A Chasm of Blank: □, ■, ▣
– On Minae Kim’s Anonymous Scenes

Kang Jung-ho, Artist

<The world is □>

Minae Kim is an artist with unique sensibility for blank. Her works are supported by repeated questions in variation about thing-ness and nothing-ness spinning around blank. The world is laid down in front of her, like a manuscript paper filled with homogenous blanks. For her, the world is an endless chain of □, 1) which is emptied so as to become the whole set of things definitely visible, tangible, and determinable in terms of function and appellation. □ also has sterilizing objectivity, exterminating all the subjective touch on it. □ proliferates in various forms to lay the material foundation for the world. Manuscript paper, window frame, door, and shutter… numerous things constitute □, confronted with her.

An experience of □. For her works as well as her life cannot begin without assuming □, the material frame of her exhibition is nothing but □. When facing her works, the first thing sensible to the audience is the sanitizing materiality of □. Some insensitive audience could merely glance over the indifferent appearance of these things and walk away. But if an audience has a delicate sensibility, he/she would easily catch a trembling, something like a fine crack, in the solid objects built in the gallery. This is the point in which the audience could hear the artist’s secret question on being in the world. From the trembling, they could find out that the rigid and firm □ is already turned into an insecure and unstable ■.

<She is ■>

Where is ■ originated? ■ could consist of many different things, such as the hesitating trace of pencil, the cement hardened up in the skewed window frame, or the soil roughly piled up. Then, why do they fill □? To answer the question, we need some additional explanation. The world is already given as □, regardless of our being. If someone wants to be in the world, he/she must determine his/her position somewhere inside □. But he/she is not at liberty to choose at which position to be, for he/she is already thrown in □. Then, should he/she become a steady and indifferent thing like □? Yes, and no. For a human being is a thing, and not a thing. We are definitely a thing, not so different from the other things of □, such as manuscript paper, window frame, door, or shutter, but neither so apathetic, nor unfaltering. Because a human being is an unstable and wavering thing, always subject to and looking out of □.

Kim fills up the fixed □ with unstable things to generate ■. So ■ cannot be so definite as □. ■ has a faint shivering in itself, which is originated from an unsteady vector 2) of things eager to go out of □. But the arrow drawn by the vector could be so easily broken outside the □, which is shown in the melancholic scene of her work 3). In other words, the wavering pencil strokes need the manuscript paper so as not to be a meaningless scribbling; the cement need the frame so as to have a form; and the soil need the container so as not to be spilt out. While unstable things incessantly wiggle out of □, there is no space outside □ where a thing could keep its stable existence without being collapsed. Thus their trembling is passively resigned as the handful of soil spilt over a bit, the cement in the window frame slightly oblique not enough to be overthrown, or the modest touch of pencil far from roaring. In short, the trembling of ■ is stiflingly constraint within the fixed frame of □. Then, could they be completely reduced to □?

Unfortunately, it is impossible likewise. They could easily subside into a mere pencil stroke, a lump of cement, or a soil heap in the everyday world, but could not in the scenes that Kim stages. For they are unstable things in the gallery, representing the contradictory being of Kim, a sort of different version of herself. In other words, they are ■ nervously filling up □, and ■ is nothing but her being. However, is she the only one to be ■? She would not think so, probably. The reason why she takes the position of ‘artist,’ arranges both of □ and ■ in the public space of gallery, and receives the audience, is that she wants to test whether her question on being is universal. A human being is merely a thing in the strictly constituted material world, but a thing repeatedly negating its thing-ness. To put it simply with ■ and □, the proposition that she wants communicate to the audience through the exhibition might be that a human being is just ■ seized by □. But this is not the answer but the start point for her question on being. The essence of her asking is in the paradox that a human being cannot but be ■ and cannot be ■. To give shape to the paradox, she puts another element in addition to ■ and □: a chasm of blank, ▣.

<▣: light, wind, and empty mirror>

What is ▣? The audience who came to see her exhibition would easily find out the answer. Some might be careful enough to remember the duality of the exhibition space. She divided the space into two sections, which the audience could step in and which they could not. ▣ is everything originated from the space that the audience cannot enter: the space of light enclosed with four doors; the space outside the window where the wind vane is hung down by the fish rod; the gleaming slit of the window frame laid down in the floor; and the mirror wall covered up by the shutter. 4) They surprise the audience with the expanded spatiality and lead them to an odd experience of space as if confronting something transcendental, being separated from the mundane world. ▣ is light, wind, and empty mirror. They are presented as a transcendental space nearby. ▣ is not a limited object but a space beyond, or at least a suggestion of it, connected to the exhibition space which the audience set foot on.

