Heecheon Kim, Deep in the Forking Tanks
November 29, 2019 – February 9, 2020
3F Art Sonje Center
Heecheon Kim, Deep in the Forking Tanks
For some people, perceptions of an object are stimulated in a different way, leaving them in a world that is not the reality. They experience an odd phenomenon where the cracks leading to the outside world keep narrowing and disappearing. Something keeps digging in between the different pixels and frames that serve as new cracks in this world, which are constantly being filled back up. Before, the cracks were filled at a fast rate; at some point, it began to approach real time, and now it has gone beyond real time to reach the future.
Deep in the Forking Tanks, the new video that provides the title for this exhibition, has artist Heecheon Kim meeting with divers and venturing down deep into the water. Before entering the water, he goes into a flotation tank to experience a simulated dive. Also known as a “sensory deprivation tank,” it is quite literally capable of cutting off sense of sight, hearing, and smell. Inside one of these tanks, a person loses the sensations of their body and is capable of focusing fully on their mind. (Indeed, it is for this reason that athletes have sometimes used the tanks for “image training.”) But as the training goes on, one starts to become confused at whether they are in a simulation or actually diving. While they are being drawn into a state in which their consciousness of physical reality is unclear, another sensory stimuation from the tank itself gains momentum. The “tank” here is a kind of frame that can blur the boundaries between the real and unreal perceptions, and the same time accentuate those boundaries.
As he constructs his narratives in the video medium, Heecheon Kim applies his patterns and submits them to a testing process. First, he records an actual situation with documentary-like footage. This record is used as the “actual” material to support his hypothesis. The artist actively applies digital technology to his footage – GPS, VR, face swapping, games, and so forth – which becomes a set of tools for achieving somehow “unreal” layers within a real situation. In his artistic practice, these digital applications are one of his primary visual rhetorics and serve as media to stimulate different perceptions of reality. Through these methods, Kim presents us with an unusual situation in which no distinction are drawn between the virtual perceptions and reality that human beings are conscious of – where the boundaries between them disappear and reappear. Observing how developments in technology have resulted in technology becoming an invisible presence, he recognizes that this phenomenon is taking place at a far faster rate than human beings are able to calculate. He uses ostensibly “futuristic” digital technology and images to produce his artwork, but the “future” narrative he presents is a departure from our ordinary expectations when we imagine the future.
For human beings, cognition and consciousness can be as realistic as physical states. We sometimes experience how a perception can become immense that it blurs our awaraness of the reality that surrounds us. There are moments when theories and concepts of reality lose all meaning, when all that matters is the state we are perceiving. Historical time does not apply to the temporality of such moments, which can proceed toward any point at any speed. Heecheon Kim’s narratives unfold according to this temporality. For the viewer, this comes across like an experience with a new world ahead of any interpretation of it as an object. Some people may perceive the temporality within Heecheon Kim’s nimbly unfolding narratives as akin to a new experience – but it is actually similar to enter an incisive realistic device, like a lens offering an omniscient perspective on the human being inside of the “tank” as another temporal world without realizing it. As something all of us living in these times have arrived at ourselves, this odd temporality is utterly realistic.
About the Artist
Heecheon Kim (b. 1989) makes video works based on various digital devices familar to us in our daily lives and their interfaces. Using the interfaces through which this digital technology operates, he moves through a complex arrangement of narrative layers to produce images of the contemporary world.
Heecheon Kim graduated from the architecture department of the Korea National University of Arts. He has held solo exhibitions at the Asian Art Museum (2018, San Francisco) and Doosan Art Center (2017, Seoul) and taken part in numerous group exhibitions at the National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, Korea (2019, Seoul), İstanbul Museum of Modern Art (2017, İstanbul), ZKM (2019, Karlsruhe, Germany), and the Museum of Contemporary Art and Design (2019, Manila).