Byoungho Kim, Variations in Synesthesia
By Younjeong Park, Chief Curator of SOMA

    “What on earth is this device for?” Our response to Byoungho Kim’s work begins with this question. In his work, sleek, shining metallic materials run in a line, or spread in four directions. These seem like novel installations, representing parts of an enormous piece of mechanical equipment. His work can be also referred to as sound art. Or the arts of sound that makes sound.
    John Cage is a music master of the 20th century who regarded noise as equal to sound and music. His pioneering experiments with a visual and aural mixture of art and life had a profound influence on contemporary art. Since the mid-20th century music has consistently exchanged and blended with visual art, undergoing many variations. Foretelling an end of painting, contemporary art has undergone several phases, such as destruction of some of its basic elements; apotheosis of deconstructed individual elements; disregard for basic elements and emphasis on physical properties; and intervention of immateriality. In the last stage, art involved immaterial elements like light and sound, and evolved into sound art.
    Along with trends set by Andy Warhol’s factory, video art, Fluxus, and performance art of the 1960s, sound art was often regarded as secondary. But since the early 20th century, sound was also accepted as an element of art by major art institutions in Britain, Japan and America. Keywords involved in exhibitions of such art, such as ‘looking at sound’, ‘color of sound’, ‘light and sound’, and ‘visual music’, are associated with the creation of synesthetic space involving more than one sense.
    Kim titled his work, fusing sound with objects, Colloidal Body, in connection with the concept of a colloid referring to the mixture of two insoluble elements. Considering the creation and appreciation of artworks depends on free will, Kim’s work methods are unusual. His drawings, artistically rendering the process of work-making as product manuals are like the announcement of his view of work. He offers the shocking title ‘product’ to his artwork, and lends rule and law to his creation, while adding a musical process to structuralize the noise.
    “Human desire sought consistently in a social structure is like non-material sound from material.” according to Kim. His attractive work involves confusion between material and immaterial, product and artwork, ‘cool’ and ‘hot’. His sound product’s functionality and practicality is diluted with his work’s beauty and form. The artist also pays attention to aura, derived from discourse on sound.
    The advent of new technologies, especially the computer, brought radial changes in most of art genres. With the emergence of the computer, our ability to capture and adjust sounds has reinforced, and sound creation and compensation has accelerated through its strong, attractive filtering system. Most interesting is all information is interpreted in the common language of computer codes. Kim’s work is characterized by its distinction leading viewers to a sort of hyper-synesthesia through its functionality inherent in thorough standardization and aesthetic beauty of form. Trying to discover proper sound waves and its suitable space among found sounds and audio information to be deciphered, Kim intends to encourage viewers to pay attention to his work’s aura through these sounds. This attitude seems derived from his experience in a media lab where he studied video engineering as a printmaking major. Based on his understanding of John Cage’s concept of silence implying that silence is not the absence of sound but an atmosphere, he persistently pursues sounds like an engineer, not as an artist.
    Sound art faced difficulties in entering the art institution since emerging as a new media art, challenging fixed categories such as sound, art, visual art, music, science, and engineering. Sound art is easily distanced from public interest. Kim’s work secures a material value for it, by presenting sound art through objects in a condensed way, and a reason for being as a work of art, by adding the non-material value of sound that reinforces a sense of visual presence.
    As Marshall McLuhan indicated, the nature of the media is not in concrete content of information but how it is presented, saying “The medium is the message.” What’s left in Kim’s work is the propagation of sound and the truth derived from an obvious distinction between input and output. In this show, objects showcase Kim’s truth through three sounds with different beats and sound-waves, and his work gains artistry within the category of visual culture, through concrete objects showing sound visually, and drawings presenting work-making methods. I look forward to seeing his work’s upcoming variations through visible sound and audible objects.

BYOUNGHO KIM  All rights reserved.