel in which to worship at the altar of art, without realizing that they are part of the ritual.


— From TimeOut, New York: November 27 - December 4, 2003.