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Byoungho Kim

Byoungho Kim, POSCO Art Museum


1974, Seoul


Sculpture, Installation, Media



Stories, 2015

Acrylic-based painting on steel, neodymium magnet, 16 x 14.8 x 14.8cm

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A System

This text is more like a type of product manual that concisely states the features of Byoungho Kim’s artwork/products. The intention of this text is to propose a rough blueprint that takes a glance over the artist’s works as a whole, keeping in tune with the objective of A System, an exhibition which organizes Kim’s oeuvre up to this point. As major key words that consistently penetrate Kim’s works, each chapter of this manual is more like nodes, where many intersecting elements come to a focus and disperse.


0. Product / Object

Most of Kim’s works are large shiny metallic sculptures with a perfect finish. First impression of his works is that they’re typical high art objects that suit the museum or gallery space. However, the artist’s statement, “The outcome in my work are basically products”, betrays the viewer’s expectations and brings the audience to question what exactly his work is.

Kim’s works are close to being ‘products’ if we see the way they are produced. The work’s design plan is as elaborate and thorough as if to suggest an architectural blueprint. From idea sketching to design drawing, overall structure map and details, every part of process is given a numerical figure, measurements and is standardized like a product manual. This blueprint includes all things that compose the work, from the sculptural design to wiring the sound components to weight arrangement for installation. The actual production is also carried out in a factory rather than through the manual hand labor of the artist. The components designed by the artist are exquisitely processed following the blueprint by an engineer, complying with industry standards. In cases where the work needs to be painted, it goes through a process of commercial anodizing. The completed components are then installed according to the manual, a process where sound is assembled into the work like a component.

The way of working in which the artist designs the work but the actual production is done at a factory, was the Minimalists’ strategy that was employed in the 1960s. The dualism between conceptualization and production has already been explored in early 20th century by Marcel Duchamp through bicycle wheel, wine rack and toilet. Kim’s works have closer ties to the Minimalists than to the ready-mades. As opposed to Duchamp, who raised questions purely at the conceptual level by ‘selecting’ and ‘naming’ manufactured goods and elevating them to works of art, the Minimalists chose a much more concrete and practical method. Here, the artist is neither a maker who directly brings the work into form, nor a namer who designates given objects as works of art; he is a director in charge who produces the idea and conducts the production process. This is precisely what Byoungho Kim does, only that in his case, his works, in terms of both appearance and approach, seem much more like factory produced goods than that of the Minimalists who factory-commissioned simply just the production. Unlike Donald Judd’s simple square cubes, Kim’s works not only express the beauty of industrial design with their elegantly flowing lines and smooth finishing, they are also machines that work and produce sound. This difference is made clear in the photographs that capture his work as a product rather than an art work, minimizing shadows and emphasizing the materiality of the product surface in order to present the perfect state of the product.

However, besides the institutional dimension of being exhibited in a gallery, a few attributes of his artworks make it hard for us to define them completely as products. First of all, Kim’s works are inadequate as products in the sense that the primary condition of products is their practicality. In contrast to industrial products having a sense of functionality in its form, Kim’s products, which cannot be found anywhere in the world, are forms without functionality or practicality. Furthermore, unlike ordinary industrial products with a closed form complete within itself, Kim’s sculptures draw the surrounding space into the work through the installation. The optical illusion created through the surface of diffused reflection provokes a physically and emotionally heightened feeling. This kind of experience which belongs to the realm of art than to industrial realm demonstrates that Kim’s works hover above the boundaries between product and art.


1. Machine / Non-machine

Byoungho Kim’s works are machines at the same time non-machines, if one defines machines as a kinetic apparatus that consists of many components and conducts given movements to deliver a useful function. First of all, Kim’s sculptural works are machines in the sense that they do a special job and are made of industrially produced goods. This applies not only to the exterior look of the work but also to the way they’re produced and the artist’s artistic perspective. His machines deliver a function in the aural sphere, where human intervention is minimized and sound is produced according to the engineering capability of the machine itself. The Arduino platform takes the artist’s programming to create sounds of different tempo, length and frequency, which are then channeled out through piezo speakers. The texture of the electrical sound changes depending on the medium of what it comes to contact with. Meanwhile, the physical exterior which functions as the medium that delivers the electronic vibration (sound), is also produced as a mechanical mechanism. All of Kim’s sculptural works are created through an assemblage, rather than welding, of individual components. Components cut precisely with a machine are put together according to the design plan. When the exhibition is over, they are dismantled in reverse order and kept.

