video still, From the commanding heights…, 2007; courtesy of Artist
From the commanding heights… spun out of in the room 2: actress I knew (2006), which first developed through a theater residency at Huis aan de Werf, Utrecht, as part of the in the room series.
From the commanding heights… was first shown at De Appel, Amsterdam, in the Prix de Rome 2007
exhibition. The piece was first presented as a diptych with an hour-long performance,
pushing against the air, in which I interview two different musicians, during their performances,
around the subject of migration in music.
The camera is a magical device, but it is used on different terms throughout the world. My interest in this
piece was to tell a story about these terms of magic.
We know that data often gets lost during migration from one medium to another—or even within one
medium from one regional coding to another. For instance, the 100 more scan lines that visually superior PAL has over NTSC (525 lines) are not discernible to the eyes, but they are detectable to the PAL
machines, which cannot decode NTSC tapes. I looked for an allegorical story from history, which carries a metaphor of these invisible lines, which are detectable within one socio-political system, but will not
appear to the eyes of those outside that system.
I chose the gossip about a Korean actress from the ’70s, who allegedly had an affair with the then-ruling dictator, who came to her apartment after causing electrical blackouts in her village. In 2006, the Korean Film Archive was in transition, and the only copy of the film featuring this actress that I could get was from a private DVD store owned by a cinephile who digitized the VHS tapes from video rental stores, which were already obsolete in Korea by 2006. I was interested in the fact that certain films and stories prolong their lives through copying, imitation, transfers, and migration.
Many early video art works used the Sony Portapak and its successors, transported from its origin, Japan. I found an analogous relationship between cameras being moved from one place to another and myself being moved from one place to another for education, or for a so-called cultural encounter.
I imitated a shot from Joan Jonas’ video, Organic Honey’s Visual Telepathy, in one scene when the voice in From the commanding heights… describes the actress in the room. To buy one of the first generations of Sony cameras in the ’70s, to carry it from Japan to New York, to play with it in her SoHo studio contrasted with a situation I portrayed in From the commanding heights…
I found it eerie that the formation of video art in one country, and the economy behind it, coincides with the erasure in another country. From the commanding heights... draws out the shape of this obsolescence.
Phillips, Glenn, “Sung Hwan Kim, From the Commanding Heights…: A Screening with Glenn Phillips,” Columbia University, co-organized by Asia Art Archive in America, 2015
O'Neill-Butler, Lauren, "Sung Hwan Kim: From the Commanding Heights…," review, X-Tra Contemporary Art Quarterly, Volume 14, Number 3, Spring 2012
Perry, Colin, "Sung Hwan Kim," Frieze Magazine, Issue 141, Sep. 2011, p208
Kleijn, Koen, "Interview met Sung Hwan Kim: Zelfonderzoek in pieces," De Groene Amsterdammer, Jun. 15, 2007