Christian Long

Miru Kim: Underground Art

In TED Talks on April 17, 2010 at 10:27 pm

Reflection by KATIE R.

Original TED page w/ speaker bio, links, comments, etc:

Miru Kim:  Underground Art

Miru Kim’s perspective of the world and how she sees it is very different from many of us. She says that she sees the world as an entire living organism, and wishes to know more about it. She almost feels like she can dissect every single part of our world to understand the ways that people go about their daily lives. So, she began her career as an “artist”, so to speak.

Miru Kim moved from South Korea to New York City in 1999. She wanted to begin her life by becoming a surgeon, since dissecting animals was the thing that peeked her curiosity. Around New York City, as you well may already know, rats are a common thing around town. Most people in New York despise the rats or just simply ignore them, but Kim took a liking to them because she said, “they dwell in the fringes of society.” When she took photographs of the rats in the subway, she was threatened by the thought of her camera being taken away from her.

So, she decided to understand how the rats live.

The best way she thought to do this was to photograph herself naked. She believed that it gave a new perspective to the way people see things. She felt like something was missing in the photographs, so she wanted to create some sort of fictional character that symbolized the figure that lived in these abandoned spaces, so she believed the best way was to photograph herself. She wanted the figure in the picture to sort of blend in with the surroundings to make it look like it actually lived in these places.

One story that Kim told really sparked my curiosity.

When she went to take pictures in an abandoned tunnel, she came upon a homeless man who claimed that she was invading his living space. She was frightened, but she explained that she was working on a project. When she got finished, the man offered her his shirt so that she could wipe off her feet. The homeless man, for her, represented an element of the unconscious of the city. He moved to the underground tunnels because he had been abused on the “outside world”. To Kim he was also like the rats who live on the outskirts almost invisible to the “normal” people living in our society. We see them but since they are different, like the rats, society treats them badly and they end up hiding in the underbelly of our cities, maybe not in tunnels here in Dallas but under highway bridges, abandoned houses and building. It is a poor commentary on our society that these homeless people feel less threatened in isolated and abandoned locations.

Some people may believe her “art” to be strange, but it actually is a very good way of expressing her feelings.

She is trying to show other people how some human beings live, which many may not realize. Her way of expressing herself in these surroundings really show others what the outcasts of society live in.

I find it interesting that she choose the nude human form as a way to humanize the photographs. Perhaps, in the basic nude form she is expressing the emptiness displayed by the buildings. We are like the buildings, if we are abandoned and stripped of all enhancements, you can see all the flaws and truly appreciate what is underneath. I believe that if she continues her work, she will spread her ideas all over the world. I had never thought that photographs of old abandoned spaces could be showcased in such a manner that one can truly appreciate their form.

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