Trained at Hongik University in Seoul and then at the École nationale des beaux-arts de Paris, Kimsooja has divided her time between New York and Seoul for the past thirty years. Since 1999, she has put on a series of performances for the camera in a number of locations, mainly urban ones. Their title, A Needle Woman, refers to the centrality of fabric in her performances and installations, and can also be read metaphorically as referring to the way the moving body weaves connections with new contexts and new situations.
A Needle Woman – Kitakyushu is a performance that was put on in Kitakyushu, Japan. It consists of a single fixed shot, without sound. The artist, dressed in dark grey, her feet bare, her hair gathered by an elastic band, lies on a crevassed rock with her back to the camera. Above her, a blue sky with fine white clouds moved by the wind. Whereas other performances show the artist moving or remaining still amidst moving crowds (A Needle Woman, 1999–2001), here the body is perfectly immobile. Placed exactly at the centre of the image, overlooking the horizon, it is positioned between heaven and earth, between the pull of gravity and the fluidity of the azure, between mineral weight and the lightness of air, as if it were one with the stone and at the same time was providing a link with the celestial element. As the artist said in 2013: “My body functions as a central point of four different elements: earth, sky, nature, and human being.”
While the immobile, reclining body may evoke death, the fact that it is in a dynamic position, with one leg on top of the other and the head resting on an arm, and not in a position of abandon, suggests the performative choice of a meditative, concentrated position rather than the body collapsing into nothingness.
Christiane Meyer-Stoll (ed.), Kimsooja: Interviews, Vaduz, Kunstmuseum Lichtenstein, Cologne, Verlag der Buchandlung Walther König, 2018.
Seungduk Kim, Youngwo Lee, Hyungmin Pai et alii, Kimsooja: To Breathe, Bottari, exh. cat. Venice, Korean Pavilion, 55th Venice Biennale, Dijon, Les presses du réel, 2013.
Bernard Fibicher, Nakamura Keiji et alii., Kim Sooja: A Needle Woman, exh. cat. Kunsthalle Bern, 2001.