Stroom Bibliotheeksessies: Minsook Kang

Tuesday 15 February 2022, 16:00-18:00
Location: library Stroom Den Haag, Hogewal 1-9

Archive Stroom Bibliotheeksessies / library sessions

On Tuesday afternoon 15 February our special guest to the library session was the artist Minsook Kang, born in Seoul (South Korea) in 1985 and currently living and working in The Hague. Minsook arrived with a suitcase full of books that were the starting point of a lively talk on her work and sources of inspiration, together with the other participants: Elsbeth Ciesluk, Karel van Laere, Guenn Ramon Gustina and Cristina Lavosi, all artists from The Hague.

The reason to invite Minsook as our special guest were a few of her books. They intrigued us by their careful design, pictures and writings, and above all the projects that underlie them. ‘The (In)Visible Vintage Shop' is the photographic and verbatim record of 15 hours of conversations with the owner of a vintage shop; ‘The Christmas Trees Island' is the photographic record of her efforts to give a second life to discarded Christmas trees by replanting them on a secret island.
The conversation started with her explanation of the concept behind these projects, her wish to operate in the twilight zone between art and life. A wish that arose during a period of reflection after she had finished the art academy in Korea. She became aware of the paradoxical phenomenon in art that it seems important for an artist to be seen and talked about in order to be successful, but that, on the other hand, this does not leave enough space for the unobtrusive, the integer gesture.
She became interested in artists who have stopped making art, or who have tried to bring life and art together. Important examples have been artists like Hsieh Tehching, stanley brouwn, Seth Siegelaub and Bas Jan Ader.

In 2015 Minsook left Korea, went to Denmark and now she lives in the Netherlands. This naturally sparked her interest into the complete different culture. Here she observes, and wonders with an emphatic eye for the unobtrusive. Minsook gives attention to the disgarded, highlights them by just listening, a conversation, replanting and soothing. Her wish to express attention to what is underestimated, made her read ‘Facing Value', the Stroom publication that aims to rethink our economic value system, and John Dewey, the philosopher who stressed the importance of ‘Art as Experience'. ‘Dewey for Artists' has been very important to Minsook, judging its countless memo stickers and underlines. Her interest in art as a communicative, participatory project, also brought her to dive into the ‘happening' and of course Allan Kaprow's ‘Essays on the Blurring of Art and Life'.
For Minsook, making publications to share her 'actions' is a way to bridge the gap between life and art. She doesn't want to call her work socially engaged or activist, but rather it is meant to be a poetic gesture, a subtle form of resistance. The guests noted that, though Minsook doesn't want to be called an activist artist, in fact she is. "Minsook takes action by taking care".
"But here is no judgement underlying these actions", Elsbeth remarked. There is no condemnation of the people throwing out the trees: Minsook just picks them up and cherishes them, while hardly anyone knows about her doing this.
This subtlety, the care that underlies much of her ‘micro-political gestures' is also found in two other books that have inspired her: ‘More-than-Human', a magnificent book on the state of post- anthropocentric thinking, that proposes reparative attention across species and beings. Another is 'The Gardener's Year', a funny book by the Czech writer and political activist Karel Capek. It not only reminded Minsook of her father, who is also an amateur gardener, but she also was surprised to notice that, though it was written already a century ago, it still sounds very witty.
At the moment Minsook is working on several projects. One of them is related to some fascinating aspects of language and to the intriguing ‘Taxidermy For Language-Animals' by Tine Melzer. She also continues working on her ‘Christmas Trees Island', now even including its soil and water. And at the moment she also takes part in the group exhibition ‘Parasites of the Imaginary' at the Balcony, The Hague (more info below). There you can also find the list of these and many more titles that have passed during this inspiring session.
Minsook sometimes researches her projects for many years, without exactly knowing how it will take shape in the end.
"It is like a game, with lots of freedom", she says.

