© 2019 by Dohee Kim

Kim Do-hee’s Watering the Dead Tree

 

You’re the first who’s ever asked me such a favor....

 

 

1

Blood Supply Control

 

Solitude is different from loneliness. While loneliness is a time of longing for one’s own flesh, solitude is a time of thinking about one’s own blood. While flesh reddens outside of blood in loneliness, blood becomes faint in flesh in solitude. While loneliness is mourning that is tamed by emotions, solitude is closer to being folk music that empties emotions. Loneliness always cries for the other, but in solitude, one begins his communication with himself alone where he’s farthest away from others. The lonely are always hot but solitary people are always cool. Universe is a world that slowly opens up to solitary lives. Love begins when one bears a time through his own blood for another’s universe. From then——when love starts to blossom—his eyes start to wander like the planetary orbit of an unknown planet. Staring into the eyes of the beloved is like taking a rest in a planet. All that the planet can give you are images that will make you lose your way back. Solitude is an image without a sense of direction. It’s a naughty yet elegant image in which one doesn’t know what’s happening to oneself at the moment, and doesn’t know one’s own birth but forever feels the signs of pregnancy that never actually bears. Solitude is the reality of one who transforms himself into another human being. If loneliness is an image of an island, solitude is the image of a sad submerged continent that lies in deep waters.

 

When I’m curious about solitude, and filled with melancholy and longing for elegant testimony, I watch Bram Stoker’s Dracula. Dracula is captivating. He lives in an enchanting world. Dracula goes out in the season of gathering blood, and builds up his own name in countless numbers. Dracula’s time exists but Dracula’s life doesn’t exist. Every moment he becomes lonely, he sobs covered in his own blood. The castle is not Dracula’s dwelling place but his eyes. It’s easy to understand it if one imagines Dracula’s castle made of blood. The physical part that remains the most distant to Dracula is the eyes. Imagining Dracula who lives as far as he can from his own eyes, one becomes curious about the taste of Dracula’s blood. Although Dracula always needs blood, he can’t drink his own. Although he has the lips that call for blood, what he longs for is the smell of his own blood. Organisms born to long for their own blood are afflicted with longing. To flow into his own blood, he roams around for hundreds of years, becoming the wind, music, even beast. People are not overcome be and fear his sharp fangs or his remarkably long life; they are astounded by his longing. Tears dwell in the eyes of Dracula reflected off the mirror. Bloody tears well up. He is in solitude.

He enters his own body, becomes special blood, and he cannot die in the throbbing world of solitude that cannot be found in anyone else. He opens his eyes every night with the pain of blood drying, and cannot stop his travels in his body and blood.

She (Kim Do-hee) lingers around this blood.

An artist is devoted to supplying blood to the figures she has created; in that sense, she adheres to apodictic laws. Kim’s stubbornness as an artist contributes to this story.

 

 

2

Labor period of Concrete Clock

 

Kim’s Watering a Dead Tree passed through her body through a period of labor. Passing the bodies she has created, she goes through a unique period of labor. There’s no way of finding out what the labor pains took from her, or what postpartum conditions it resulted in. Scribbling about the world she has termed Concrete Clock—the act of residing in the exhibition space 24 hours a day, for 18 days from May 22nd to June 8th—seems meaningless. Residing in the exhibition space and recording the process of visitors throwing provisions and sequencing and amassing meaningful connections between every little word the visitors throw at her all seem irrelevant to the ecology of Kim’s work. In that space, Kim learned about a new body that is completely different from the one she’s had, and used that body to greet others and adapt to a way of speaking that’s close to storytelling. She became thinner, and seemed to fade away from this world as we know it. Kim entered a world surrounded by concrete, discovered a disability hidden in herself, and arrived at a state of peace through that disability. This effect, as bizarre as watering a dead tree, leads to a period of labor in passing into another body. The act of recording daily in that space is like getting rid of postpartum fever, human falsehood and the six energies of the body. Kim said that in the completely dark space, she would wake up in the morning to sound and not light. The humidity of the basement—in which her retina has become mushy enough for light to have almost become unnecessary, and the ears, above all other parts of the body, opens up the eyes—has become the other blood in Kim.

Sleeping on Styrofoam, Kim often checked her pulse. The first image that came into my mind the first time I saw her in the exhibition was the image of a hidden land roaming deep in the water, and the image that came up the last time I went to see her was an ‘island in water’ that’s continually sinking in sleep. It may be an unpleasant thought, but if anyone who sees the exhausted and seductive body and has the desire to gnaw at her neck, spread her legs and enter her, it wouldn’t be because of the curiosity towards the strange body she is creating in the space, nor because of the impulse to enter her and leave behind a grenade, but because of the artistic energy that wants to join the desperate struggle she is fighting in the space. Although Kim was stiffening like a varnished mannequin, she was playing a game of survival that she has never played before. Like relieving oneself while doing a handstand, or having clouds at the foot and ground at the head, or piling castle on the forehead and islands on the foot, or like eyes of the entire body opening with a single gust of faint and numbing wind, it was something like a sensual jealousy for a different world, or lust for incest driven by unidentifiable craving. Surrounded in concrete without a single spark of light, Kim would lay facing the wall, listening to the breathing of the outside wall, humming songs she doesn’t even know and calling herself and names of others she has never called before. Kim said that she would take off the many bodies hidden in her own body before going to sleep. She fell asleep with herself and slept with herself. She became a compound eye and became lonely. She became able to define this lonely life of one eye as poetry. She can now get into a bathtub of her own and become a dweller of this world. This is probably her lust that we can never know.

