When you first walk into the Brooklyn Museums vast 5th room floor (the B.Gerald Cantor Gallery) your first impulse is to run your hands through your hair, turn your knees and walk which ever way your heart will allow. At some point you will stop, your eyes weaving and undulating, imagining a distant ocean, a peeling orange, a galloping zebra, a winding Grand canyon, a dream you had the night before. It is here where Ms. Kwak wants to envelop you to the most vivid sense of self and environment you could possibly imagine. It can only happen because she too has gone there before you…
It has been just a few hours since Sun K . Kwak has finished her latest art installation- ‘Enfolding 280 hours.’ The 280 hour part being the amount of time it has taken her to recreate the image in her mind onto the vast space in front of you using peeled and surgical incisions onto vast rolls of black masking tape (3 miles to be exact).
Standing there in meditative relief she finally motions me forward before we sit down to speak hours before her inaugural opening later that night.
SCV: How did this project come about?
SKK: I had been thinking about this idea for a long time, about this vast space where one could walk into, force their own experience and inspire dialogue. In the end I approached Brooklyn Museum, with their vast cultural visions, reflections and installations and they said they wanted me to go for it.
SCV: Go for it?
SKK: Well, I had to come in, show them sketches, how I intended to use the space once it became available and how I envisaged using the space. In many ways this is its own architectural installation, structure and energies.
SCV: Essentially what you have created is a large drawing using black masking tape wrapped in and around the walls of the space with pieces of the tape cut out?
SKK: Figuratively that is correct. Although what I really wanted to do was make this a very private world which would evoke the viewer. I think too often in the art world people really don’t appreciate the work in front of them. They really don’t absorb it, inhabit it. They may look at it for a moment then walk onto the next piece and that’s it. I wanted to create a medium which would create a sustained contemplation of their surroundings and their feelings to those surroundings.
SCV: Looking around the room I see a lot of positives and negatives, mass then lightness, bold then feint, …was this done on purpose?
SKK: I was interested in capturing the tensions and the contrasting harmony of differing or rather offsetting negatives. It acts to reinforce the unity of the piece as a whole. So with the columns in the middle I kept the perimeters bold with black, as opposed to the outside walls which are more stark. It’s these contrasts that create the tensions and help sustain its effects on the viewer. Also with the shapes some of them turn clockwise, the others anti clockwise.
SCV: Looking around me the installation, (or should I call it drawing?) feels very organic. I am reminded of so many things from nature.
SKK: The intent was to stimulate one’s perceptions, to make them feel whole with their immediate surroundings, even if it simulates another narrative in their mind.
SCV: Tell me how you arrived to this point.
SKK: I first came to Ny16 years ago after having finished my studies in Korea to become a painter. From there my evolution involved me working with shaved canvas (cut out shapes ), pen and ink drawings, plastic tubes to simulate lines. But I wasn’t really satisfied. So I asked myself is there a simpler way to draw and dissect. Then one day it came to me, like an avalanche. To start drawing with masking tape, to create incisions within it, not to paint on top of it but to cut into it.
SCV: What’s running through your mind when you create?
SKK: It’s a very private world for me. It’s a world were everything is reduced to light, dark, positive, negative. It’s frankly when I am most alive, when I feel everything around me. Everything is reduced to its most basic and contemplative.
I am often inspired by the story of Moses when he lifted the red seas and went inside that space and claimed it, led his people to deliverance. It’s what I try to feel, it’s the idea that I try to imagine, feel as if it is actually happening to me right now and this heightens the whole experience.
SCV: What will happen once the exhibit closes in July.
SKK: The tape will be peeled off and disposed off in the rubbish. The space restored to its original self.
SCV: And now that you are finished?
SKK: I am restless, I want to do it all over again.
SCV:(absorbing the whole room) Yes, one is obliged. (putting down my pen). It’s really all quite divine…
Opens -March 27–July 5, 2009 at the Brooklyn Museum.