Random Access Project
Kim Ga Ram
2018 vol. 1
Kim Ga Ram deals with social and cultural issues in various forms such as visual design, video, popular music, and performance. She draws on the language of familiar media and invites people to engage in her playful and experimental works. In sympathy or antipathy, participants are provided opportunities to share different perspectives of each other to bring about changes to their thoughts together.
1. Please introduce yourself and your work.
I look at social and cultural issues through the observer’s eyes, and lay them out in a playful experiment in and out of the exhibition space. Drawing on diverse media from installation to media and performance, my works are primarily geared toward evoking the audience’s empathy and participation.
2. How did you find it to take part in the project Random Access?
It was a time when I personally had many artistic concerns, and Random Access was a valuable opportunity that gave me sustainable strength. Working on a new work, Selfie Upload, for Random Access, I was helped a lot by those working for the exhibition, all bright and full of energy, which encouraged me too to go forward. I would like to express my gratitude to the curator Kim Sun Young, with whom I enjoyed very much working together.
3. As a curator, I was drawn to your work which presents socio-cultural issues in various forms such as design, popular music, and performance. Above all, I think that your ways of working to give rise to either sympathy or antagonism to viewers and participants in the language of familiar media today, seem to be very resonant with how Nam June Paik produced works, playful and experimental across a variety of media. In this respect, I was thankful to you for joining us as the first artist of Random Access. Which part of your work do you think is personally or artistically connected to Paik?
When I think of Paik, what first comes to my mind is Düsseldorf. In 2015, I visited Düsseldorf as part of an exchange program run by MMCA Goyang Residency. I was the artist in residence there for three months. My solo exhibition there in 2016 took the form of performance titled ACS #2: the AGENDA hair salon (Düsseldorf-Projekt, 2016).
Paik taught at the Kunstacademie Düsseldorf for 17 years, and that’s why you could find his amazing influences everywhere in Düsseldorf. It is not difficult to meet curators who wrote a thesis on Paik, and wherever you go, everyone knows Paik. One day, I went see an eye doctor, and when he heard that I was from Korea, he struck up a conversation about Paik. In the 2016 solo exhibition, one of Paik’s students at the academy came to my performance as a participant, and talked about many episodes about Paik. This encounter was recorded in the video of my performance.
It was actually in Düsseldorf that I saw for the first time Paik’s work TV Garden shown in Nam June Paik Art Center. I loved it so much that I revisited it a few times. It was so fascinating and even moving that the influence of a single artist was found all over the city.
My latest work #FANTASY (2020) is a project that created a virtual boyfriend-cum-exhibition guide on YouTube. In an interview with the curator Seo Jieun at the Coreana Museum of Art, I became curious how Paik would use YouTube if he were alive. And I researched to find out that Paik already anticipated a YouTube-like platform, much to my surprise once again. Likewise I look forward to discovering Paik’s influence in the media and platforms I will use in the future.
4. Tell us more about Selfie-Upload showcased in Random Access.
In order to talk about Selfie-Upload, I had better introduce another work Selfie-Series first. It is a project to see the “selfie culture,” in which people frequently take selfies and post them online via social media, as a new portrait of the personal-media era, and to examine through the exhibition the individual’s psychological state and social changes that the selfie culture accompanies. Selfie-Series especially pays attention to the fact that the changes caused by the selfie culture bring a change too to the status of artworks placed in the exhibition and to the exhibition space itself. Among my major works in this vein are Selfie-Upload shown in the Random Access exhibition of Nam June Paik Art Center in 2018, and #SELSTAR (2016) and #FANTASY (2020).
Selfie-Upload is an audience-participatory work that transforms the museum’s elevator into space for taking a selfie. Here I, the artist, turn myself into a guide to lead visitors to take selfies for a short period of time while the elevator goes up and down.
This work links the spatial change of the elevator that rises and falls quickly, to the characteristics of social media where new issues are updated every day, anyone can become a protagonist, but it is replaced quickly with new feeds. This is to raise questions as to how selfies express an individual’s desires, and how a separate ego set up in the virtual space of social media changes our identity in reality.
In addition, a special display was mounted in the mezzanine, an archive that allows you to review the entire process of this work, including visual designs, costumes, and installations, created for the Self-Upload performance.