The artist’s attitude that promotes a logical system of production, shipment and storage of the work, does not only remain confined to the physical realm, but is also reflected in the aesthetic dimension of his work. One of Kim’s major works, the morning glory-shaped sculpture, came to be its present form, not due to aesthetic consideration but as a consequence of technological development. The form became much more refined and neat through the use of Arduino board which directly controls sound, instead of using a separate computer to generate sound. Following his 2007 work ‘Silent Pollen-Sowing’, the circular center of works in which flower stalks or sticks converge, neatly fulfills the binary function of a formative center and a control apparatus that generates sound. The successful union of technology and aesthetics reflects the artist’s artistic belief that art should not be separate from today’s technological development. Kim’s belief, that the search for new sculptural language is no different from the development of technology as its method, is realized by the emphasis on cooperation with engineers and the continuous development of new expressive language(technology).

It is where the fascinating point lies in Kim’s work: that although they match the concept of a machine in many ways, they can never be perfect machines. Besides the fact that his works function but don’t serve any practical purpose, this dualism in his work is especially visible in the external appearance of the work. The crash of what’s atypical and typical, and organic forms and metallic material, is an imperative characteristic that defines the overall art practice of the artist. In particular, the analogy to biology is an easily recognizable element, and has been repeated in his famous flower series. Works in this exhibition are also such examples: ‘Soft Crash(2011)’ implies a giant sea urchin with spread out needles, ‘A Memory of the Rule(2011)’ suggests a flower with beautifully unfolded petals or stamens, and ‘Irreversible Damage(2011)’ proposes a person with two arms stretched out. The harmony between two contrasting elements like the smooth curves of living organism and mechanical feel of metal reminds one of the photographs of New Objectivity by Karl Blossfeldt or Albert Renger-Patzsch. The two German artists captured things like balsam fir, flower petals and snake skin through a gaze of cold realism, magnifying their formative ornamental patterns to bring to light their inherent essence and laws. Byoungho Kim has many points in common with Blossfeldt and Ranger-Patzsch in terms of form and intension, particularly in the sense that he tries to portray an invisible dimension through a visible form.


2. Visual / Aural

Sound art or media art has been an area mostly dealt with when talking about Kim’s work. The fact that the artist majored in Technology Art, or that his work utilizes sound might categorize his work as ‘media art’, but it’s actually quite far from conventional media art works that concerns mainly video or sound.

First of all, the tendency to introduce sound in his work has consistently been apparent since his early work ‘Floating Space(2005)’, which suggests the sound of iron plate and pendulum coming together and falling off again, with the viewer’s control of the button. However, what’s worth special mention about his work is that it utilizes sound to the most minimal degree. It requires controlling the scale, speed and simplicity of sound concerned, and the artist generates sound as low, slow and simple as possible. It’s a format to prevent the work from becoming overly stimulating and easily consumed, as sound can overpower the visual aspect, and diminish the work’s formative element. Like the sounds of birds in the woods, the sound is clearly perceived only when one approaches close to the work, and it’s carefully and delicately placed as to not interfere with the visual meditation of the work. In the same realm, the generated sound is not composed at all: it’s made as simple as possible, as not to have any melody or harmony by dynamics, pitch and tone.