Like you watering a dead tree.

Like me becoming a dead tree and walking towards you.

 

 

Making a claim for the above image

 

The video Crying for Dead Sister No. 1 plays in a loop. In the middle of the night, a refrigerator drops to the ground from the middle of an overpass, plummeting 15 meters below. It shatters in a crash, and explodes in fragments. The head is crushed, the body is mashed, and the flesh bursts. Although it’s an unpleasant and chilling experience seeing the fall of the refrigerator over and over again, it’s hard to turn away from it. The surprising thing is that this video is even more chilling when the sound is removed. One begins to think how someone must’ve jumped off the overpass holding onto the refrigerator. Imagination of the unfamiliar sense of fear is born from somewhere we’ve never been. Imagination from external factors becomes stimulation, but imagination created from within becomes fear. The strange sense of horror as if the refrigerator bleeds from its side and crawls into somewhere in Han River, has something to do with our biological rhythm in the sense of falling. It’s a rhythm that’s as unpleasant as a seashell breaking inside the mouth, scratching inside the mouth and spreading the scent of sea, as if transforming the oral cavity into a mud flat. It’s also as unfamiliar and captivating as the self portrait, or scene we never want to turn and look at.

 

Crying for Dead Sister No. 2 portrays the funeral of the destroyed refrigerator. Cotton is applied to hemp, paper for the corpse is placed, and the bottom lining board is laid in the coffin. This video seems to show the funeral of the refrigerator, but at a closer look, it focuses more on the stern expression of the refrigerator that is carrying out the funeral of the image. Shouldering a bier, the refrigerator tries to move somewhere, rattling as if to move. Singing the requiem “Image is dead”, the refrigerator is left only of its shell the moment it falls. The funeral procession will stir in the silent night as if to say the cold air has vaporized. The refrigerator seems to rattle, holding fast onto the sack that holds the last clips of fingernails and toenails of the deceased. The artist is asleep like the cotton swabs drenched in ethanol in the refrigerator. Her sleepwalking depends on where to head off out of the doors, or where to disappear behind the closed doors.

 

Crying for Dead Sister No. 3 depicts the blankets and washing machine of a woman who throws herself off at the age of 30 on June 25th, 2010. It shows the process of the washing machine washing her blankets, and flowing off the water used for the washing outside of the exhibition space. The blanket has no stains; all day, only clear translucent water flows, like brain water oozing out of a cracked skull. Leaking, like exploded guts.

Is it a ghost in her thirties who washes her hands in that water every night? Young girls in the village come by to play, and drink the water with their hands. Indifference replaces life in the place where one used to lie, as if to become a mad woman or throw oneself off at any moment, or as if to crawl under the blanket and ask “Who are you?” to the one already underneath it. Like the feces that leaves the city every night and reaches the Pacific.

 

Basement –Beware of Wild Boars

A woman with huge nostrils flash off her fangs, show expressions of destruction, scream, become depressed, and reveal the color of her pupils in process of cell division. With an expression that seems to shout “Wait ‘til it happens to you!”, and as if to say “I live in Youngdeungpo-gu, Dangsan-dong 5-Ga”, and in the expression of Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins in moon, she sings boisterously within herself. Like the wrath of a son-in-law who has just visited his mother-in-law, the postpartum depression of those in Lucina Postpartum Center in 168-56, the screams of a capsized cruise ship, the sound of Sonata license plate 2865 crashing into a pole, or like a woodlice that has swollen Roxithromycin, I couldn’t help but look into the monitor and question if the flesh of the women I have touched can make such a sound. And it says that the woman in the monitor is only just living her daily life.

 

 

 

Kim Kyoung-joo (Poet, Play writer)

Graduated from Department of Philosophy at Sogang University

Poetry selected and printed in the Seoul Shinmun Annual spring Literary Contest

Also a play writer who wrote Wolves Grow from the Eyes for the Experimental Theater Hyehwa-dong 1 Beon-ji

Has written poetry anthologies <I’m a Non-existing Season> <A Strange Story> <Comforting the Jetlagged Eyes>, the essay book <Passport> and collection of plays <Replica of a Mullet Mask>

Received the Young Artist Award and Kim Soo-young Literary Award

Currently the director of the poetical drama experimental theater Penguin Silence