YoungEun Kim
김영은 

Guns and Flowers
2017
horn speakers, speaker stands, amplifier, sound, drawings
sound: 4min loop
dimensions variable


This work was conceived upon watching a news broadcast about the DMZ loudspeaker wall and its transmissions from the South Korean border into North Korea.
According to other news articles on the event, the transmissions of propaganda had been heard as far as 24km from the loudspeaker wall. This action by South Korea disgruntled the North, instigating the latter to demand respect for its distressed soldiers. Furthermore, North Korean refugees themselves have stated that the broadcasts were ineffective and simply annoying. The contents of the broadcasts included: information about South Korea, the reality of North Korean society, weather forecasts, and popular South Korean songs having nothing much to do with ideological propaganda.

I focus my attention on the fact that everyday, popular love songs can be engineered for use as an anxiety-inducing weapon against foreign peoples. I also reflect here on the mechanisms of listening. Vibrating air is perceived as a tactile sensation with its source of energy working remotely to beat one’s eardrum—just as a bullet shot from a distance has a physical effect on its target. What interests me is the use of song as a psychological, auditory, and tactile device that reveals this sensory network by means of fear. What is also unveiled is the contradiction between purpose and method. Through sculptural method and listening, I sought to recreate the event of experiencing song used as bullet of sonic warfare.

The dominant frequencies of audible sound are heard intermittently or felt as vibrations to people in distance. These resemble a dense mass or sharp thorn when represented visually on an acoustic spectrogram. I gathered the shapes that emerged out of a particular love song, and cut out and reproduced white and pink noise. Then lastly, I reconstituted these as rhythms. These fragmented sounds, in contrast to the full emotions of love songs, kindle a scorching tactility. 





Courtesy of SongEun Art & Cultural Foundation, Seoul (Photo by Jaebum Kim & YoungEun Kim)





Mark
Flesh of Sound
2017
speakers, playback laptop, wooden wall
6min 12sec
dimensions variable


This work began from an interest in the power of collective voice as a nonmaterial tool utilized to re-contextualize song. Participants of any demonstration, regardless of the occasion, often bring with them a song or excerpted phrase, completely out of context, made appropriate by the physical and material properties of the collective voice. Songs used during protest stand as potent symbols, reinforcing strong emotional bonds among protestors. Much of the time, new songs are written for the occasion. Other times, however, the collective selects a pre-existing, arbitrary tune to serve a revolutionary purpose.

One song in particular, the “Happy Birthday To You ” song, sung during the Hong Kong Umbrella Movement, became the accidental song of choice by protestors. During the protest, an unintentionally pressed megaphone button caused the accompaniment part to sound, leading to enthusiastic applause and a mass sing-a-long; the song instantly acquired symbolic power through collective voice. Following this event, each time the protest reached peak unruliness, a minority of protestors would begin singing this song, quelling the curses and shouting, ultimately transforming the whole atmosphere.
Placed in the context of this work, a single, humming voice begins the melody, gradually enriched by an additive process of layering more voices and melodies atop the humming. The process presents the shift in the way song is embodied across the spectrum spanning from a singular voice to a collective body.










Courtesy of Art Space Pool, Seoul (Photo by Chulki Hong & YoungEun Kim)









$1’s Worth
2016
3 channel sound installation synchronized with a video & 3 respectively looped videos
3 speakers, 4 monitors, 2 drawings, acoustic foam
dimensions variable


In this work, I focus especially on one particular characteristic of sound, its non-materiality. In an attempt to materialize sound, concrete units of measurement—namely, length, height, and width—are applied when transforming it. I purchased various pop songs from an online music store for $1.29 per song, and substituted the above mentioned units for the sound file’s time, pitch, and frequency range. These substitutions were done not according to the scientific standards of acoustical studies, but rather, according to commonly used terms by which laypeople understand and describe everyday objects. I then accordingly reduced each song’s time, pitch, and frequency range, creating three new versions respective to each dimension, with each version worth one dollar.

Three speakers assigned to time, pitch, and frequency cycle through the versions of every song, and accompanying tutorial videos demonstrate how each sound is sculpted to its final form.
Sound cannot be seen or touched, thus it is difficult to discuss and confirm its lasting existence in terms of visual or tactile perception. This work exhibits the process of materializing sound as a medium by means of embodied physical measurements.

The motivation for this work is based on my experience over the years in dealing with sound as a primary material and subject. Each time I attempt to convey how sound occupies a physical space and how its apparent non-materiality can act physically on the world, I instead experience my own inability to communicate within an ocularcentric art system. From this, I have created a work in the form of an ironic tutorial attempting to establish temporal common sense on the material properties of sound.










Courtesy of Leeum, Samsung Museum of Art, Seoul (Photo by Hyo Jung Ahn & Video Still by YoungEun Kim) 





Halo Composition
2015
speakers, mixed media
dimensions and durations variable (unique durations per looped channel)


Among the many qualities to consider regarding the voice, I focus on its corporeality—a quality reminding the listener of someone’s bodily presence. Whenever I heard the voice of a neighbor passing through our shared walls, I came to imagine the body of this unseen neighbor. A voice can provide much physical and visual information about its bodily source and the space in which it resides. Since the invention of the phonograph, technology and media have progressively separated the voice from its body.

This work reconnects the isolated voice back to a physical body and space. To achieve this, I collected various improvised vocal noises that typically complement the melodic phrases of popular songs. The sounds were then hidden behind or within unremarkable architectural elements found in a common home, such as a closet door or bathroom wall. I entitled the series “Halo Composition”, which reflects the method of arranging the sound sculptures to produce a distinctive rhythmic and textural presence in a given space.















#01-06 Courtesy of HITE Collection, Seoul (Photo by Heeseung Chung)
#07 Courtesy of Rijksakademie van beeldende kunsten, Amsterdam (Photo by Gert Jan van Rooij)








Bespoke Wallpaper Music
2014
sound performance series


In “Bespoke Wallpaper Music”, three performance pieces -‘A Concrete Round’, ‘Vertical Canon’ and ‘Casting Quintet’- are presented considering sound and space on the first floor, in the elevator and on the sixth floor of the Solomon Building in Seoul. The Solomon Building possesses unique architectural qualities. In the shape of a fan, the building consists of six stories, and on each floor exist small rooms in layers, as if each room hides other rooms behind it. This performance piece actively utilizes spaces that are thus hidden. They are the small rooms beyond the walls, the veranda circumnavigating the building’s exterior and, lastly, the elevator as a space that hides.

Performers hide themselves in spaces from where they cannot see or touch one another, and continue their performances according to other performers’ faint sounds and the conductor’s remote signals. The audience too, is placed in a situation in which they cannot view the performers, and only through sound can they trace the performers’ positions or imagine and interpret the spaces they inhabit. Therefore, while the performance is in progress, various sound-spaces complexly overlapping are formed, and they are the invisible sound-space layers between performers, another set of spatial sounds in between performers and the audience, and the sound-spaces in the audience’s minds according to their individual, unique imaginings and interpretations.
- Excerpts from exhibition text written by Min Hwa Yun








(Photo by Jong Hyun Seo & Video Still by Mee Jee Lee)