In Kim’s work, visual element is much more overwhelming than aural element. The materiality chosen in particular plays the key element, as the shiny surface specific to metal creates visual pleasure along with the curvy lines of the sculpture. The most powerful effect in this exhibition is produced from the reflective surface of the metal. Each of the 1006 sticks in Soft Crash radiates in front of the viewer, reflecting each other, momentarily paralyzing the sense of distance and producing an overlapping of figures. This surrealistic effect of illusion is enforced through shadows and movement. In contrast to the photographs of the work which eliminate the shadow intentionally to emphasize the object, light and shadow play an enormous role in the actual exhibition space. The shadows, along with the mirror-like reflective surface of the metal, create an immersive environment in which the number of the sticks seems multiplied many times and thus the work seems much greater in scale than it actually is. The optical illusion becomes greater when the viewer moves in front of the work. The moving and changing perspective makes the confusing visual perception much more complex. A work intended to have a mirror-effect, ‘A Memory of the Rule’ takes to the extreme the play of magical optical illusion which produces powerful delusion if only for a moment. Moving in front of the work engaging in a game of illusion with red sticks and shadows, the viewer comes to face the reflection of sticks and their own face in the central metallic part, and experience an inversion in the sense of reality as if to sink into another world on the other side.

Sound, however, is still crucial in Kim’s work. It may seem insignificant in terms of relative weight, but the presence and absence of sound greatly influences the personality of the work. Without sound, Kim’s work would just be abstract sculpture. It would be missing the element as a working machine that has been assembled with a circuit diagram and blueprint. Moreover, in works surrounded by countless sound pillars as in ‘Soft Crash’ and ‘A Memory of the Rule’, the presence of sound produces a surround effect and intensifies the space of illusion originated from visual dimension of the work. In this space, the viewer experiences Hal Foster’s ‘Baroque Effect’ where “space is subjectively transformed and subject is spatially overwhelmed.”

3. Material / Non-material

The presence of sound plays a focal role in the artist’s main idea of expressing the immaterial through material. Sound exists momentarily without form, as a movement of invisible energy. In physical terms, sound is perceived when the waves from sound source push air particles, and the changes in density and pressure of particles are transformed into vibration energy that is delivered to the acoustic nerves in the ear. As an element that reveals energy transformation and microscopic power, sound breathes in immaterial qualities to material work.

The artist’s interests in invisible power, energy, structure and laws in systems, have always been consistent since the beginning. The early work ‘Floating’ Space materializes magnetic energy to sound and light through electromagnet, ‘Their Flowers’ series(2006) and ‘Silent Pollen(2007-2010)’ are visualization of the powerful proliferation of flowers quietly breeding. The exchanges of short waves of ‘Silent Pollen-Sowing’ and long waves of Silent Pollen-Gathering suggest the delivering of pollen and flow of energy. The artist’s intention to visualize what’s invisible is implicitly manifested in the title of his works named through abstract concepts like silence, eternity, accumulation and system.

The intention to visualize immaterial to material is reflected in the specificity of production and formation. At a practical level, the interests in institution, structure and system are revealed in the form of mechanical mechanism that embodies regulation and standardization in the process of making the work. In formative language, it’s expressed through geometric simplicity and abstraction. In particular, the artist’s fascination with structure is clearly visible in his drawings. The beauty of simple geometric form created through the organic combination of straight lines and curvy lines reflects the artist’s desire to capture the abstract structures of the world, starting with the most fundamental measures of the point, line, plane and form. As a vector with a sense of directivity and scale, the flow of energy becomes especially more pronounced when a work takes on an angular form like Irreversible Damage, or when the sense of directivity is clearer like in ‘An Interface(2010)’. The narrowly maintained balance of force in ‘Triffid(2010)’ and ‘Horizontal Intervention(2010)’ suggests the presence of hidden gravity field.

Curiosity about the drifting force is transformed into recognition of physical laws in the material world, and eventually into an interest in social standards and principles of the world. ‘A System(2010)’, a work with the same name as the title of the exhibition, clearly demonstrates such philosophy of the artist. The urethane hose with different lengths are connected by T-connectors that function as nodes, and are vaguely reduced into a grid. The way of constructing system in which different lengths make similar distances roughly seems to go against in idea with Duchamp’s famous work, ‘Three Standard Stoppages(1913-14)’. Here, the three rulers with different lengths, made of three 1m threads dropped, signify the fact that the social criterion and standards regarded as absolute are variable to the age and society. Byoungho Kim’s products/objects, or machines/non-machines that cross between things visual and aural, material and non-material, and visible and invisible, are a momentary realization of the eternally changing force, energy and laws. On the other hand, however, Kim’s works can at any time transfigure into a different form as the non-material being temporary and impermanent by nature. After all, Kim’s creations are indeed “Invisible Objects (title of Kim’s solo exhibition at SOMA Drawing Center in 2010).”

