A publication with thoughts and texts and images by Jin Kwang Kim (and Paul Elliman), book designed by Adriaan Van Leuven, July 2017
My thesis work falls between a twin interest in spirituality, which can refer to the search for meaning in present life, and spiritualism, which often refers to a communication with a non-living spirit world from the past or the future. Both terms are formed from the word spirit, which itself derives from Latin spiritus “breath”, and therefore usually relates to non-physical substance in contrast with material things or the corporeal body. This allows me to follow my interest in language and graphic design as something that exists in both material forms and as part of a more ethereal or metaphysical spirit of life.
My research begins from a series of instinctive personal questions regarding the world in which we live. A world and a way of living that increasingly require us to disregard personally held and often contradictory distinctions between, for example, truth and value, citizenship and consumerism, even time and space. More and more I begin to consider alternative paths through the imposed structures of our so-called modernity. And to search for other ways to think of language, and via language, to rethink my relationship to the material world. Certain philosophical concepts that I find useful in my research include the noumenon, which recognises that things exist beyond our awareness, knowledge and use of them; atemporality, and the notion that things exist according to their own time or sense of genealogy; and dematerialisation, which carries with it the suggestion that the world and its surplus of objects might be better perceived through other kinds of values and belief systems, including those of theology, mythology and the teachings of Zen Buddhism.
My thesis work has been motivated and shaped by different interests in the conceptual background framed here. It has provided a structure loose enough to trust my own feelings and approaches along a path guided by many influential spirits that will no doubt continue to influence and inhabit my work. To be alive is to find yourself between an old world and a new world, a constantly emerging world. Perhaps everyone who ever lived did so under the pressure of that feeling. Yet our time seems more than ever characterised by the saturation of things, images and information. All of them able to reach us at almost any given moment. So much so that it is easier to feel overwhelmed. To feel that there is no longer any actual substance to the world, only a vast simulacra of life, and ones own sleeping subjectivity within it. But as the German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche forewarned, the somnambulist must continue to dream in order to find their own way through a world that is otherwise an impenetrable cloud, fixed solid in its pre-existing ways. Nietzsche believed that ideas are also a form of life itself, and that established concepts and thoughts are there to be challenged and even destroyed as part of life’s process of constant renewal. Others later counselled that ideas, as much as anything else, made us. The writer Marcel Proust suggests that there is no subject only a mysterious impulse to decode the different symbols of a text in which specific expressions of thought correspond to each given symbol. Walter Benjamin pursued the logic of this as a simultaneous expression of thoughts and emotions rather than as writing in any classical sense. Seeking to abolish imposed distinctions between thoughts and ways of communicating them Benjamin developed a fragmentary form of writing using direct quotations, personal notes and openly unresolved ideas in ways that always acknowledge a reader’s own space to participate in the thoughts being offered. The reader is always a participant in the text, a co-author, an interpreter and finally a re-author of it.
The many authors that have informed this text are alive within it. Even better to have readers to receive some of the signals and to continue its resonance that way.
Exhibition, Installation & Performance, June 2017
Art, science and spirituality all share an interest in the paradox of simultaneous presence and absence. Often the attempt to understand or simply express this paradox will take the form of a single enigmatic (and almost too visible) object, or a riddle involving something that happens out of sight — in a room behind a closed door, for example. In the famous quantum physics thought experiment, Schrödinger's cat dies inside a sealed box. From outside we don’t know exactly when the cat dies, allowing the Copenhagen interpretation of quantum mechanics to propose a time period in which the cat is simultaneously alive and dead. Only opening the door would reveal whether in fact the cat is one or the other: alive or dead. Until that moment the quantum superposition allows reality to maintain the impossibility of both. Using the speculative idea of Schrödinger's cat, science can only begin to confront the possibilities of unperceived existence. An equally well-known thought experiment framed in the form of the question if a tree falls in a forest and no-one is around to hear it, does it make a sound? similarly asks if something can exist without being perceived. 18th century philosopher George Berkeley developed a metaphysical theory to respond to this kind of question when he said “to be is to be perceived”. Kantian philosophy proposes the opposite: a noumenal world that human knowledge and sensory contact has no access to. The noumenon allows for the “thing-in-itself”, existing or occurring without us and beyond our knowledge of it – other than what our imagination might supply. In the final analysis, this might be what we do best. The Tamil saint Sri Ramana Maharshi referred to the world as a concept in the mind: “The mind is like space. Just as there are the objects in space, so there are thoughts in the mind.” North American artist Robert Morris’s 1961 sculpture Box with the Sound of its own Making, enacts again the paradox of presence and absence. A beautiful object, yet it's magic belongs to the same spell locking us out of a world beyond our own seductive productions. Just like in that old popular song about the Green Door, where whatever it is that is going on behind that door, it is happening without us… Don't know what they're doin' but they laugh a lot behind the green door… Wish they'd let me in so I could find out what's behind the green door.
