Kimsooja transforms the historic chapel with To Breathe, an enthralling installation using light and mirrors and the latest in a series of projects exploring meditative qualities of space.
Kimsooja's practice references and takes inspiration from traditional forms of female labour and craft, such as sewing and weaving, to investigate the role of women. Making quilts with her mother was the initial stimulus to adopting needlework as part of her practice, and since then (1983) the artist has travelled extensively, exploring the cultural importance of clothing, textiles and the associated acts of making.
For over 25 years the artist has used the form and idea of 'bottari' – the South Korean word for a bundle wrapped in fabric, which Kimsooja identifies as "a self-contained world – but one which, like a vessel, can contain everything materially and conceptually". Traditionally used for moving possessions from place to place, the bottari references the displacement of people. Kimsooja has extended the idea to incorporate larger spaces and even architecture, meaning that whole buildings could also be wrapped to alter, contain and re-shape what was within.
To Breathe in the Chapel is such a treatment of architecture. With a lightness of touch, Kimsooja transforms the entire space and blurs expected boundaries. The floor, covered with a mirrored surface, provides an entirely new way of seeing, seeming to open up and unfold the space, making solid surfaces and confining structures appear fluid and expansive. By placing diffraction film on all the windows, the light that enters forms a myriad of rainbow spectrums across the space, which are reflected infinitely via the mirrored floor.
Responsive to the natural environment, the installation changes according to the light quality and intensity, making every experience different and unique. A soundtrack of the artist breathing accompanies the visually spectacular and meditative installation, creating an intimate and shared encounter. What the artist describes as the “‘void' within the skin of architecture" becomes the body of the work, and a site of communal contemplation for all who encounter it.
Words and images via Yorkshire Sculpture Park.