- Minouk Lim born 1968
- Video, high definition, projection, colour and sound (stereo)
- Duration: 13min, 50sec
- Purchased with funds provided by the Asia-Pacific Acquisitions Committee 2020
The Weight of Hands 2010 is a single channel video installation with image and sound by the South Korean artist Minouk Lim. It was originally commissioned by FACT (Foundation for Creative Art and Technology) in Liverpool and presented as part of the 2010 Liverpool Biennial entitled Touched. The video lasts just under fourteen minutes and was shot in Seoul, South Korea. It follows a group of young city dwellers travelling on a tour bus to a restricted-access building site. Captured using an infrared camera which gives it an otherworldly, haunting feel, the video documents the night-time passengers engaging in an almost ritualistic journey of pilgrimage. The sequence begins with a drummer, sounding a drum, beckoning the tour bus forwards and leading it through a forest of densely built apartment complexes characteristic of modern-day Seoul. The camera footage alternates between normal video and the infrared footage. The image of the night landscape is replaced by hues of red, orange, pink and purple, registering temperature and heat onto the camera. Without an overt narrative, the film continues as the tour bus stops at a construction site and passengers get out and walk silently around the freshly razed land while construction cranes and equipment are at work. The last part of the film takes the viewer inside the tour bus where a young woman, in a state of rapture, sings a ballad of loss and alienation while being carried overhead and passed from person to person.
Lim’s is a multidisciplinary practice that locates artistic expression within deeply held political ideals and ethics around democracy and human rights. Merging performance, video and documentary, her work critiques the social and political conditions of contemporary society, responding particularly to the marginalisation of people and the suppression of dissent during the process of rapid democratisation and industrialisation in South Korea. Upholding the importance of direct physical engagement, for Lim, seeing involves the acts of sensing and touching – a poetic achieved by the embodiment of real time and space through film and performance. As such, her works often directly engage people or audiences as witnesses to a lost time, space or memory – in this case, the erasure of neighbourhoods in the name of real estate development that displaces communities.
Lim’s work operates as an intervention that engages testimonies of lived experience, through the body, mind and senses. In doing so, she is inspired by the French philosopher Jacques Rancière’s notion of ‘dissensus’ by which ‘genuine political and artistic activities always involve forms of innovation that tear bodies from their assigned places’ and ‘have to do with reorienting general perceptual space and disrupting forms of belonging’ (Steven Corcoran, ‘Editor’s Introduction’, in Jacques Rancière, Dissensus: On Politics and Aesthetics, London 2010, pp.1–2.) For Lim, shifting perceptual and sensorial experience is deeply tied to a politics of dissent and a practice of art that lives within these spaces of new possibility. By using an infrared camera typically used for military surveillance, Lim attempts to transgress these cordoned off spaces – both physical and psychological – and calls upon other sensory devices to see through and beyond physical reality. The song that forms the soundtrack to The Weight of Hands was written by the artist and performed by Sangah Nam, with music by Younggyu Jang. It is a funerary rite of sorts, both elegy and send-off. As the artist has noted:
In my installations, performances, and videos, I aim to give the disappearing present a proper send-off while also constructing a memory of it with the hope of seeing it again in the future. These works are different from the traditional format of a documentary in that they include the intervention of staged actions. So my sense of time does not follow the common sequence of past-present-future, but rather of past-future-present. The existence and the traces of what disappeared and became invisible are presented along the boundary between fiction and reality. This approach enables me to fully embrace the fear and pain of separation, which has already begun at the moment of meeting. I may have internalized this kind of compulsion because I was born in a country [South Korea] that went through colonialism, war, and division. My family had to move 12 times after the day of my birth. They accepted each parting in the name of love and hope. I learned that without some intervention, some people are put in the position of being forced to disappear. All too often, the places and people that disappeared too soon form images in front of my eyes, just like the haze of fiction.
(Minouk Lim, Journeys of the 25th Hour, https://walkerart.org/magazine/minouk-lim-walker-art-center, accessed 9 August 2019.)
The Weight of Hands exists in an edition of eight plus two artist’s proofs; Tate’s copy is number four in the edition. Other copies are in the collections of Samuso: Space for Contemporary Art, Seoul; Platform-L Contemporary Art Center, Seoul; and ACC Gwangju Archive, Gwangju.
Seyeon Ahn (ed.), The Promise of If, exhibition catalogue, Plateau, Samsung Foundation of Culture, Seoul 2015.
Fabian Schöneich (ed.), United Paradox, exhibition catalogue, Portikus, Frankfurt 2017.
Does this text contain inaccurate information or language that you feel we should improve or change? We would like to hear from you.