Lie on the Nature / Sewing into Walking, used bed covers, Oksanseowon Valley, Korea, 1994. Photo by Ju Myung Duk.

Cloth and Life

Kim Sooja, 2002

We are wrapped in cotton cloth at birth, we wear it until we die, and we are again wrapped in it for burial. Especially in Korea, we use cloth as a symbolic material on important occasions such as coming of age ceremonies, weddings, funerals, and rites for ancestors. Therefore, cloth is thought to be more than a material, being identified with the body — that is, as a container for the spirit.

When a person dies, his family burns the clothes and sheets he used. This may have the symbolic meaning of sending his body and spirit to the sky, the world of the unknown. When I look back over my more than twenty years of handling bedcovers, I feel that I have always been performing, guided by the piles of cloth I have lived among.

What in the world have I stitched and patched. What have I tied up in bundles. When will the journey of my needle end, my silkworm unwrap its flesh. Will it in the end slough off its skin. Will the bundles with no destination find their way to go.

— Kim Sooja

Artist statement accompanying "Kim Sooja: A Mirror Woman", Peter Blum gallery, New York City.

Exhibition from February 23 to May 18, 2002.