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Kimsooja – A Needle Woman: Galaxy was a Memory, Earth is a Souvenir

Lower Park

South Korean artist Kimsooja has a practice that 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 stimulus for adopting needlework as part of her practice, and since then the artist has travelled extensively exploring the cultural importance of clothing, textiles and the associated acts of making.

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 our lives, cultures and cities, celebrating a shared humanity regardless of geographical borders.

Kimsooja’s powerful filmed performance A Needle Woman (1999-2001) involved her standing motionless with her back to the camera amidst endless crowds of people in busy cities including Tokyo, Delhi and Lagos. Grounded, still and calm, her body became a pivot around which humankind seemed to flow. Like a compass point in the landscape, the artist’s towering sculpture A Needle Woman: Galaxy was a Memory, Earth is a Souvenir functions in a similar way and explores the relationship between our bodies and the wider universe beyond.
This elegant, conical sculpture has transparent panels coated with nano polymer, a material that transforms light, giving an iridescence similar to that which occurs naturally on the wings of a butterfly or a beetle’s shell. The work alters dramatically with changing conditions, the nature and angle of light that hits it, and the position from which it is viewed. Within the sculpture, a mirrored  floor makes it appear to extend deep into the earth as well as reaching into the sky, and the viewer stands on the ground at the threshold between the two.