Moon Hyejin (Art theorist, Art critic)


Byoungho Kim, Variations in Synesthesia

“What on earth is this device for?” Our response to Byoungho Kim’s work begins with this question. In his work, sleek, shining metallic materials run in a line, or spread in four directions. These seem like novel installations, representing parts of an enormous piece of mechanical equipment. His work can be also referred to as sound art. Or the arts of sound that makes sound.


John Cage is a music master of the 20th century who regarded noise as equal to sound and music. His pioneering experiments with a visual and aural mixture of art and life had a profound influence on contemporary art. Since the mid-20th century music has consistently exchanged and blended with visual art, undergoing many variations. Foretelling an end of painting, contemporary art has undergone several phases, such as destruction of some of its basic elements; apotheosis of deconstructed individual elements; disregard for basic elements and emphasis on physical properties; and intervention of immateriality. In the last stage, art involved immaterial elements like light and sound, and evolved into sound art.


Along with trends set by Andy Warhol’s factory, video art, Fluxus, and performance art of the 1960s, sound art was often regarded as secondary. But since the early 20th century, sound was also accepted as an element of art by major art institutions in Britain, Japan and America. Keywords involved in exhibitions of such art, such as ‘looking at sound’, ‘color of sound’, ‘light and sound’, and ‘visual music’, are associated with the creation of synesthetic space involving more than one sense.


Kim titled his work, fusing sound with objects, Colloidal Body, in connection with the concept of a colloid referring to the mixture of two insoluble elements. Considering the creation and appreciation of artworks depends on free will, Kim’s work methods are unusual. His drawings, artistically rendering the process of work-making as product manuals are like the announcement of his view of work. He offers the shocking title ‘product’ to his artwork, and lends rule and law to his creation, while adding a musical process to structuralize the noise.


“Human desire sought consistently in a social structure is like non-material sound from material.” according to Kim. His attractive work involves confusion between material and immaterial, product and artwork, ‘cool’ and ‘hot’. His sound product’s functionality and practicality is diluted with his work’s beauty and form. The artist also pays attention to aura, derived from discourse on sound.


The advent of new technologies, especially the computer, brought radial changes in most of art genres. With the emergence of the computer, our ability to capture and adjust sounds has reinforced, and sound creation and compensation has accelerated through its strong, attractive filtering system. Most interesting is all information is interpreted in the common language of computer codes. Kim’s work is characterized by its distinction leading viewers to a sort of hyper-synesthesia through its functionality inherent in thorough standardization and aesthetic beauty of form. Trying to discover proper sound waves and its suitable space among found sounds and audio information to be deciphered, Kim intends to encourage viewers to pay attention to his work’s aura through these sounds. This attitude seems derived from his experience in a media lab where he studied video engineering as a printmaking major. Based on his understanding of John Cage’s concept of silence implying that silence is not the absence of sound but an atmosphere, he persistently pursues sounds like an engineer, not as an artist.


Sound art faced difficulties in entering the art institution since emerging as a new media art, challenging fixed categories such as sound, art, visual art, music, science, and engineering. Sound art is easily distanced from public interest. Kim’s work secures a material value for it, by presenting sound art through objects in a condensed way, and a reason for being as a work of art, by adding the non-material value of sound that reinforces a sense of visual presence.


As Marshall McLuhan indicated, the nature of the media is not in concrete content of information but how it is presented, saying “The medium is the message.” What’s left in Kim’s work is the propagation of sound and the truth derived from an obvious distinction between input and output. In this show, objects showcase Kim’s truth through three sounds with different beats and sound-waves, and his work gains artistry within the category of visual culture, through concrete objects showing sound visually, and drawings presenting work-making methods. I look forward to seeing his work’s upcoming variations through visible sound and audible objects.

