Bottari - Alfa Beach

Kimsooja, Bottari - Alfa Beach, 2001, single channel video projection, 6:18 loop, silent


Marcella Beccaria

Identifying nomadism as a condition that is inevitably linked to contemporary existence, Kimsooja draws on her own continual displacements as material that is indispensable for the creation of her work. Repeating an experience connected to her nomadic childhood, she positions herself in new contexts, in which she renegotiates the uniqueness of her identity.

Although directly tied to her biography, Kimsooja’s art does not indulge in narrative details, but instead strives to transform the subjective into the universal. Thus, whether she finds herself amid the crowd in Shanghai, New York, Tokyo, or Mexico City, or at the edge of a river or sea in any part of the world, whenever the artist appears in her work, she portrays herself from the back. Transforming presence into absence, her figure becomes a means, a door thrown open to the world’s infinite mutability.

Taking the form of videos, installations, or performances, many of Kimsooja’s works recognize the act of sewing as a powerful metaphor. Like a needle, which is capable of disappearing after having connected otherwise separate fragments, Kimsooja sees the value of her art in its possibilities for uniting individuality and multiplicity, body and spirit, East and West.

Sometimes the artist uses bottari, bundles of bedcover fabric traditionally employed in Korea, her native country. Usually employed for transporting objects connected to daily life, they embody the very idea of wandering and the multiple facets of elation and sorrow.

The word bottari also appears in a series of videos to which the work in the collection, Bottari: Alfa Beach, 2001, belongs. The video was filmed in Africa, on a Nigerian beach whose name is linked to the slave trade. The work features the inversion of the horizon line, exchanging the position of the sky with that of the sea. Seemingly simple, the reversal suggests the sudden impossibility of establishing one’s own position in the world, evoking the drama of the slaves who were kidnapped from their own land and forced to face voyages to destinations utterly unknown to them. The sense of dislocation is heightened by the lack of sound.

Text by Marcella Beccaria from "The Castle, The Collection", Castello di Rivoli Museo D’Art Contemporanea, published in 2008 by Skira.