More information on Minsook Kang:
>> interview Stroom Invest Week 2020 (new updates expected in March)

Minsook Kang's suitcase full of books (a selection)

Dewey for Artists / Mary Jane Jacob. - The University Of Chicago, 2018 ISBN: 9780226580449
John Dewey is known as a pragmatic philosopher and progressive architect of American educational reform, but some of his most important contributions came in his thinking about art. Dewey argued that there is strong social value to be found in art, and it is artists who often most challenge our preconceived notions. Dewey advocated for an art of democracy. Identifying the audience as co- creator of a work of art by virtue of their experience, he made space for public participation. Moreover, he believed that societies only become-and remain-truly democratic if its citizens embrace democracy itself as a creative act, and in this he advocated for the social participation of artists. Throughout the book, Mary Jane Jacob draws on the experiences of contemporary artists who have modeled Dewey's principles within their practices. We see how their work springs from deeply held values. We see, too, how carefully considered curatorial practice can address the manifold ways in which aesthetic experience happens and, thus, enable viewers to find greater meaning and purpose. And it is this potential of art for self and social realization, Jacob helps us understand, that further ensures Dewey's legacy-and the culture we live in.

The Blurring of Art and Life / by Allan Kaprow. - Oakland : University of California, 1995. - (Lannan Series vol. 3).
ISBN: 9780520205628
Allan Kaprow is among the most influential figures in contemporary American art. Famous for creating Happenings in the 1950s, he is also known for having written and published some of the most thoughtful, provocative, and influential essays of his generation. Kaprow has conducted a sustained philosophical inquiry into the paradoxical relationship of art to life, and thus into the nature of meaning itself. Significantly, he has done so during a time of epochal change in technology, communications, and the arts. From the modernist avant-garde of the 1950s to fin-de-siecle postmodernism, from the early days of television to the laptop computer, Kaprow has written about - and from within - the shifting, blurring boundaries of genre, media, culture, and experience. In these essays, he philosophizes about the way we define a work of art and its relationship to life. He not only charts the course of his own development as an artist but also comments on contemporaneous developments in the arts. Because he is an experimental artist whose work is "lifelike" rather than "artlike"--More like brushing teeth than sculpting stone - Kaprow's essays are instrumental to his practice and may be regarded as notes in the margins of his career.

The Gardener's Year / by Karel Capek ; ed. by Micheal Pollan. - Mineola : Dover Publications, 2017 (1929)
ISBN: 9780486817248
Capek is best known internationally as the author of R.U.R., the science-fiction play that introduced the term robot to the world. Karel Capek's satiric gifts take a different turn in this impishly comic book, which recounts the trials, labors, joys, and meditations of the amateur gardener. Rather than a how-to book, Capek's volume offers a lighthearted mock-treatise on the pains and rewards of tending a small and resistant garden plot. From January to December, the author and his brother, illustrator Josef Capek, trace the vagaries of the amateur horticulturist's year, with brief side notes on seeds, the soil, plants, the beauties of autumn, and other aspects of gardening.

More-than-Human / ed. by Andrés Jaque, Marina Otero Verzier, Lucia Pietroiusti; with contr. by: Anna
L. Tsing, Silvia Federici, Octavia Butler [ al.]. - Rotterdam : Het Nieuwe Instituut, 2020 ISBN: 978-90-830152-9-3
The ‘More-than-Human' reader brings together texts by writers across a wide array of disciplines that serve to reflect on the state of post-anthropocentric thinking today. Focusing on the ecologies and technologies of climate injustice and inequalities, as well as the destructive structures lurking within anthropocentrism, More-than-Human proposes complex entanglements, frictions, and reparative attention across species and beings. Thinking past the centrality of the human subject, the texts that compose this reader begin to imagine networks of ethics and responsibility emerging not from the ideologies of old, but from the messy and complex liveliness around us, and underfoot.

Taxidermy For Language-Animals : a book on stuffed words
/ by Tine Melzer. - Zurich : Rollo Press, 2016
ISBN 9783906213101
A parrot can be trained to repeat the sounds we make when we speak. But what does a parrot say? 'Taxidermy for Language-Animals' examines language fragments from different practices - philosophy, literature, visual art - by exploiting some of our linguistic habits and tools. This book includes examples of ordinary language trapped in images. Games we play with language and games language plays with us are introduced. Like language itself, language-games are based on perception, habit and memory and are played in collaboration with others.