The artist might be uneasy at the words ‘beyond’ or ‘transcendental,’ for the ambiguous abstract terms slacken a delicate tension that she struggled to generate in her works. So let me use humbler word so as to cut such a loss: a chasm. ▣ is a strange chasm between ■ and □. It is impossible in principle, of course. We cannot imagine an immaterial chasm splitting the continuity of materiality. From perspective of □, thus, ▣ does not exist, and ■ does not exist likewise. The distinction between ■ and □ appears only if the shaky thing called human is granted a privilege; otherwise, everything including a human being is inevitably subject to □; the light, the wind, and the mirror are not exception. She does not deny it. Her work does never give a mysterious appearance on them. The glaring headlight openly reveals its bare materiality, just beyond the boundary that the audience could reach.

As she generated ■ by filling up □ with pencil stain, cement, and soil, she also created ▣ with interconnected doors, shutter on mirror, and wind wane outside the window. ▣ is another space belonging to □ and untouchable for ■, a space inaccessible for human being. In fact, ▣ is far from something metaphysical or transcendental, but merely a space enclosed by physical boundary so as to block out the human body, which is everything we have as a thing. If it is so obvious, then, is it reasonable to call the ‘normal’ physical space a strange chasm?

Here we should catch a subversion being contrived by her works, which are apparently sunk in □, as if being acquiescent to the material world. The subversion is thoroughly for human being. The enclosing doors, the shutter covering up the mirror, and the vane hung down from the window… Why do they physically obstruct the body of the audience in the gallery from the light, the wind, and the reflection of the audience themselves?

Unlike the pencil stain, the cement, and the soil that constitute ■, the light, the wind, and the reflected image prohibit the audience from identifying their materiality and objectivity. Though they seem to be also subject to the material world, the conclusion is forced to be deferred. While the audience might be sure of materiality and objectivity inherent in the beaming headlight, the vane in the wind, and the mirror image of themselves, they cannot be fully convinced. The headlight is firmly blocked up; the vane is hung down beyond their hands; and the mirror image is strictly closed off by the shutter pulled down almost to knee high. In short, their materiality and objectivity are shut off by the very things of □.

Under the protection like that, the light, the wind and the reflection could escape the limit of materiality and objectivity, wandering around the open and barricaded space so as to make a crack in the indifferent firmness of the material world that occupies the exhibition space. Ironically, the apparently faithful constituents such as the door, the shutter, and the window frame provide protection for the anti-materiality of the light, the wind, and the reflection through their firmness.

That is the reason why ▣ is a strange chasm. It is an ironical space of subversion in which □ gives a crack in □. In the chasm, a trace of pencil, a dump of cement, and a handful of soil could infinitely defer their own thing-ness and mutate themselves into a wind and a light; the strictly monolithic material world could be easily melt down in the reflection of the mirror, in which the position of the object to be seen is emptied out.

When the artist’s paradoxical question on being that ‘a human being cannot but be ■ and cannot be ■‘ leads to the strange solution of ▣, a human being becomes the headlight and the vane and the reflection within the secure protection by □. While their thing-ness and objectivity is so obvious, it cannot and should not be concluded. The artist does not sublimate the chasm between □ and ■ into a transcendental space, but barricades it to create a paradoxical space in which the faint trembling of human being can remain in its intrinsic contradiction.


1) The meaning of the word ‘blank’ is too narrow and strict, so let me use this sign instead of it.
2) A driving force toward a specific direction generated from a tension inside an individual.
3) See <Sand Castle>.
4) The audience could not see their own reflection, unless they come very close to the mirror, for only the lower part of the mirror wall is opened. When the space of reflection is stretched out along the floor, without the viewer's reflection and other conspicuous clues referring to its illusion, it conjures up a sort of realistic effect. In this way, the space of reflection not only disturbs the distinction of the illusionary and the real, but subtly unsettles the materiality of the other works installed in the gallery as well.