I ran into Byoung Ho Kim at a Dorkbot meeting in Seoul last year and he let me play with his interactive sound art. Walking into his studio was like taking a trip into a silver future garden surrounded by red and black wires, metal vines and what sounded like a battery hen cage full of mechanical chirping chicks around feeding time. Most of his sound sculptures make these amazing little noises that are so contradictory to their form… they make you want to tunnel inside each piece and nuzzle comfortably in its center.
The first thing that really impressed me was the polished quality of his pieces juxtaposed with his total willingness to let me man-handle everything with my sticky fingers. He revealed to me that each of his pieces are almost like puzzles which beg to be deconstructed and put back together again. With each work he described to me the agonizing process from sketch, to cast to finished metal artifact. Labors of love it seemed to me. Though I didn’t have the foresight then to document anything in his studio, I’ve always kept his work at the back of my mind. Working within the rigid structures of formalism, Byoung Ho Kim opens up a fantastic world that vibrates to its own frequency.
Are you obsessed with sound?
Sound is just part of my work. I think that making the sound is not as important as the making process. In recent my works, electronic components make vibrations through frequency modulation. This vibrations are the fundamental cause of the sound in my works. What I want to put them together by metaphorical expressions, to compare the in-between; humankind pursues their desires… continually creating sound in materials. I could say this is fantasy.
Do you feel that it is important that all of your pieces look so clean and finished? Even your drawing look like they could have been created by an architect.
Yes, certainly external appearances are important, but I think that the more important subject is how to make them complete. I am not idealist, but I look directly to my work in the real world to see how to communicate with people. My work plan seems close to architectural design, but I do not always get my ideas from architecture. Our society is composed of invisible moral standards and systematization, while the human body is consisted of atoms. It is possible that my work complies with industrial standard systems which implies specialization and uniformity… but the real world is also involved in the functional role in my artwork. All these complex situations apply to my projects.
May of your works deals a with ‘dualism’ (both in their function and representation), such as your piece ‘Assembled Fantasy’ which was both installation piece and instrument. What do you want the viewer or participant to walk away with?
I want viewers to enjoy my installations just the way they are. However, I could say there are two main ways to explain them. First, there is functional way. Second there is the symbolic way. As per functionality, I use standardized raw materials because it is possible to easily assemble the separate parts into a pieces. As for their symbolism, I am very focus on maintain a formative meaning from start to finish. To assemble a part, mechanical rationality and component structure is important to make progress. It is all about well-organized formative beauty by putting function and standards into my work. I hope that viewers enjoy my work, listening to the sounds but also looking at well-finished pieces at the same time. Yes, they are just like what they are look like.
‘Fantastic Virus’ is your 5th solo show in 6 years, and each show seems to be getting bigger. What are you working towards?
I have been working with the same subject in my solo shows since 2005; that art pieces have a clear distinction from products in terms of functionality. Products have practical uses, while the main roles of art pieces are just ART itself. I am continuing to explore those ideas in my new projects which utilize new media in the future.