As a designer I am interested in language and things, and in terms of the limits of our own perception I am motivated to explore what comes to mean through the dimensions of both presence and absence. So maybe there’s nothing in the room. Or maybe there is. Or maybe I made nothing during my entire time here in Arnhem. Or maybe I did and that I believe that it belongs here for that same reason that I will leave. That it belongs here precisely because I will no longer be here. Or maybe the only thing I really made during my two years here in Arnhem is this door. A door not for entering through, but only for leaving from.
The World of Silence
Film1: objects briefly seen and then covered by white sheets of Furoshiki, Film 2: light and shadow, June 2016,
Silence and emptiness can be negative terms in our world of noise and excessive overproduction. In Buddhism the opposite applies. Notions of silence and emptiness provide active channels through which the world can begin to engage with itself, and us with the world. I wanted to develop a project that might help me to explore this Buddhist philosophy of ‘as it is’ or ‘Tathata’. I wanted to find a sign for the elusive 'thingness’ of all moments, spaces and objects. That these ‘things’ might convey their own unknowable-to-us subject, like a natural shadow stepping away from its artificial referent, becoming the air.
A letter to darkness
Thank you for visiting me again today! When you come back, the pretentious outlines of the world disappear; instead a true picture appears. Also, the crazy rocking desire in my heart can slowly calm down. This moment is the happiest time for me. Thank you so much! In fact, I have been afraid of you for a long time. With a worry that everything I made would disappear in the dark… People I like would disappear in the dark… Most importantly, I was so afraid that the person who lives in my heart and the memories would disappear. So, when you came to me, I was too scared to look at you. I just wanted you to leave as soon as possible and just closed my eyes to try to sleep. However, now I am looking forward to seeing you again. Someday if you come back to me, please stay with me forever! Please promise me that you will erase everything and take back everything to be one again! Please promise me!
Images and silence
It is the soul that preserves the silent images of things. The soul does not, like the mind, express itself about things through the medium of words, but rather through the images of things. Things
have a dual existence in man: first in the soul through images, then in the mind through words. The images of things are preserved in the soul as before the creation of language. The images in the soul point to a higher realm beyond language, where there is nothing but images, where images speak as words and words as images. “The different between our active thinking and the thinking of God is that God expresses Himself through things themselves, using them as a language, whereas we express our thoughts only in the language of words.” (Solger)
It may be that things bring their images to the soul so that the soul may pass them on to the Divine, to the Original of all images and all things. Picard, 1952, pp.80–81
Concept and Art Direction: Jin Kwang Kim with Armand Mevis
Animation: Jin Kwang Kim
Development: Fred Cave
Typeface: GC 15 by Bold–decisions
Concept and Art Direction: Jin Kwang Kim with Armand Mevis
Animation: Jin Kwang Kim
Sound: Luca Napoli
Development: Cas Spoelstra
Typeface: Lars Extended by Bold–decisions
NY Art Book Fair Contribution, Image and sound, animation, 2015
Coming to Arnhem for the first time, I experienced the usual irritations and disappointments in the process of finding an apartment. There is nothing new about this kind of situation, but technology seems to intensify the possibilities and the disappointments in ways that I feel are connected to my work as a designer. I present this work at an over-accelerated speed, making it difficult for the viewer to follow it or even keep up with it. This is what it felt like to me. Constant digital information offering me things and then rejecting me. At the same time I am physically trying to be in a specific place but not knowing how to find a place there. More and more we seem to have to live in an ever widening gap or disparity between information and the physical world. My thesis is an attempt to explore or find ways to resolve some of the discontinuities between an overly communicative world and our personal sense, spiritually and intellectually, of a place in it.
I love the quietness and stillness of a room. The sound of our movements broke the silence of the room. But having no prospect of progress, no value, all I had was a series of nothing jobs. What are you laughing at? Oh, nothing, sir. Not anything? No single thing. All kinds of things. All things. Not anything. I said nothing. Is that a mistake? Surprise nothing. Translate nothing. Translate nothing to Azerbaijani. No Azerbaijani translation found. Time for nothing. No, no time for nothing. But I have time for nothing. Nothing Facebook, nothing Wikipedia, nothing YouTube, nothing music, nothing song. Translate nothing to Hindi: kuchh bhee to nahin. Nothing, like silence and emptiness, can be negative terms in our world of noise and excessive production. For some people the opposite applies. Notions of silence and emptiness provide active channels to a world that engages itself. And us with it. I wanted to follow a path that might help me to explore the Buddhist philosophy of ‘as it is’ or Tathata. I wanted to find a sign for the elusive 'thingness’ of all moments, spaces and objects. That these ‘things’ might convey their own unknowable-to-us subject like a natural shadow stepping away from its artificial referent and become the air. But how about something? Something’s happening. You want me to say more something. Something between amusement and regret. We read something. Some thing. Choose something else. Choose something. Say something else. Something else. Some thing of an object, a thing, a being, a substance, or something. I am something but you really are quite something else. You have something. A flash. A fascination. Magnetism, sorcery, chemistry. Magic. Beauty. Body. Stuff. Material. Something. Stuff. World. The hand one is dealt is sort of enough. Enough things. Translate enough to Korean 충분히. Pretty much, quite some, more or less, being, somewhat, sort of, temperately, gently, quite a bit.
– Web development by Doy