Younjeong Park (Chief Curator of Seoul Olympic Museum of Art)


Fantastic Virus

One of the defining characteristics of Baroque music is the basso continuo. In rock music, the basso continuo - as represented by the bass guitar - does not reveal its distinctive tones, drowned out as they are by drums and electric guitars. However, it does serve to add a sense of tension to the piece as a whole. Without that ever-present basso continuo, like the sound of a beating heart, the tension present in Baroque music would never have come to be. Though the basso continuo is nearly imperceptible, the beat of Baroque music owes itself to that sound. This is similar to the style of Tenebrism in Baroque painting. This style is characterized by a powerful contrast between light and dark on the canvas, as seen in the works of Caravaggio. By themselves, the dark backgrounds in Baroque painting may be meaningless to us, not representing any obvious object of perception, but they constitute an unconscious foundation that generates a dramatic sense of tension in the canvas as a whole. In other words, minute elements that are not directly perceived by the consciousness function to create a feeling of artistic tension.


The work of Byoungho Kim represents a process of creating a fantasy out of these minute perceptions. Kim gathers very tiny elements, imperceptible to the eye like viruses, and groups them together to create highly sophisticated forms. At first glance, the resulting shapes resemble the kind of ordinary objects and structures that we encounter on a daily basis. But Kim's works possess a tension within them that cannot be found in ordinary objects or simple structures. Like the sound of the basso continuo, microscopic viruses are endlessly bursting forth. Expressed in visual terms, they are like tiny bits of pollen flying through the air. It is for this reason that Kim's works are not simply objects, but fantasies. If they were simply objects, not only would there be no tension present, but no fantasy would take shape either. Fantasy must by necessity carry with it a relationship of tension with reality or the object.


What kind of tension is present in Kim's work? It is manifested in manifold ways, including tension between the stable and polished image and the environment external to the work; tension between the objective and the subjective; tension between the artificial and the artistic; and tension between the "product" and the "ready-made." In terms of their external aspects, Kim's works not only are highly sophisticated but also exhibit an artistically flawless level of polished beauty. However, artistic perfection is not at all what the artist is after. Rather, there emerges a paradox in which a piece seems less like a work of art and more like a product the greater its level of perfection, and instead of trying to avoid it, Kim is attempting to show that very paradox.

Upon closer examination, the paradox is also one involving the artificial and the artistic. Kim's pieces are extremely artificial. To make one of them, the artist not only sketches the general shape of the work but also generates a plan so that it can be produced accurately. His methods are similar to the design process that leads to sketches and planning. In essence, Kim's pieces are like machines made up of very minute parts. In order to create one of these machines, he not only manufactures each part to precise specifications according to his plan, but he then assembles them into a whole. Naturally, the result is an exceedingly artificial product rather than a natural object. But Kim is merely producing the artificial, and excluding the artistic.


Exclusion of the artistic is also connected with exclusion of the subjective and arbitrary. When "producing" one of his works of art, Kim adamantly refuses to admit any subjective elements. This refusal can be witnessed in the two aspects of form and physical properties. In terms of form, he cracks down on any excessively subjective or superfluous elaboration. For example, in "Horizontal Intervention," the oblique lines create a geometric symmetry. The purpose of this symmetry and simplicity is to prevent the emergence of arbitrary, that is to say subjective, elements. If arbitrary elements are added to the form, the result will appear to be a subjective work, bearing the intentions of the artist, rather than a complete product; it will end up "artistic" rather than "artificial." In that sense, Kim's works could be viewed as carrying on the mantle of minimalism. However, because they are "products," they cannot be seen as a continuation of minimalist sculpture.


In addition, the exclusion of subjective elements is seen in a faithfulness to the physical properties of the materials used. This recalls the "faktura" of the Russian constructivists, who viewed steel, then a new architectural material, as suitable for geometric and scientific images, in contrast with the marble that had previously been used. The properties of steel as an architectural material were not suited to the splendid embellishments of aristocratic and extravagant tastes, and the new sculptures and architectural works that stayed true to these physical properties were seen as highly scientific and representative of the progressive world view. Byoungho Kim's works also adhere to the practices of faktura, in that they remain faithful to physical properties. Even when using a diverse range of materials such as stainless steel and brass, he attempts to stay as true as possible to the properties of that material rather than transforming them to suit his artistic intentions.