5. Three years have passed since then. You have participated in various group exhibitions, and have recently worked for a solo show. Could you tell us about the activities you have engaged in since Random Access and about your future plans?
After Random Access in 2018, I produced different projects on different themes and media, including 4ROSE The Moving Archive at the exhibition Chroniclers, Outsider of Time, at Museum of Contemporary Art Busan in 2019, Unbalance in the exhibition Youth Before Age, at Space*C, the Coreana Museum of Art, 2019, and Corona Blue in the exhibition art_covid_19 at Place Mak, 2020.
Among them is a new work relating to the Random Access project, called #FANTASY as part of Selfie-Series. #Fantasy, which was first unveiled at the Bangkok Art Biennale in 2020, consists of large installations full of mirrors and lights, makeup tools, and the second of the video series #SELSTAR featuring a virtual boyfriend (YouTube lover channel).
“Now, you are not alone. Experience a virtual boyfriend in the exhibition.” One of the most popular on YouTube recently is “Lover Agent/Married Life” channels. Subscribers are comforted by the person’s (one-sided) utterance on YouTube and feel that they are talking to a real lover. What the person on the channel does is just asking you about daily schedule or asking after you in a friendly way, but that’s what makes this channel popular. #Fantasy is a work that brings this virtual lover channel to the exhibition space as it is.
#FANTASY is another version of Selfie-Series that features a virtual boyfriend (lover) in a video work. It exposes today’s YouTube culture of consumption where the distinction between the reality and the virtual is no longer at work, and encourages the active participation of exhibition visitors. The protagonist in the video helps you to understand the exhibition as well as the work, and also offers a tutorial how to make a good selfie.
The solo exhibition held at KT&G Sangsangmadang, is titled #FANTASY, too where you can meet a virtual boy friend. You can also see an archive of all my previous works so far. In this project, a new work that was never shown before is presented: a total of 16 ‘QR Code’ canvases that I designed myself. You might feel as if you are viewing a series of canvas work. If you access the QR code through a smartphone, you can watch YouTube videos. This project started out of a concern about how to view the exhibition in the post-corona era. It generates different experiences by maximizing the gap between the virtual exhibition on the phone and the ‘real’ exhibition on canvas.
I also participated in Me, Family, held at MUDAM, the National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, Luxembourg, with 4ROSE The Moving Archive. The exhibition was originally intended for an offline exhibition scheduled to open in May, but because of covid-19, they developed an online platform for six months, and converted the exhibition to the online one that runs from October 2020 March 21, 2021. It is accessible via: http://mefamily.mudam.com. Me, Family is an interesting example to glimpse the possibilities of the online exhibition platform in the future. When you enter the platform, you can connect with your friends like an online game, and you can also have an idea of who come to the exhibition.
To give you one tip, try connecting the platform with a camera. (You can access the site in a deformable face. On the platform, you can view works of art, and if you want, you can leave a 10-second video with your own feedback. The video will be permanently preserved.
In connection with 4ROSE, there was the artist talk with MUDAM curator Emanuela Mazzonis discussing the relationship between the public and the virtual world, on political, social, economic and cultural issues online. This event on January 25th was broadcasted live online.
6. Do you have any comments or episodes you would like to share about Random Access?
Selfie-Upload, premiered in Random Access, was scheduled to be presented at the CEC ArtsLink’s Art Prospect festival in St. Petersburg, Russia in May 2020. But the whole event was cancelled due to the spread of covid-19. The curator in charge of the festival tells me that Selfie-Upload is the most interesting of my works in that it transforms the elevator, which is an everyday space, into a special place for selfie, in light of the characteristics of social media that change every moment.
Due to the nature of the art festival set in the entire city, it was planned to transform elevators in various places by date. Excited about the idea of being able to show Selfie-Upload in a completely new venue, I was curious how Russian audiences (known for not laughing very well) would respond to ‘selfie.’
Anyway, if the event went as planned, I would have sent you a lot of Selfie-Upload photos from Russia to this interview by now. I think it’s a pity in many ways. I was informed that the event would be moved to next year, but I guess it would still be difficult to take part in overseas exhibitions in the spring of next year under the current situation.
I hope there will be another good opportunity to present Selfie-Upload again somewhere else.
Kim Sun Young