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One-time Romance and Old Shelves
Romantic Storage, 2022, SeMA Storage, Seoul, Republic of Korea

Romantic Storage, the name of the exhibition and the artwork itself, is composed of dozens of narrow columns erected on a human scale. This artwork first started as the public art project Form is romantic storage of fragmented information (2019) that was planned for installation in the lobby of Technical University Munich, where the inside of the building is assumed to be a data center and the sentence is visualized through the black-and-white binary system that substitutes 0 and 1. If the initial plan was composed of two sides, Romantic Storage became an extended installation occupying the space as a whole.

As an exhibition held at the SeMA Storage, Romantic Storage is divided into two parts: first is the drawing work of 3D-rendered data printed into a flat image; second is a spatial installation work composed of black-and-white steel columns in contact with the grid of old shelves in the exhibition space that was once a reagent warehouse used by the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. These two parts convey the same data in different shapes through different forms of output, providing totally different experiences and perspectives. The columns installed in the space exist as a kind of coordinate axes, occupying but not fully filling the space. In the exhibition, the locational memories of the SeMA Storage are recalled from time to time, but they are just used to form the visual landscape instead of working as a narrative. This seems to be because the work of Shinae Kim shows only the path of movement and follows the data structure that lets meanings slip away.

The word “romantic” in Romantic Storage gives a hint about the artist’s attitude. The origin of “romantic” can be either “Roman-tic” or the nostalgia for “Roman-Antique.” Compared to its broad implication of narratives of love, love affairs, and heroes among Romans, the meaning of the word has more or less been narrowed down today. Still, what is noticeable about this term is that it makes us look at the glorious “state” or “time” of Rome with nostalgic eyes. Shinae Kim translates the romantic into what is not real, what doesn’t last but is only momentary. While visual art in general tends to use points, lines, and sides as a formative language that presumes “being,” Shinae Kim’s work can be interpreted to postulate “absence” that uses the formative language for its expression. Because “romantic” often refers to a feeling that is far from a sense of reality, a certain atmosphere, or a momentary state of feeling, it shares some meanings with what the artist tries to summon.

As an extension of formative language that posits “absence,” Kim’s work includes remarkable emptiness. To put it differently, the work does not present itself strongly, but the state of not being ironically gives rise to an iconic reading. By distributing lines in a space, it uses the space with the lines excluded as wide sides—which is a more fundamental way of iconic expression where objects come into view through non-expression. Visitors would use their “romantic” visions to view another dimension that has not formed on the surface. They should simply be careful not to take a simple modernist approach to the work mainly focusing on the formative language of points, lines, and sides considering only the exclusion of all decorative elements.

Shinae Kim has worked on converting various kinds of information forming a given space into a formative language. She brings emptiness or elements of the existing space into her works to confuse our ordinary sense of scale. The elements we often see as horizontal may be put vertically, or vice versa. Such sense can be compared with the sense we have while using the digital interface. This perspective or sense of scale seems to be intended to see a line as a point—or a side as a line—in a single space. In the tradition of visual art, the grid is a useful system and tool for transferring a landscape onto a flat surface. It has also been a way to rule by dividing physical spaces, or social and boundary domains. I look forward to witnessing how the romantic attitude of Shinae Kim—which is in contrast to the desire to control and limit landscapes, sights, or movements—could be executed further for years to come.

Seawoo Chung, Curator, Seoul Museum of Art