The results of this process and its faithfulness to the objective can be summarized in the word "product"; both the use of a process similar to design and the utter exclusion of any subjective elements can be viewed as characteristics of a product. Another paradox, however, is that in spite of these similarities, Kim's works are most definitely not industrial products. This can be witnessed in the fact that their meaning as "products" does not merely express a relationship of tension with the work of art. Rather, the significance of his works in the context of art history emerges from the subtle tension they betray with the "ready-made." Kim's works may appear ready made, but they are not. As the words indicate, a "ready-made" work is one that has been prefabricated. But Kim's works are "products" rendered according to a carefully planned design. If ready-made works have been used in art in order to break down the boundary between art and the everyday, Kim's efforts at creating "products" is an effort to reestablish the tension between art and the everyday that was broken down by the ready-made.


This tension hints at a certain social dimension that goes beyond simple artistic concerns. Through his "products," the artist is pursuing a rigor that is not visible to the naked eye. He creates highly polished structures by making products reminiscent of intricate machinery, but he shows that such polished works can only be born out of a stable system of micro-level parts. If we liken society to an artificial object, a product, then it is formed by the norms and systems of micro-level elements invisible to the eye. A product is a systematic work created from standardized criteria or interfaces. Such a system cannot come into being without the involvement of the micro-level. The work of Byoungho Kim is the creation of a fantasy that seeks to form the system of a society as interface from a micro-level of virus-like elements.

Park Young Wook (Humanities Korea Research Professor, Yonsei University)


A Way to Face Desire in Reality

A French psychoanalyst Jacques Lacan says that human desire is a chain of empty spiral rings that lacks perfect signification, and ceaselessly obscures the actual meanings. His comments imply that the objects of human desire appear to exist, but are just illusionary images in reality, which thereby forcing it to end up being a signifier without perfect signification. But does it also apply to our awareness of desire? Is it true that the objects of such a human desire, as attractive as they appear to be, are meaningless and unsubstantial?

The artist Byoungho Kim’s work represents such an illusionary human desire and its fantasy substantially. He creates a particular shape of figure by assembling pieces of cold metals together and giving them refined finishing touches, and let such a process of work stand in contrast with multiplying of human desire. His work is similar to the process where a new cluster of desire is being produced as a result of a combination and amplification of different kinds of human desire. Human desire is itself composed of all the yearnings towards intangible and immaterial objects. Therefore, the desire full of accumulated emotions can be considered to be innocent despite its slightly negative connotation contained in it. Desire is fundamentally the driving force for human beings to continue with their lives, but sometimes subjects them to its control. In his work, these kinds of features of human desire are portrayed in different patterns.

The first type of his creation is to reproduce a quiet propagation of human desire, as suggested by his series titled 'Silent Pollen(2007)‘. A series of work featured by tens of aluminum tubes visualize the fantasy of human desire that is generated silently, combined together, and propagated. Byoungho Kim describes such a process as “a flower” indicative of beauty which symbolizes the moment when human desire comes into existence as a tangible object. Such a concept materialized by the artist is intentional considering the idea that desire itself cannot be generated without its objects. But he successfully achieves a sense of equilibrium for his work by not only metaphorically adopting the concept of the pollination of a flower into his works, but also even connecting the abstract idea of desire with the cold surface of materiality.

What is particularly noticeable in this work is that the propagation of desire is being unfolded by intervention of media. On the surface, it looks as if multiplication of human desire is being unnoticeably and quietly processed, but deep inside, there are a number of driving forces behind its propagation. Likewise, the installed work absorbs little voices and sounds of the audience and amplifies them into arbitrary sounds. But such an engagement of media remains thoroughly hidden. It is interpreted to represent moments of surging desire symbolized by the amplification of small input and output devices contained in the aluminum-based pollen tubes for flowers. Such a restrained use of media reminds us of where the engaged media is positioned in the entire work. Byoungho Kim’s work involves 99 % of his creating energy and efforts on its forms and a 1% minimum of media intervention as if God had shaped human beings from the soil of the ground and blown the breath of life and spirits into them. Such a concept prevents the deviation of the audience caused by excessive interactivity of media. This explains why Byoungho Kim can be regarded as a media artist despite the passive engagement of media in his works.

