Contradiction, poetry, the circle of life. These are words which describe artist Grace Kim’s new exhibition Some Place Like Home at Galerie Madé in Paris. Having studied at the School of Visual Arts and the International Centre of Photography in New York, the image-maker of Korean descent is now pursuing a doctorate degree in philosophy at the European Graduate School in Switzerland.
Kim’s collage photo series titled Constellations explores existential landscapes that occur both beyond and within time, place, and conscience. Photographs taken during her travels across Egypt, Romania and Germany are pieced together to form a kind of mystical travel log, a reconstruction of memory. Kim questions dualities, explores Buddhist philosophy and touches on quantum physics. Schön! sits down with the artist to ask a few of our own questions in this exclusive interview.
What was the moment in your life when you just knew you wanted to become an artist for a living?
Probably after I tried everything else. Everything made me completely depressed in a way. I felt like I was selling my soul. I thought about doing art, but I didn’t want to go on the journey of a suffering artist. I didn’t want to be broke. I got to a point where I didn’t care anymore. I didn’t care if I had to suffer; I just wanted to be happy.
How does New York feed your creativity?
It doesn’t really anymore, that’s why I left. One thing that I do love about New York is the energy there. It’s a place where you feel a sense of possibility that you might not experience in other cities so much. You’re just inspired by everything happening around you and the people around you. I think it can really feed your spirit. Creatively, it does the opposite. It’s a very materialistic city and there’s a lot of emptiness and cynicism there. I have a love-hate feeling about New York.
Why did you choose to live in Berlin?
I love Berlin because it’s very low-key and unpretentious. You get a rich quality of life for very little spending. I think there’s a lot happening there culturally. It can be very invigorating if you want it to be or you can just disassociate yourself and detach. I like to have that choice there. It’s more about real life.
How did you begin your Constellations series?
I started this about 2 years ago. I was working towards these collage processes when I started working digitally. It just happened naturally that I started taking more power over the digital tools. This is the first one I made (pictured below), with the train tracks and birds. It’s the northern part of where the Berlin Wall used to be. It’s a very haunted place. I had pictures of birds I was photographing for quite a while. I constructed this in a very intuitive way and it became a foundation for the series. All the other pictures grew from this.
You have a lot of trees and birds in your work. Why is that?
My work deals with contradictions. I like this duality of man and nature, black and white and life and death. A lot of my work addresses the circle of life. I believe very much in karma. I believe that everything happens in a circle, and that time itself is a circle. A lot of these pictures are dealing with time as a non-linear landscape and the idea that different geographies can exist in the same space.
What do you think about as you meditate, or are you thinking about anything at all?
It’s a very important way for me to centre myself. Usually I would try to empty my mind first and there’s a process I learned at this retreat: not to reject things that enter your mind. You should watch your thoughts go by like pedestrians on the street. It’s really interesting to see what comes. I usually go through a period of doing that. Then I bring myself to think about… I wouldn’t call them affirmations, but something similar to that, which is reminding yourself of what’s important. It’s a nice way to start the day, and then nothing seems to bother you as much. You don’t get lost in the everyday dramas.
Words / Sheri Chiu