A Laundry Woman - Yamuna river, India, 2000, 10:30 video loop, Silent.

Museion - The Perception of the Horizontal

Letizia Regaglia, 2005

The artist stands immobile with her back to us, and the river flows slowly by. It's the Yamuna River, in Delhi, and the flowers, ashes and charred remains afloat in it come from a nearby crematory. Since the middle of the 1980s, the Korean artist Kimsooja has been using installations, performances and video for poetic transformations of various elements of the culture from which she comes into metaphors of the human condition. The contrast between fixity and motion, particularly in relation to the human body, is one of the constants of her work. In the performance A Needle Woman, she dresses in a stern, dark suit, erect and motionless in the middle of the street, offering resistance to the surging energy of a crowd of passers-by. In A Homeless Woman, she lies stretched out along the ground. In A Beggar Woman she sits with crossed legs in the midst of urban traffic. In all of these positions and situations she confronts us with the metaphor of a life that withdraws from the hubbub around it.

The body that faces away from us revises the notion of the artist as protagonist or predominant actor: this is a body on a search for otherness, while nonetheless unable to oppose the order of things, and even less to alter it. In an interview in which Kimsooja describes her state of mind while filming A Laundry Woman, she remarks that there was a moment when she came to understand that movement, here, belonged not to the river, which would always remain, whereas her body would disappear from the world. The contemplation of a landscape situation that evokes the endlessness of nature and the finitude of the human condition refers necessarily to the compositions of C. D. Friedrich where a figure generally seen from behind stands out against sublime landscapes which emphasize and underline the incommensurability of the horizon. The contemporary context has doubtless changed, but the confrontation between the subject and a horizon — cultural no less than environmental — once again brings existential questions to the foreground: questions on permeability and impermeability, on the separateness and intimate inter-relationship of the human being and the world.