Curator’s Pick: May | Kim Beom

Working in a climate of withdrawal and containment has a way of attuning our senses to and altering the flow of time in the environments we inhabit, and the objects and images within it. By the day, my mind grows increasingly sensitised to the human propensity to furiously locate order in chaos. Designed to provide structure and determination, systems of order inevitably attempt to govern the neat divides between spiritual, internal and external realities. The artist Kim Beom suggests these realms exist in profound synchrony; his deft practice interrogates the limits of how we perceive the things around us, and our tendency to be overly trusting of their familiar appearances and natural orders.

In a disarmingly humorous and analytical fashion, Kim’s work takes us back to the fundamental act of looking, and presents itself as a series of visual riddles that synthesise our phenomenological experiences, mythology, and the language of absurdity.


Centaur #1 (Detail) (2016), Kim Beom, Cyanotype on paper, 36.6 x 124.1 cm, Edition of 8.

Centaur #1 (Detail) (2016), Kim Beom, Cyanotype on paper, 36.6 x 124.1 cm, Edition of 8.

First explored as a moving image in Horse Riding Horse (After Eadweard Muybridge) (2008), Kim’s foray into the humorous application of 19th-century English-American photographer’s pioneering work positioned the riding activity as a disconcerting one between two horses – drawing sentiments on master-servant dynamics to the fore. He revisited this relationship during his residency at STPI in 2015, seeking to further confound this familiar scene in the cyanotype series Centaur.

While his 2008 video sequence was completed through images rapidly succeeding one another to create an illusion of a single continuous event, here Kim’s gridded stills return a slower act of seeing to the viewer. Centaur records the sequential locomotion of a rider and a bucking horse at the rodeo, from the moment the rider enters the arena until he falls off the beast, reeling from inertia. The playful title of the work suggests a different way of perceiving the forms before our eyes. Captured in still frames, the bronc riding event at its climax momentarily conjoins rider and horse, creating an image of the centaur, a creature from Greek mythology with a half-man, half-horse composition. Two disparate sets of forces, previously defined as conqueror and subjugated, now exist to propel a single hybridised entity. Drawing a relation between this compound being and how tools extend the human body and its functions, Kim’s exploration in Centaur brings into question hierarchies that exist in nature, and challenges how palpably we can distinguish human from non-human. His tender pursuit of underlying emotional, psychological and even mythological aspects reminds us that our perceptions, their attendant realities, and the conditions that shape them, are more malleable than we think.


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