Bubbles : Spheres Volume I: Microspherology / by Peter Sloterdijk, Massachussets : MIT, 2011 ISBN: 9781584351047
Bubbles is the first volume in Peter Sloterdijk's monumental Spheres trilogy: an investigation of humanity's engagement with intimate spaces. Rejecting the century's predominant philosophical focus on temporality, Sloterdijk, a self-described student of the air, reinterprets the history of Western metaphysics as an inherently spatial and immunological project, from the discovery of self (bubble) to the exploration of world (globe) to the poetics of plurality (foam). Exploring macro- and micro-space from the Greek agora to the contemporary urban apartment, Sloterdijk synthesizes the spatial theories of Aristotle, Rene Descartes, Gaston Bachelard, Walter Benjamin, and Georges Bataille into a morphology of shared, or multipolar, dwelling, identifying the question of being as one bound up with the aerial technology of architectonics and anthropogenesis. Sloterdijk describes ‘Bubbles', as a general theory of the structures that allow couplings, or ‘an archeology of the intimate'.' The publication includes a wide array of images, not to illustrate Sloterdijk's discourse, but to offer a spatial and visual parallel narrative to his exploration of bubbles. (Volume II: Globes, III: Foam)

Fucking Good Art #35 - New Existential / ed. by Rob Hamelijnck and Nienke Terpsma ; contr. by Ger de Groot, Jan Verwoert, Alana Jelinek, Alexandra Blättler. - Zurich : edition fink, 2016
ISBN: 978-3-03746-201-0 / ISSN: 1874-0227
Today existentialist values have become popular values. We all must live an authentic life. In that respect existentialism has penetrated deeply into our culture. At the heart is a simple plea to take responsibility for our lives and it is up to us to create meaning. ‘You are free, therefore choose, that is to say, invent!' Sartre says. We are what we make of ourselves and we cannot abdicate this responsibility and leave it to an authority. That's a heavy load, which people are eager to escape.
Existentialism says all human interaction is conflict, and we are lonely, competitive individuals. But it is also a freedom philosophy, a narrative of agency, emancipation and responsibility. It influenced every single one of us through cinema, literature, and art. How free are we really as artists and what is our project in life? You are not born an artist, you have to become one, you have to invent. But if our purpose in life is to have our unique individual project, how can we engage with others and transform what is so personal and subjective into something magical that lifts more people than you alone?

Heide Hinrichs : Morning Change / essay by Elizabeth Haines. - Ghent : Posture, , 2019. - (Posture editions Nº 33)
‘Morning Change' is a book on movement, location and nomadism in the oeuvre of the Brussels based German artist Heide Hinrichs (b. 1976). It is an invitation to follow different lines that are directed east
— east of Kassel, east of Busan, east of Seattle, east of London. The lines are drawn over continents and oceans, against the Earth's own movement we unconsciously witness with each sunrise. Within the traces of these lines, static objects are put back into motion and they are made to leave their recommended positions of meaning.The publication brings together three groups of works, developed over different periods of time between 1999 and 2018, exploring the artist's recurring interest in these topics.

I never rest, but I don't know if I ever work either / by Maarin Ektermann, Ott Kagovere and Maria Muuk. 2018. - (Homeless Texts)
Booklet with Estonian cultural workers' confessions on work and leisure, conducted via email and social media originally edited under the title ‘I Never Rest, but I Don't Know if I Work Either'. Homeless Texts is a series of booklets that gathers interviews, essays and other writings that don't seem to belong to any concrete shelf or platform but that the authors feel are important to circulat . The
subseries ‘Art Work' gathers materials about the precarious reality of cultural production.

Books by Minsook Kang:

The Right to Opacity, 2018 (Artistic Research Graduation Thesis)
The (In)Visible Vintage Shop, 2020 (designed by Jungeun Lee & Hong Kim)
Christmas Trees Island, 2020 (designed by Jungeun Lee & Hong Kim)
Soothing Songs from an Alien, 2021 (exhibition catalogue)