Directors Lounge 2008 • Berlin, february 7-17

Saturday, February 9

Carole Kim

Friday, February 8th--Carole Kim is mainly an installation artist from Los Angeles but last night Catherine Foster from the Live Box gallery in Chicago put together a series of Kim's short films. I have to admit that I had not seen any of Carole Kim's work before but as the first short, Old Faithful, filled the screen, I felt she was a girl after my own heart. Old Faithful, for those of you who don't know, is a geyser in Calistoga that goes off once every hour or so unleashing thousands of gallons of water into the sky. Old Faithful is also; a tourist trap, a metaphor for male erections and male orgasms, a kitschy excursion on the way to Calistoga wine tastings. You can sense immediately that Kim understands all of this. She sets up her shot a meter or so away from the Old Faithful crowd and lets the scene unfold as faithfully as any gathering of mixed American tourists will allow. Just before Olf Faithful spurts his juice, the screen fills with typed text, 'Did you ever light a firecracker and have it go fizzle instead of go BANG!' One is inclined to see these as Kim's words, her retrospective narration of the scene. And the words seem to function on multiple levels just as the name Old Faithful does. Is she talking about all the worlds small attractions and their mediocre-at-heart nature? Is it a metaphor for the lives of these tourists that sit patiently awaiting the blast off and then scuttle back to their tour buses on the way to another preconceived, regulated activity? Whatever it is, those words seem profound and function like an insider wink between the viewer and Kim.

It's always a bit difficult to figure out the tone of these 'hands off' pieces. Tourists are silly and sort of unsympathetic and they behave faithfully for Kim's camera, saying all manner of typically hilarious touristy things like--'now we're just in time for the bus,' and 'it didn't smell as sulfur-y as i thought it would.' Inevitably the sense that their's a cruel distance from Kim, that she's inviting us to laugh at these tourists, sinks in. But then something remarkable happens--a man on his way past Kim's camera toward the parking lot mutters the words that filled the screen only a few minutes before. With a slightly midwestern accent and a tone that conveys nothing and everything he says to his wife--'Did you ever light a firecracker and have it go fizzle instead of go BANG!' It's a small moment but it totally changes the meaning of the piece. She, Kim, was uttering someone elses words. She found them poetic enough to set the whole scene around and her intentions become more alligned with those of the watchful observer than the cynical satirist.

In Confromed Bits, another film by Kim, she continues to engage the tension between what is ordinary and what is deeply imbued with meaning.  We watch a woman's arms carefully washing dishes, methodically drying them and placing them in a rack. Once again the screen fills with text--'Feeling overwhelmed by the mundane and the profound my brother told me to do the dishes and the rest would follow.' Kim makes the task of doing the dishes dreamlike by slowing down the sound and making the pitch low and echoey. She also plays a bit with color, at one point filling the smaller sink with a red color fill that suggests not so much blood as something magical and magenta. The viewer is transfixed by the spectacle and the whole Obsessive Compulsive ritual of washing dishes does seem to flutter between the mundane and the profound without ever choosing a definite side. Perhaps this is Kim's gift, to take us only so far down the philosophical hedge path and then drop off and let us fend for ourselves.

--more soon S.S.

Chasing the Pools 8 min 30s, DV, 2005
Chasing the Pools is a single-channel video based on an immersive performance /installation exploring live cameras on dancers seamlessly integrated into the landscape of live-mix video projection. Their lit bodies became one moving image, dematerializing or re-materializing the body, while the background remained another. These channels were projected onto numerous scrims in a large tree grove. The video combines the composite live-feed image with the original source material.