Multi Channel Performance Videos
'Thread Routes' is Kimsooja’s first 16mm film series, after having spent more than three decades contextualizing and conceptualizing textiles as a canvas that supports a structural investigation of human life, nature and the world.
While contemporary art has long considered textiles as craft, Kimsooja has consistently sought to connect the nature of textiles to the performative, the sculptural/architectural, the notion of tableau and questions of gender, aesthetics and culture.
These non-descriptive and non-narrative documentary films were conceived after being inspired in Bruges, Belgium in 2002, by traditional lace making, and its performative elements and architectural structure.
Divided into six chapters, Thread Routes takes place in six different cultural zones around the world. Kimsooja considers her approach as a 'visual poem' and a 'visual anthropology' in juxtaposing and presenting structural similarities in performative elements of textile culture with the structures in nature, architecture, agriculture and gender relationships in different cultures. Kimsooja demonstrates the hidden reality of the diverse forms of textile construction, and contextualizes the relationship between textile making and architecture practices along side the natural geographical forms. Similar and distinctive elements of visual phenomena are woven and merged together as equal visual and cultural vocabularies. They also illustrate the similarities and differences in this gender oriented activity in different performative weaving, spinning, and sewing cultures. By defining this link Kimsooja creates a dialogue that enriches the context of contemporary art and life.
Taking this pure visual experience as a statement on how the artist gazes at the world, this poetic visual archeology becomes a retrospective of her practice in the past that continues today. Kimsooja considers the ‘Thread Routes’ series as a parallel performance to the needlework she has done since the early 1980’s, and its evolution into the ‘A Needle Woman’ performance series since 1999. This series took places from around the world as an encyclopedia of a needle and a thread. While ‘A Needle Woman’ investigates the dimensions of the needle, Kimsooja contextualizes contemporary art through her multi-disciplinary practice through eyes of a needle and thread that weave humanity, nature and cosmology consistently and evolutionary throughout her about forty year career. ‘Thread Routes’ traces the formal and psychological threads encompassing the textile structures to that of the body and the world, and human desire to culture.
Thread Routes - Chapter I
The first chapter, completed in 2010, is of the Peruvian weaving culture that is closely aligned with its landscapes and historic archeological structures. This piece journeys throughout the country, from the Sacred Valley around Cusco, and Machu Picchu, to the Taquile Island villages forming a non-linear timeline of the inseparable connection between the people to their geographical environment
Thread Routes - Chapter II
The second chapter, which finished filming in the summer of 2011, focused on many European lace making actions such as bobbin lace-making from Bruges (Belgium), industrial lace-making in Calais (France); Lepoglava and Pag (Croatia); needle point lace-making by nuns in a monastery in Hvar (Croatia) who use threads from dry Aloe leaves; and traditional needlepoint on the small island of Burano (Italy). These scenes are woven together with delicate yet grand European architecture such as the Duomo in Milan; the Eiffel Tower in Paris; and the Sedlec Ossuary in Kutna Hora (Czech Republic), which is decorated by human bones and skulls. Local vegetation and flowers overlap with scenes from the Alhambra in Granada (Spain) that conveys in its amazingly detailed and complex decorative Islamic architectural forms, a spatial sensibility and spiritual dimension that is mirrored in lace-making. The bold, masculine, and power-oriented monumental architectural forms are revealed as similar acts to the delicate, feminine, and ephemeral textile making.
Thread Routes - Chapter III
The Chapter III (2012) journeys to India and the traditions of dyeing, sewing, weaving, embroidery, tattoo and woodblock printing, juxtaposed with archeological structures and temporary housing structures of the nomadic communities in Gujara as well as the Stepwell and Sun Temple in Ahmedabad.
Thread Routes - Chapter IV
In 2014, Kimsooja filmed Chapter IV in China where she encountered the specific weaving, dyeing and garment culture of the Miao minority in the Guizhou, Hainan and Yunnan provinces. These are depicted alongside elaborate silver adornment and paper-making as well as the ancient local housing structures in Fujian, the rice terraces of Yunnan and the landscapes of Guizhou and Hainan.
Thread Routes - Chapter V
Chapter V, filmed in 2016 in the American Southwest, centers on the land and craft of indigenous Americans. Scenes of plateaus and prairies are interspersed with adobe dwellings and caves that sheltered people thousands of years ago. Kimsooja connects this to craft by showing techniques that have been practiced equally as long and which are related to the land, showing weaving on handmade looms and basket weaving, starting with collecting the plants native plants with which they are woven.
Thread Routes - Chapter VI
Most recently, in 2019, Kimsooja traveled to Morocco to film the sixth chapter of the series. Documenting crafts such as leather dyeing, tile making, embroidery, and weaving. In juxtaposing crafts traditionally thought of as masculine and feminine, such as mosaic tile making and weaving, respectively, Kimsooja examines the ways in which different labor is gendered. Scenes of ancient architecture, such as the world’s oldest university, blend into views of pastures, mountains, and desert dunes throughout Morocco’s diverse landscape.