Interview with Yong Joo Kim

Interview  /  Artists
Published: 25.09.2014
Interview with Yong Joo Kim.
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Yong Joo Kim. Bracelet: In light of Space, 2012. Hook and loop fastener, thread. 4.5 x 6.5 x 6” each. Photo Credit: Studio Munch. Yong Joo Kim
Bracelet: In light of Space, 2012
Hook and loop fastener, thread
4.5 x 6.5 x 6” each
Photo Credit: Studio Munch
© By the author. Read Copyright.

As the world becomes smaller and smaller, it becomes more and more important that we continually develop our own ideas and find our own voice. This includes trying to recognize where we stand in relation to others and their work, how the intentions behind our work is not only similar but also different from theirs.
Do you think that jewelry is being standardized?
In order to answer this question, I’d like to define “being standardized” as there being a trend toward possessing common themes, forms, shapes, materials, or techniques. In this sense, commercial jewelry such as costume jewelry, fashion jewelry or fine jewelry that can be widely manufactured, has indeed been standardized. Those jewelry industries have been inclined to follow trends and customer’s needs for a long time. On the other hand, I cannot say that art jewelry, created by studio artists, is being standardized. However, this is only true in so far as the jewelry artists as well as students who are making jewelry try and find their own voice as well as a sense of what they want to express and how they want to express them. I say this because sometimes, I, as a viewer and an audience, have observed some similarities in materials and techniques among works of art. This could be superficial similarities since we live in an era, where we can readily access the Internet, and be unconsciously influenced by each other. As the world becomes smaller and smaller, it becomes more and more important that we continually develop our own ideas and find our own voice. This includes trying to recognize where we stand in relation to others and their work, how the intentions behind our work is not only similar but also different from theirs. By expressing the differentiations clearly, we will be able to avoid “being standardized”.

What is there of local and universal in your artistic work?
In my art practice, I explore the value of mundane objects and discover their hidden beauty through a process of reconfiguration. Therefore, using mundane materials to make art work could be one of the universal aspects within the realm of art world. Many other artists also use recycled or found-objects as materials of choice for their work. 
There are two local and distinctive aspects of my work. One is that I chose to use hook and loop fasteners, which are typically not used in art making. Two is that the final esthetics of my work defies most people’s expectations of what can be made from hook and loop fasteners.

What do you expect when exposing your work to the public (for example with an exhibition)?
When I participate in an exhibition, I hope that as the viewers approach my work and recognize the material of choice, their perspective shifts and a sudden realization sparks their sense of wonder, discovery, tension, joy, and play. If they wear my work in public, I hope that my art work empowers people to ask questions such as “what is that made of?”. What if finding out the answer yielded a moment of surprise, followed by further questions like “I wonder why I didn’t realize that before?” or “I wonder what other mundane materials I can use for such creative purposes?” It's worth wondering how the kind of dialogue that could arise from such questions can make a difference in society. I believe that such questions can challenge the way people understand the world, and uncover the beauty hidden in everyday life.

Are other areas besides the jewelry, present in your work?
Since last year, I started to create large-scale sculptures as a mean of exploring scale. I am curious to see how scale affects the process through which I discover beauty. Will the process be the same as when I am creating smaller jewelry-scale work? If so, is there something about the process of uncovering beauty that stays consistent regardless of scale? If not, how would it differ, and what would that imply about the process of uncovering beauty at different scales? As the scale shifts, what will happen to the relationship between the object, the wearer, and the viewer? How will such large scale pieces be worn? How would such ways of wearing affect the wearer? Would the wearer feel “beautiful” wearing such large-scale work? How is the experience of “beauty” related to how one “wears”? These are the current questions which drive me to explore scale.

The last work, book, film, that has moved me was...
The last film that has moved me was “Her”. The movie is set up in a near future, where a lonely writer develops a relationship with his artificially intelligent operating system. It is a movie that combines many interesting topics such as relationship, love, existence, reality, technology, design, etc. The conversation in this movie is beautifully written.

A place, space, country whose creativity surprises me...
The culture and the environment I’m in at the time is the biggest source of surprise and inspiration. When I was little, I lived in Seoul, Korea, where I was surrounded by all sorts of different rocks my dad collected from traveling to rivers and mountains. I also followed him on these excavations. Some say they can visibly see how the aesthetics of these experiences are reflected in my work. In Providence, I was surrounded by trees filled with leaves in the summer, then left bare in the winter. Some say they can visibly see how these aesthetics reflected in some of my work as well. These kinds of interactions with others from my everyday life often surprise me and become sources of my inspiration.

Is there any designer, jeweller, artist, you appreciate a lot?
There are many artists I appreciate. To name a few, first would be “Mark Rothko”. Initially, I did not understand his paintings. But after I saw a play about him called “Red,” I was able to understand more about his life and paintings. Second would be “Tara Donovan”. I had a chance to see her large- scale installations and sculptures made from everyday objects such as Styrofoam cups, tooth pics, Scotch tape, and Paper plates at ICA in Boston. I was stunned by the scale of the work and felt a sense of unexpected surprise, which I appreciate a lot. Last would be “Richard Serra”. I learned about him in graduate school while I was doing research about “Process Art”. His verb list had a great impact on my creative process when I started to explore various materials.

What piece or work has given you the most satisfaction?
There are two different kinds of satisfaction in my work. On the one hand, there are a few pieces, whose process of making has given me much satisfaction. One example is my bracelet series called “In Light of Space” and another is a wall installation piece called “Requisite Variety: Maturation“. The reason for the satisfaction was that I experienced countless unexpected situations during the process of making these pieces, and learned to appreciate how unexpected forms can arise when I deliberately improvise within those situations.

On the other hand, there are a few pieces whose effect on viewers has given me much satisfaction. One example is a neckpiece called “Reconfiguring the Ordinary: Twist Looped and Attached.” When people see the neckpiece, they are often drawn by its form enough to want to figure out what they are made of. When they find out that it is made of hook and loop fasteners, they are often surprised, which can lead them to be even more interested in the art work and to examine the work even more actively and closely. What I find especially fascinating is that even after they find out that the work is made of hook and loop fasteners, they seem to have a difficult time believing what they see. Even more interesting is that such experience of disbelief often leads the viewer to a prolonged duration of reflection and inquiry. I once wondered if the experience is similar to my experience of tasting a delicious dish, finding out that I'm familiar with all the ingredients, then falling into a state of ineffable disbelief, unable to reconcile the conflict between my expectation of how those ingredients should taste and what they actually taste like.

At the most primitive level, I seem to feel a sense of satisfaction when I can share my esthetic sensibility, which is reflected in the form, with the viewer of my work. I also feel satisfied when I can share a sense of surprise with the viewer. It's as if the surprise I experienced while making the work is shared by the viewer when they view it. Finally, I derive great satisfaction when viewers spend time thinking and asking questions while they are examining my work.
Yong Joo Kim. Neckpiece: Reconfiguring the Ordinary: Twist Looped and Attached, 2011. Hook-and-loop fastener, thread. 14 x 15 x 2.5”. Yong Joo Kim
Neckpiece: Reconfiguring the Ordinary: Twist Looped and Attached, 2011
Hook-and-loop fastener, thread
14 x 15 x 2.5”
© By the author. Read Copyright.