Kimsooja @ Korean Pavilion, Venice Biennale

Review by J.D.A. Winslow | 12 Jul 2013
  • Kimsooja, To Breathe: Bottari, 2013

The central conceit behind Kimsooja’s exhibition is simple enough – that of the presentation of two spaces, one large, windows obscured somewhat by a hazy film applied to the windows, mirrored floor (recalling Japan’s infamous no-­pan kissa, literally no­panties café) and a second smaller space, a darkened anechoic chamber. The sensory impact is no doubt intended to be the visual equivalent of a sauna followed by a quick roll in the snow.

The problem is while the installation is very much site ­specific to the Korean Pavilion, it fails to respond to the unique (and crowded) atmosphere of the Giardini. This means the impact of the installation itself is far outweighed by the bureaucratic procedure one has to transition through. Once reaching the front of the queue outside the pavilion one is asked to sign a disclaimer form, in exchange for which you are handed a small laminated number, indicating your position in the (second) queue for the anechoic chamber. You are instructed to remove your shoes, and, on the occasion that one has not opted for a classic socks and sandals combination, provided with sheer denier socks from a communal store. You are then allowed into the area outside the pavilion to change your shoes.

Sadly, the number system transforms the central mirrored space into little more than a waiting room for the experience of the anechoic chamber. The attention paid to the physical specificity of the gallery is neatly voided by the lack of acknowledgement made of the context beyond this, resulting in overpowering administrative aperitif that obscures any hint of transcendental experience. [J.D.A. Winslow]