The Landscape That Is Living Together With Us

by Kim Ji Hye

Published in the Seoul Museum of Art NANJI Residency Catalogue 2016

The reason we feel secure in an enormous landscape is because we believe that it will always be present firmly. The reason we are in need of this belief is because uncertainty in our lives brings anxiety and fear, even though making our lives colorful. Therefore, we always seek things that are comforting and immutable — a memory of childhood, of home and a mighty scenery are examples. However, because nothing intrinsically exists in perpetuity, we are faced with a deep despair. What I find in Lucia KEMPKES' works are the weaknesses and uncertainties of landscape.

Usually brought up in the philosophical discourses of landscape is Immanuel KANT's ‘theory of the sublime.’ For KANT, the sublime is distinguishable from the “beauty” that is our “disinterested and free satisfaction” on “the form of finality of an object.” The sublime is something that makes us to feel “the unknown pleasure” though it evokes a feeling of “displeasure” by making our existence uncertain. Contemplation is an essential component of the sublime. In the history of western art history, landscape painting idealizes reality as it focuses on mythological and religious scenes. In the 17th century landscapes of the Flemish painters, “sacred scenes” are replaced with “realistic scenes” as the focus of the paintings becomes centered on where the mundane everyday activities of human occur. Consequently, the discourse of the landscape that was once dominated by the sublime becomes one that is concerned with beauty. KEMPKES advances questions regarding the perspectives on landscapes we hold on to. And she expresses these questions through various media: drawing, video, and three-dimensional works using paper.

What she focuses on is 'moving landscape’ in order to introduce the contemporary ideologies into the conception of classical landscape. Moreover, she expresses that the characteristics of drawing are no different from those of video - both interact with motion and viewpoint . What we can pay attention to here is that from the perspective of time and through the movement of our bodies, a landscape often transforms — depending on our emotion, mood, and circumstance. Therefore, what we face in front of KEMPKES' enormous installation is a pliable and uncertain landscape. However, we must not misunderstand that this uncertainty is any different from Vanitas' Nihilism — a concern that occupied 16th-17th century European art. Rather, KEMPKES' work reconsiders the relationship between the subject and object of a viewpoint, relocates a modern epistemology after its decomposition, and evokes the absence of truth as truth's past vibrates through the entire process (she reveals the uncertainty of truth). Her work therefore deviates from the method of gazing at the past, which only traces a fixed perspective.

According to Genevieve Lipinsky DE ORLOV who has previously written about KEMPKES' work, it coexists within analog and digital mechanisms, where physical intervention plays an important role. When KEMPKES talks about the combination of the analog and the digital, it includes the coexistences between drawing and video. At the same time there may also be an aspect of the digital device's excessive participation in constructing the analog image. As it was outlined earlier in this essay, her methods allow us to reflect on certain ideologies constructed from idealized western landscape. When unrealistically sacred landscapes engage with mundane daily life, we need to remember that we draw the attention and hearts of the majority of the audience, not only the few who are in power. The landscapes came to express a humanist ideology, rather than that of God. Humans and landscapes in KEMPKES' work possess a non-dualistic character — neither subject nor object — as they coexist and enjoy a time in which they move together. We will not be able to hope for the day that we will meet our lover in an idealized warm autumn day — because in a sense we are already there, in the moment. In her work and exhibitions we encounter the new and ever-changing. Her three-dimensional works constructed from paper, and the analog images mediated by digital technology create new ways to move and transform with your sensibility and circumstance, within the various conditions. This is a virtue of the landscape that weaves with our reality — this place where we live.

KIM Jihye is an independent curator and adjunct professor of Jeju National University. She completed the doctor's course at the Department of Aesthetics (Art theory) from Hongik University. She worked as a chief curator at Alternative Space LOOP and as Researcher at KustDoc.