Minouk Lim‘s “Liquide Commune, Part II”
By Jayoon Choi
The second installment of Minouk Lim’s two-part exhibition, “Liquide Commune,” at PKM Gallery and the project space Bartleby Bickle & Meursault, was dedicated to new sculptures, wall works and drawings. Known primarily for her videos presenting critical observations of modernization, these new works are the first of their type to be presented in a gallery setting, and they proved a majestic departure from Lim’s previous works.
The video Portable Keeper (2009) features a totemic object that comes to life as three sculptures in “Liquide Commune.” The video is based on the pain and anxiety that Lim felt seeing a familiar neighborhood from childhood demolished in the name of modernization. In the video, a young man wanders between the old town razed for redevelopment and another neighborhood that has been spared this fate. He walks nonchalantly between the two places and brings with him a totemic object, made from a steel rod, fan blades, feathers and fake fur, thus becoming a “portable keeper” of his old neighborhood. He carries the object gallantly on his shoulders, as though protecting the streets and community he strolls through. As it is moved between the two neighborhoods, the object attracts surprised glances and generates casual interactions among the residents. The “portable keeper” in the video becomes an emblem of naiveté, and perhaps nostalgia for a time before the community’s rapid modernization.
The three sculptural variations of the “portable keeper” were presented on the second floor of PKM. Entitled Suyu-ri (2011), Unha-ri (2011) and Yongbong-ri (2011), each piece is similarly constructed of metal rods and fan blades. Unha-ri is further embellished with white feathers spiraling down its paraffin-coated rod. Glue drips down its length, seemingly holding the feathers captive. Cuttlefish bones sprout out of the fragile skeletal rod in Yongbong-ri; completely white, the work’s color seems to have been erased through the passage of time. Taken outside of the context of the video, these “portable keepers” are stripped of their performative role. Hanging vertically, they become frozen relics, floating in midair.
The remaining pieces are composed of a miscellany of similar materials. The wall works—Pleco (2011), Nova Girl (2011) and Happy Days (2011)—are powdered cuttlefish bone drawings of spirals and gourd-like shapes on black velvet. Liquide Commune (2011), a single sculpture made of thermo foam, paraffin, synthetic fur and cuttlefish bone, is enclosed in a steel and glass vitrine. PKM’s ground floor held Milky Way Spoiler (2011), a five-piece sculptural installation made of thermo foam, cuttlefish bone, synthetic fur, paraffin and vinyl twine.
In Lim’s hands these unlikely materials have been worked and reworked, virtually amalgamated and transformed beyond recognition. Buds of synthetic fur emerge from beneath the weight of the paraffin in Liquide Commune; the vinyl twine becomes a seamless part of the surreal arctic landscape of Milky Way Spoiler. Elsewhere, the hand-knitted hemp cords of M Alone (2011), hung from the gallery ceiling, allude to the net swans used to carry a young princess safely across an ocean, in the Hans Christian Andersen tale “Wild Swans.”
Whether it is the industrial qualities of mechanical fan parts, the nonbiodegradable properties of vinyl twine, the plasticity of paraffin wax or the primitive nature of cuttlefish bones, Lim manages to give a different life to her materials, making this new series of works both visually foreign and strangely familiar. By taking command of such contradictions, Lim evokes a more abstract and perhaps hopeful exploration of modern civilization. Scheduled to present an entirely new body of videos, wall pieces and installations in a solo show at the Walker Art Center from May through September this year, “Liquide Commune” was an eloquent prelude of what is yet to come.