The second type of his creation such as 'Assembling for Eternity(2008)‘, unlike the first type, boldly reveals the reality of human desire. The propagating structure of desire is no longer confined to a quiet process, and the abstract concept of carefully polished desire begins to make its presence as a lump of extreme materiality. As if Byoungho Kim tries to be sarcastic about the aforementioned Lacan’s remarks, a heap of desires presented by him seems to be greedy and persistent like the substantial desire that used to exist in the depth of the mind, but has been just pulled out from the body. Now, let us explore his consistent attitude toward materiality, a recurring theme in his works. The works of urethane rubber on steel that reveals the slippery and dribbling color pigments as if showered with paint show that he intends to let the audience to appreciate his creation tactually, audibly, and synesthetically beyond visual delivery. While the cold and restrained surface demonstrated in his first pattern of work discloses the propagating process of the subject based on refined materiality, the second type shows that a heap of human desire itself swallowing media evokes synesthetic appreciation of the work.

The aforementioned two categories of Byoungho Kim’s works begin to produce their variations. The sound sculpture titled 'Assembled Fantasy(2008)‘ provides room for the audience to be engaged, unlike his previous works. While the preceding sculptures visualized the spiral structure of desires being propagated and circulating, and the moments that they cohered into one lump, The Assembled Fantasy allows each audience to experience their own fantasy of desire. Its geometrical figure, similar to the huge reproductive equipment, appears to deliver his recurring theme, but the sculpture can be interpreted in a different way because each component with refined finishing touch like an industrial design product servers as a kind of sound modulator that varies and generates sounds. The artist plays a variation on the moments when desires are being assembled and multiplied based on a vibration of sounds that originate from each component through the audience’s involvement.

Byoungho Kim is combining several principles of his work with space. He tries to create a new context by placing his works in a different time and space as if desire propagates itself, spreading from object to object. He says that he imagines the shapes that do not exist in the world when working on them. Even if their motif and his fundamental source of thinking can be traced back to personal experience and perception, I believe that such attempts can set free the autonomy and imagination buried in functionality. Furthermore, like the fantasy of desire structured in his works, logical organization of forms by imagination allows us to perceive and reflect ourselves, and be aware of reality as a fundamental base. Let us step back from his works and contemplate our reality, although it is sometimes a dirty and ugly reality.

Yoo Won Joon (Director of Alice On)


Designing Sound Sculpture

Media artist Byoungho Kim designs a fantasy. He regards it not only as a desire of a human being but something under the control of one. He is convinced there is a fantasy in every creature by all means, so constantly coordinates, adapts, and arranges it as a desire. Therefore, the more intense a desire grows, the more sophisticated a fantasy becomes, and eventually arouses such a nuance of a commodity as a ‘ready-made.’ A work of Byoungho Kim is not the representation of a desire but the result of it.

Such his viewpoint, as a human being desires but controls as well, is definitely applied to the process of handling media. Media has influence on a way of thinking beyond mere an instrument in the digital era. It is natural that our thought is subject to be variable according to a computer programming. Byoungho Kim, however, asserts that media is only an instrument of a human being, so it should be under the control of one. From this instrumental point of view, it is inevitable that an image through the media is originated from a material. 'Assembling for Eternity 1'(2008) and 'Assembling for Eternity 2'(2008), consisted of stainless steel wrapped up in urethane rubber, then heated and exposed as it is, are the works that abstract an immaterial notion from a lump of material in the organic form. They imply his way of work absolutely based on the materiality. Considering that the principal property of an image on media screen is the immateriality, it is easy to analogize why he rarely devotes himself to a screen work. As for him, the materiality is just the source of media.


