A Way to Face Desire in Reality
By Yoo Won Joon, Director of Aliceon

A French psychoanalyst Jacques Lacan says that human desire is a chain of empty spiral rings that lacks perfect signification, and ceaselessly obscures the actual meanings. His comments imply that the objects of human desire appear to exist, but are just illusionary images in reality, which thereby forcing it to end up being a signifier without perfect signification. But does it also apply to our awareness of desire? Is it true that the objects of such a human desire, as attractive as they appear to be, are meaningless and unsubstantial?

The artist Byoung-ho Kim's work represents such an illusionary human desire and its fantasy substantially. He creates a particular shape of figure by assembling pieces of cold metals together and giving them refined finishing touches, and let such a process of work stand in contrast with multiplying of human desire. His work is similar to the process where a new cluster of desire is being produced as a result of a combination and amplification of different kinds of human desire. Human desire is itself composed of all the yearnings towards intangible and immaterial objects. Therefore, the desire full of accumulated emotions can be considered to be innocent despite its slightly negative connotation contained in it. Desire is fundamentally the driving force for human beings to continue with their lives, but sometimes subjects them to its control. In his work, these kinds of features of human desire are portrayed in different patterns.

The first type of his creation is to reproduce a quiet propagation of human desire, as suggested by his series titled <Silent Pollen> (2007). A series of work featured by tens of aluminum tubes visualize the fantasy of human desire that is generated silently, combined together, and propagated. Byoung-ho Kim describes such a process as “a flower” indicative of beauty which symbolizes the moment when human desire comes into existence as a tangible object. Such a concept materialized by the artist is intentional considering the idea that desire itself cannot be generated without its objects. But he successfully achieves a sense of equilibrium for his work by not only metaphorically adopting the concept of the pollination of a flower into his works, but also even connecting the abstract idea of desire with the cold surface of materiality.

What is particularly noticeable in this work is that the propagation of desire is being unfolded by intervention of media. On the surface, it looks as if multiplication of human desire is being unnoticeably and quietly processed, but deep inside, there are a number of driving forces behind its propagation. Likewise, the installed work absorbs little voices and sounds of the audience and amplifies them into arbitrary sounds. But such an engagement of media remains thoroughly hidden. It is interpreted to represent moments of surging desire symbolized by the amplification of small input and output devices contained in the aluminum-based pollen tubes for flowers. Such a restrained use of media reminds us of where the engaged media is positioned in the entire work. Byoung-ho Kim's work involves 99 % of his creating energy and efforts on its forms and a 1% minimum of media intervention as if God had shaped human beings from the soil of the ground and blown the breath of life and spirits into them. Such a concept prevents the deviation of the audience caused by excessive interactivity of media. This explains why Byoung-ho Kim can be regarded as a media artist despite the passive engagement of media in his works.

The second type of his creation such as <Assembling for Eternity> (2008), unlike the first type, boldly reveals the reality of human desire. The propagating structure of desire is no longer confined to a quiet process, and the abstract concept of carefully polished desire begins to make its presence as a lump of extreme materiality. As if Byoung-ho Kim tries to be sarcastic about the aforementioned Lacan's remarks, a heap of desires presented by him seems to be greedy and persistent like the substantial desire that used to exist in the depth of the mind, but has been just pulled out from the body. Now, let us explore his consistent attitude toward materiality, a recurring theme in his works. The works of urethane rubber on steel that reveals the slippery and dribbling color pigments as if showered with paint show that he intends to let the audience to appreciate his creation tactually, audibly, and s ynesthetically beyond visual delivery. While the cold and restrained surface demonstrated in his first pattern of work discloses the propagating process of the subject based on refined materiality, the second type shows that a heap of human desire itself swallowing media evokes synesthetic appreciation of the work.

The aforementioned two categories of Byoung-ho Kim's works begin to produce their variations. The sound sculpture titled <Assembled Fantasy> (2008) provides room for the audience to be engaged, unlike his previous works. While the preceding sculptures visualized the spiral structure of desires being propagated and circulating, and the moments that they cohered into one lump, The Assembled Fantasy allows each audience to experience their own fantasy of desire. Its geometrical figure, similar to the huge reproductive equipment, appears to deliver his recurring theme, but the sculpture can be interpreted in a different way because each component with refined finishing touch like an industrial design product servers as a kind of sound modulator that varies and generates sounds. The artist plays a variation on the moments when desires are being assembled and multiplied based on a vibration of sounds that originate from each component through the audience's involvement.

Byoung-ho Kim is combining several principles of his work with space. He tries to create a new context by placing his works in a different time and space as if desire propagates itself, spreading from object to object. He says that he imagines the shapes that do not exist in the world when working on them. Even if their motif and his fundamental source of thinking can be traced back to personal experience and perception, I believe that such attempts can set free the autonomy and imagination buried in functionality. Furthermore, like the fantasy of desire structured in his works, logical organization of forms by imagination allows us to perceive and reflect ourselves, and be aware of reality as a fundamental base. Let us step back from his works and contemplate our reality, although it is sometimes a dirty and ugly reality.

BYOUNGHO KIM  All rights reserved.