Monday, January 8, 2007

Working title: Life in Progress: Kimsooja’s fleeting photos.

Becoming a star of the art world is no easy task. One must have the right style at the right moment, and even then, fame is most often a fleeting fad. How appropriate, then, that Korean artist Kimsooja’s current photography exhibition, at the Peter Blum Gallery in Chelsea, discusses the passage of time.

A Wind Woman, on display through Jan. 13, consists of a group of large-scale color photographs (roughly three feet wide by two feet high) that are stills from her 2003 video of the same name. Kimsooja shot the video while driving in Hawaii, with the camera shutter open at length so as to capture the movement of the landscape as she passed by.

Most of the photographs have placid clouds in the background, while glimpses of what are presumably foliage and contours of the land blur horizontally in the foreground. Dark lines trespass across each photo, exposing the photographer’s movement.

While standing in front of the photos, there is a distinctive sense that the scene is passing you by, not that you’re moving past it. The pictures urge the viewer to hurry, as though time is running by. Since the movement is already captured on film, however, forever sealing it in constant motion, attempts to catch up are a waste of time.

The very first photo in the array is nearly all white, with only very pale grey blobs. The last one is all black. The white evokes birth, with the following photographs life, and the stark black presumably death. It’s a seemingly heartless way of looking at the world. You’re born, life passes you by in an instant, and then it’s over. But within each fast-paced photo, the clouds in the background remain still. The static clouds are the moments that matter enough to stick with you.

Human existence is comparative to a drop in the ocean of time. Kimsooja’s photographs resonate with this short history, and the even shorter life span of each individual. Yet they’re also optimistic, reminding us that to cherish and remember something is to keep it still despite time’s attempts to steal it away.

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