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Light, Colour and Bottari: South Korea at the 2013 Venice Biennale
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Light, Colour and Bottari: South Korea at the 2013 Venice Biennale

Picture of Marinel Valentini
Updated: 27 January 2016
This year, South Korea’s exhibition entitled To Breath: Bottari seeks to allow visitors to embark on a journey of contemplation and self-reflection through the simple fusion of light, sound and color. Artist Kimsooja will transform the beautiful South Korean pavilion – made of steel, glass and wood and built in 1995 – into a minimalist environment where senses are set free and art becomes experience. Marinel Valentini introduces Kimsooja’s work and explores what can be expected from her in the 2013 Venice Biennale.

Korean-born and New York-based artist Kimsooja was chosen to represent South Korea for the 2013 Venice Biennale. The famed installation artist was chosen by curator Kim Seungduk. The two have collaborated together in the past, adding familiarity and trust to the artistic partnership. This exhibition is very different from the one displayed at the 2011 Biennale, when the Korean Pavilion was filled with 14 multimedia installations by artist Lee Yong-baek. For this occasion, Kimsooja and Kim Seungduk have transformed the actual pavilion into the main art piece of the exhibition, filling the space solely with sound, light and color.


Entitled To Breath: Bottari, the artist aims to present the Biennale’s visitors with an experiential exhibition, in which the space allows for a meditative and introspective experience. Natural light from the outside, lights showing different shades of color, and the sound of Kimsooja’s own breathing are the main elements that are seen and heard within the Korean Pavilion. These elements are harnessed by the artist who transforms the building itself into a huge bottari (a Korean term that indicates a colorful bundle of cloths) in an attempt to ‘bring nature indoors, to be viewed from the inside out’.


Known for her implementation of personal stories within her works, this particular exhibition will evoke Kimsooja’s emotions during Hurricane Sandy which hit New York, where she now lives, in 2012. ‘I lived without electricity, gas and hot water for a week when the storm Sandy hit New York. I thought many things during the time,’ she said. The exhibition is an experience of body, senses and mind, with hints to the feelings evoked by encountering natural disasters and the unexpected.


To Breath: Bottari is a continuation of Kimsooja’s previous works, the bottari being the most characteristic feature of her artistic practice. Kimsooja’s bundles are usually made of used clothes and Korean bed covers, the latter of which are typically very decorative and colorful. Despite the simplicity in their design, the bottaris are items abundant with meaning, as the various pieces of used cloth or bed linen each convey a different story. Kimsooja’s bottaris may seem very similar to one another, but in reality they couldn’t be more different and unique.


Kimsooja is well-established on the international contemporary art scene having held numerous solo and group exhibitions both in South Korea and abroad since the 1980s. Recently, her works have been shown in prestigious venues and exhibitions such as the Miami Art Museum (2012), the Ninth Gwangju Biennale, Korea (2012), the Daegu Art Museum, Korea (2011) the Palazzo Fortuny, Venice (2011) and the Palacio de Cristal, Madrid (2006). She was also Artist in Residence at the P.S.1 Museum (1992-1993) and at the World Trade Centre (1998-1999), both in New York City. The 2013 Venice Biennale marks the artist’s fifth time taking part at the international art event.


About The Culture Trip’s Venice Biennale Project

The 55th International Art Exhibition of the Venice Biennale will take place from June 1 – November 24. The Culture Trip’s Venice Biennale Series is an article series leading up to the start of the exhibition. With 88 countries participating in this year’s Biennale – 10 of them for the first time – and 150 artists from 37 countries, our coverage over the next couple of months will highlight a selection of the National Pavilions that will be participating in the 2013 edition of the Venice Biennale. Watch this space for our daily Venice Biennale updates or follow us on Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest!


By Marinel Valentini