Nancy Princenthal (Independent Critic, NY)
The shaping pressures of the cultural environment are the motivation for Hyun Jung Kim's work, which use the Braille alphabet for the blind to explore several varities of language both visual and verbal, and the illuminating difficulties of translating among them.
Dan Bischoff (Art Critic for the Star-Ledger)
The self-consciousness is ultimately a critique of values, a measure of what we claim we treasure, in art and everything else. Hyun Jung Kim's jewelry is sometimes similar - you just know she doesn't really find pop trophies as valuable as a Liz Taylor diamond. She just present them the same way.
(Art History, Curator at Keum San Gallery, Seoul)
Liquid Body & Liquid Identity
Hyun Jung Kim’s work involves the ontological question, “Who am I?”. She casts her body itself and carves her body outlines on the stones. And with water she fills these resulted spaces-negative spaces where the body had occupied while cast and negative spaces of the same size of her body made out of carving. I would like to read her work considering the fact that she is attracted to her body image, that she focuses on negative space rather than positive space, and that she fills this negative space with liquid, water.
Lacan explains how the child comes to construct identity and subjectivity through his famous concept, the ‘mirror stage’. Occurring sometime between the age of 6 and 18months, the mirror stage involves the child’s self- identification through his double: his reflected image in the mirror. At first, the child recognizes himself as a separate object by means of his mirror image. But then, he becomes to realize that it is not real object but a mirrored image of himself. This is how self- identification happens and how identity comes to be established. At this stage, there should be something to be excluded from the self- conscious ‘I’ in order for identity to be constructed. That is, to see oneself as a unitary subject involves a form of visual repression. What is blanked out is everything that would disturb the illusion of the ‘I’ as controlling and autonomous. So, the body- image and identity is the result of a dialectical interplay between the subject and the Other/ the Mother which occurs during early autonomy.
Thus, in Lacan’s ‘mirror stage’, there is always a kind of shadow- the unconscious- which threatens to destabilize the subject’s sense of control and autonomy. About this, Irigaray contends that woman is the Other/ the Mother who acts as the silver at the back of the mirror, flattening reality out and firming it into sharply delineated individualities. Patriarchal culture flattens reality out into a single clear ‘truth’ through placing woman at the back of the mirror and not allowing her her own subjectivity at all. Here, Irigaray proposes a new type of a mirror- a speculum, that is, a curved mirror that represents a rounded reality in ways that make points and blur. This curved mirror does not allow fixity but praises fluidity. This is why this speculum does not fear Otherness as Lacan’s mirror represses and excludes it in order to establish autonomy and identity. Rather it consider this fluid and ambiguous boundary between the self/body and otherness as providing a glorious opening on to a new form of identity-construction.
Hyun Jung Kim is very attached to her cast body image, as Lacan’s child is attracted to his image in the mirror. But, she is more interested in the negative space left by her real body in cast. In the sense, Hyun Jung Kim has something in common with Irigaray who focuses on the back of the mirror rather than mirror itself. Kim’s attempt to search and establish her identity through this negative space should be understood in terms with Irigaray’s endeavor for identity which is fluid and wide open on to changes by means of a curved mirror, rather than with so limited self- identification of Lacan’s child. Displaying her own body’s negative space so frankly and so brave, the artist urges the viewer to realize the illusion about controlling, unitary,and autonomous self/identity and to put the back of the mirror into serious consideration. Her boldness refuses such a fragile identity in the controlled and refined world. Thus, facing up to reality, she no longer clings to the illusion, but recognizes fluid and ambiguous relationship between self and otherness and so accepts with all her hearts indefinite possibility of changes of identity in such relationship. Hyun Jung Kim intensifies her effort by employing water to fill negative space. It comes so naturally goes down as time goes by, highlights the illusion about permanent and absolute identity. By filling it up again, Hyun Jung Kim realizes that identity is not only constructed in relation with others and the world but also subject to change.
Hyun Jung Kim is right in the middle of searching for and establishing her artistic identity just like the child in Lacan’s mirror stage. Since this is only beginning, she has a lot more to go. Nevertheless, there is a great hope for her, since she is looking at the back of the mirror not the mirror itself; since she chose a speculum, a curved mirror which represents crooked and rounded reality as it is, instead of a mirror flattening out and distorting reality; and since with recognition of possibility of identity, she welcomes otherness and not-self for figuring out her identity and thus is able to see the world differently instead of swimming with the current.