Kim Beom: I Can’t Hear You Screaming
By Elaine W. Ng
Kim Beom was once an artist’s artist, admired by those who knew him for his droll takedowns of modern art’s sacred conventions. Today, pirated copies of his video Yellow Scream (2012) are viral hits on YouTube, and he was the subject of a major retrospective in 2023, “How to become a rock,” at the Leeum Museum of Art in Seoul. Though his audience has widened in recent years, Kim has never altered his approach to interrogating the means of communication that can, or cannot, happen through art. Can a hammer become pregnant? Can a rock learn the poetry of the Korean modernist writer Jeong Ji-yong? Can a tool ever understand that it is just a tool?
The son of sculptor Kim Se-Choong and poet Kim Nam-Jo, Kim studied painting at Seoul National University amid the 1980s student democratization movement in South Korea. His irreverent-looking works are often made from everyday materials or feature hand-scrawled texts and humorously amateur-looking drawings. Yet these defiantly casual artworks propose dark scenarios full of lurking threats, inescapable situations, mind-bending paradoxes, and dangerously suppressed rage. In this conversation on the occasion of his exhibition at Leeum, Kim reflects on the existential and ontological questions that have motivated him across his career.