Byoungho Kim’s point of view may seem to be somewhat conservative particularly in the digital era. However, it is necessary to take notice that Byoungho Kim obtains the immateriality by immersing himself in the materiality and ultimately makes them coexist with each other, as minimal art could provoke the immateriality, such as time, space, and light, through digging into the materiality. A sound in 'Silent Pollen - sowing'(2007) and 'Silent Pollen - gathering'(2007) needs to be appreciated in this aspect. These two similar but quite different works, as an extension of a series of ‘Flowers,’ are a metaphor for the circulating system of plant life fertilized by pollen, especially through an arbitrary sound. There are dozens of aluminum tubes polished into the pollen tube by a lathe work, and also dozens of micro speakers within the mouth of each tube as if symbolizing pollen. A wiring board and DTMF generator, inside of a round steel plate propping pollen tube, induce an arbitrary, atypical sound. Here the sounds are generated from each opposite objet at the same time, but the association of apperception between the auditory sense and the visual one is indeed different. The one 'sowing' sounds disperse and the other 'gathering' sounds convergent as if they symbolize the union between the stamen and pistil, and so it is associated with fertilization on the whole.

In this way, a sound completely assists a work of Byoungho Kim to be precisely classified into a media work, even though his work attaches to the materiality and formativity of an objet. A visual vocabulary occupies space and lasts with time, but on the other hand an auditory one does not occupy space, or remain with time. It exists merely at the very moment producing itself, and is certain to disappear in no time after all. Byoungho Kim’s work obtains the immateriality through such an auditory vocabulary, that is, a sound. A sound is, at least up to now, more positive to reflect a property of media art than any other element in his work, and 'Assembled Fantasy'(2008) accentuates it deliberately. In relation to the construction of this objet work, there is a round body over 60kg with a built-in a lump of lead over 23kg to keep its entire balance. And a form of long tube consists of a three-stage structure, such as a speaker, a power amplifier, and oscillator and multi mode filter module, and it operates according to the computer processing. It is possible to create various sounds according to the amplitude modulation by tuning the front of three parts(multi mode filter module) converting a sound and the back of three parts(oscillator) producing a sound by each stage. Also a speaker of 3inch is designed to produce low, middle, and high-pitched sound extensively. This work seems to be far more interactive than his other work particularly in that it requires a spectator’s immediate performance of a sound.


Byoungho Kim emphasizes that communication is the essence of media art. The interaction of his work, however, is practically neither so much easy to be involved in, nor in need of a spectator’s positive attitude, because he pursues, in his phrase, “a reasonable communication.” Media is violent in itself, so the impact of it can be coercive even by very weak force to it. The avant-garde including futurism, for example, considered all kinds of noise like a mechanical noise as a true modern music corresponding to a technological innovation in the age of modernism, and eagerly induced the enjoyment of them. As a result, it broadened the horizons of modern music, but on the other hand, had such an ill influence on a human being as it forced a constrained auditory sense. This exactly coincides with a respect that Byoungho Kim attaches not only to the formativity of an objet but to a tuning of a sound. A series of 'Silent Pollen sowing & gathering', as stated above, is extremely moderate in sound effects so as not to be perceived easily unless a spectator approaches very closely. And 'Assembled Fantasy' is also designed a director, that is, a spectator to tune up and down fairly, even though it can produce a roaring sound so as to astonish a hearer. The effect of auditory sense is far more intensive because it stimulates a spectator immediately, while the visual sense maintains a certain distance from one.

It is often experienced that considerable concentration and efforts are necessary for an interactive communication as a virtue of media art. The more high interactive a work is, the more it is apt to be caught in a dilemma of manipulation, just as a system to stimulate an immediate interaction controls a voluntary, spontaneous communication by contraries. Norbert Boltz, as a radical theorist of media, criticizes the outlook that the passive media might be substituted with the active one, and regards it only as an ideal illusion. And he asserts that a successful communication depends obviously on a media training from now on. At this point Byoungho Kim, paradoxically, prefers a reasonable communication to an immediate and vigorous one. And he tries to get a spontaneous and moderate feedback, which filters a concealed constraint. The formativity of an objet, which he adheres to, is a device for a little slow spectator in an immediate interaction of the immateriality like a sound. He regards media as an instrument, and therefore to create a new visual vocabulary is as good as to develop an instrument. It is worth paying attention to how a reasonable communication in a work of Byoungho Kim makes progress hereafter.

Hea-hyun Cheon(Art Critic)