The Tanks Commission: Sung Hwan Kim

Sung Hwan Kim Washing Brain and Corn 2012

Sung Hwan Kim, Washing Brain and Corn, 2012

Korean artist Sung Hwan Kim presents the first specially commissioned installation to be unveiled in The Tanks, Tate Modern’s new galleries permanently dedicated to performance and film. The exhibition is supported by Sotheby’s and runs from 18 July to 28 October.

Kim is known for his interdisciplinary work, incorporating installation, video, performance, music, light and drawing. He interweaves personal history, fantasy, rumor, politics and culture to create a work that responds to the unique architecture of The Tanks.

Kim’s unique way of story-telling plunges visitors into a fantastical world of optical illusions and doubling of imagery that draws on a rich history of performance and film, as he collects and collages encounters, sounds, sculptures and images from his changing homes of Seoul, Amsterdam and New York.

Kim has divided one of Tate Modern’s former oil tanks into two highly atmospheric rooms where light and screened images bounce off mirrors, reflective material and walls. Both contain architectural stage-sets that act as platforms for four of the artist’s films. In the smaller of the two rooms we see From the Commanding Heights… 2007, a film which intersperses a story set within the renowned South Korean Hyundai apartment complex with that of a rumored affair between an actress and a dictator. In the second room we see a further three films – Dog Video 2006, Washing Brain and Corn 2010, and Temper Clay 2012 – each presented within distinct and carefully constructed spaces.

The latter is central to Kim’s installation and juxtaposes his parents’ flat in the Hyundai apartment complex with the family’s countryside home. The film explores the complexities of female relationships through love, matriarchy, domesticity and success. It looks at how parallel experiences from different cultures, places and times collide and interlink. Kim’s inspirations for Temper Clay range from the film-within-a-film cameos of Jean-Luc Godard and others in Agnés Varda’s Cleo from 5 to 7 to Shakespeare’s exploration of King Lear’s reign versus that of his daughters, alongside the personal experiences of his mother, aunt and family members.

Kim’s long-term collaboration with musician and composer David Michael DiGregorio, who records and performs under the name dogr, is also an important element of the installation, and his music and image appear in each video. Music and sound, particularly dogr’s wide ranging vocals, are used to establish a distinctive mood and pace within the films.

Sung Hwan Kim’s commission is part of Art in Action, a 15-week festival of film and performance.