Haven J Kim
15 November - 13 December 2017
“People do not see you, They invent you and accuse you” - Helene Cixous
Ginny Projects is pleased to present Goodnight, Susanna by Haven J Kim, a work manifested in three parts. Parts one and two take shape as objects: a personalised locket and a signed Hallmark card. Part three plays out as an extended performance in which Ginny herself wears the locket continuously for a duration of five weeks. Collaboratively, the objects and performance frame questions of measurement and storage, asking what specifically is held or discarded within art, love, metaphor, and femininity; and moreover, what is the true capacity of each?
Kim begins with the premise of motherhood, building directly upon the forum provided by Ginny Projects itself. Importantly, Ginny Projects, “a catalogue of recent projects and ideas” is named after Freddie’s mother, Ginny, who of course wears Kim’s piece for the duration of the performance. The locket comes from Speidel’s Miss Mignon, a line of children’s jewellery created in 1939 and marketed widely as an ideal ‘loving’ gift for one’s daughter. The windows of the necklace display cropped clippings of two definitions from James Hall’s Dictionary of Subjects & Symbols in Art. The first, “Night”, is often personified as ghostly woman “in the lamplight with folded wings, her head in her hands, the two children [sleep and death] asleep nearby”). The second, “Susanna”, a “fictional [Biblical] heroine whose innocent virtue triumphed in the end over villainy.” Hall’s full definitions, long paragraphs each, of course far exceed the limit of a Miss Mignon locket’s display capacity, which (apparently) holds less than or equal to one complete English word.
Kim expands upon these ideas of storage and motherhood with her second art object, the Hallmark card. The predetermined text of the generic yet sentimental consumer good enables any buyer’s daughter to know she is “loved beyond measure”, a “keeper of dreams” and plays upon motifs of emotional and metaphorical space/limitation. Inside the card, “Mommy H” has penned a handwritten note, leaving (presumably) her daughter (and the viewer) with little more than a cryptic quote from The Perjured City, stating: “People do not see you. They invent and accuse you”. The play cited, by Helene Cixious, follows a mother who cries out for revenge after losing her haemophiliac sons during France’s Tainted Blood Scandal of the early 90s. Her grief is met by Aeschylus, the father of classical Greek tragedy, as Cixious masterfully uses archetypal frameworks to unpack contemporary trauma and raise the simple question of Justice, a spear in the mud. With this quote Kim for the first and only time contorts away from purposefully blunted metaphors, dull historic symbolism, and painfully contrived sentimentality. Coyly, she holds poeticised metaphor and projected fictionalisation in silent space, positing the ability of each to encompass the other.
When Kim presents the finite locket for Ginny to wear, she offers up the tried, laden, and often problematic equation of “woman” to “vessel”, simultaneously asking us to consider not only the storage capacity of each but that of the critical framework itself. Here, the actor/artist breaks character, gesturing to the absurdity of art and academia, Cultural Institutions at large. The work twists, removing “mother” and “woman” from their corporeal body and relocating them within the zone of “femininity”. Now made of air, it frames this femininity loosely as a sort of chosen ontology, and maybe even a reckless synonym for “love”. For better and for worse, Kim expands capacity by negating the physical, partially untethering femininity from the historical weight of its body so that it may exist liminally as a contemporary metaphor. But with the simple existence of the two art objects - which function as artefacts of a specific moment, from a personalised hand, at a specific time - we are grounded (bodied) in banality again.
Goodnight, Susanna presents duality like a self-aware acrostic poem about S-P-A-C-E. The capacity of metaphor is endless but empty; the capacity of experience limited but ripe. Both are offered as modalities to emotionally navigate, driven by fate or whim respectively. Like the subject of a Greek tragedy, this condition is eternal, universal, and deeply human. Or maybe, it’s just a locket, both good and cute. The choice, of course, is only Ginny’s to choose.
- Katey Acquaro
Haven J Kim (1993) is an artist based between Seoul and New York.