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Kimsooja: To Breathe

As part of Yorkshire Sculpture International

Chapel
Past
30 Mar–29 Sep 2019

Kimsooja transforms the historic chapel with To Breathe, an enthralling installation using light and mirrors and the latest in a series of projects exploring meditative qualities of space.

Kimsooja's practice references and takes inspiration from traditional forms of female labour and craft, such as sewing and weaving, to investigate the role of women. Making quilts with her mother was the initial stimulus to adopting needlework as part of her practice, and since then (1983) the artist has travelled extensively, exploring the cultural importance of clothing, textiles and the associated acts of making.
 
For over 25 years the artist has used the form and idea of 'bottari' – the South Korean word for a bundle wrapped in fabric, which Kimsooja identifies as "a self-contained world – but one which, like a vessel, can contain everything materially and conceptually". Traditionally used for moving possessions from place to place, the bottari references the displacement of people. Kimsooja has extended the idea to incorporate larger spaces and even architecture, meaning that whole buildings could also be wrapped to alter, contain and re-shape what was within.

To Breathe in the Chapel is such a treatment of architecture. With a lightness of touch, Kimsooja transforms the entire space and blurs expected boundaries. The floor, covered with a mirrored surface, provides an entirely new way of seeing, seeming to open up and unfold the space, making solid surfaces and confining structures appear fluid and expansive. By placing diffraction film on all the windows, the light that enters forms a myriad of rainbow spectrums across the space, which are reflected infinitely via the mirrored floor.
 
Responsive to the natural environment, the installation changes according to the light quality and intensity, making every experience different and unique. A soundtrack of the artist breathing accompanies the visually spectacular and meditative installation, creating an intimate and shared encounter. What the artist describes as the “‘void' within the skin of architecture" becomes the body of the work, and a site of communal contemplation for all who encounter it.

In addition to the physical act of sewing and its various cultural associations, Kimsooja also considers the concept metaphorically, seeing the body as a needle that weaves together the fabric of lives, cultures and cities, celebrating a shared humanity regardless of geographical borders. She is perhaps best known for her video work A Needle Woman, in which she stands still in a busy city centre, holds her space as people pass by around her, and creates a place of intense calm. Related to this, Kimsooja’s 14-metre-high sculpture A Needle Woman: Galaxy was a Memory, Earth is a Souvenir, recently shown at Frieze Sculpture curated by YSP Director of Programme, Clare Lilley, has also been sited in the open air. This elegant spire was developed with scientists at Cornell University, New York, who formulated a nanotechnology film applied to the acrylic windowpanes that most closely mimics the iridescence of butterfly wings. With a mirrored floor, the environment within the spire is remarkable and its space appears to extend deep into the earth and to reach into the cosmos. It is a profoundly stilling, meditative experience, whilst from without, the spire is an extraordinarily graceful and uplifting sculpture. This is only the third time that A Needle Woman: Galaxy was a Memory, Earth is a Souvenir has been shown in public.

Guidance for visiting the exhibition

 
The installation features a mirrored floor surface throughout the nave. You will be required to take off your shoes once inside, prior to walking on the mirrors.
 
Visitor numbers within the space are limited. A queuing system is in place and you will have to wait to enter the Chapel at busy times. Please note that the queue will be outside the building, so please be prepared for all weather conditions. At certain times there will also be a set time allowed within the space to enable as many visitors as possible to enjoy the installation.
 
To Breathe cannot be accessed in its entirety by wheelchairs and pushchairs. There is a carpeted area in the side gallery from which the installation can be viewed, but wheelchairs and pushchairs cannot be taken onto the mirrored surface.
 
Photography is allowed, but please respect and be mindful of other people's privacy at all times.

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