Her name now known around the world, South Korean artist Minouk Lim was born in Daejeon in 1968 and currently splits her time between Seoul, Berlin and many other locations. Lim originally enrolled as a student in the painting department of Ewha Womans University in Seoul, but left her degree program to pursue her education at the École Nationale Supérieure des Beaux-Arts de Paris. After graduating in 1994, she has since used that time to write, compose music, make videos and design installation performances. With an ambition to create pieces that transcend the boundaries of art and media, Lim has also remained uniquely tuned to her artistic expression as she focuses on the effects of South Korea’s rapid democratization and industrialization transitions. And just as the name Minouk Lim has become internationally recognized in the contemporary art field, her artworks too draw attention to these themes in Korea as well as abroad.
Describing her own work as “liquid,” fans and art enthusiasts often cite the artist’s 2005 video New Town Ghost as her most representative piece from her collection. In this video, a young woman with short hair and wild eyes raps next to a drummer on top of a truck, shouting phrases like, “What have I lost? I have nowhere to go, I’m a new town ghost,” and “Hello Lotte, Shinsegae greets me, re-modeling Saemaeul, not redevelopment, Analogue body, Digital mind” to capture the transitions taking place across Korea.
Clara Kim, a senior curator at the Tate Modern in London, says Minouk Lim’s artwork represents these areas of redevelopment as “liquid” architecture because the present and future of Seoul co-exists simultaneously in the same space. In this case, “liquid” is a significantly representative term for Lim’s artwork. As liquid is an entity that flows and disappears, it can also be very painful. Lim believes in the power of these actions, and even though “people just care about them for a short time,” she trusts the “power of sadness” held over the community as it represents a very primitive emotion.
Mirroring this primitiveness of emotion, the materials Minouk Lim collects and uses in her artwork are fragile and weak. She always incorporates delicate materials like glue, paraffin, broken glass, feathers, flowing weeds and even sponges into her artwork. With these delicate materials, the artist expresses many Korean and international issues in areas including redevelopment, multi-cultural families, massacres, and even the unification of North and South Korea. Minouk Lim’s art projects cherish discarded items that society believes do not have any value because they fall on opposite ends of usefulness: either so abundant that they’re seen everywhere or no longer exist in any practical sense. This situation is often found in South Korean history as society was structuring its own modernization, resulting in the loss of entire physical areas, places or even people through the passing of time. Making a note of such loss is Lim’s The Weight of Hands (2010) and the FireCliff series (2010-present), where the artist uses moving images in a performance video which is mediated through the lens of an infrared camera to deeply lament the disappearance of these areas, places, and people while simultaneously recalling memories which existed before.
Although Lim’s art may look political, the pieces are not just about being strong; the works also represent sadness, which co-exists alongside powerful emotions. Admirers may contemplate their own life and what is happening to others on the other side of the world. For example, Lim’s video New Town Ghost visualizes the problems of gentrification as well as thoughts and views on globalization. Through her artwork, I personally feel that her art can have unlimited power, and that really affects me.
Minouk Lim is currently living in Germany through the Artists-in-Berlin Program of the German Academic Exchange Service / Deutscher Akademischer Austauschdienst (DAAD), having just finished her solo exhibition, The Promise of If (2015) – at PLATEAU Samsung Museum of Art in Seoul, South Korea and United Paradox at Portikus in Frankfurt, Germany. She recently exhibited the installation Strange Fruit (2016) at the 20th Sydney Biennale and also participated in the opening performance and displayed her installation Navigation ID (2014) at the 10th Gwangju Biennale. Lim is the recipient of multiple art prizes such as 2015 Absolut Awards (Stockholm, Sweden), the 2012 Korea Artist Prize (co-organized by SBS Foundation and MMCA, Korea) and the 7th Hermès Foundation Missulsang (2007 Seoul, Korea) among others, and her artwork will soon be exhibited at the Setouchi Triennale in Japan and the Taipei Biennale.
For more information, visit www.minouklim.com.