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Miru Kim at TED
March 15, 2009 8:00 PM   Subscribe

Miru Kim: Making art of New York's urban ruins. "At the 2008 EG Conference, artist Miru Kim talks about her work. Kim explores industrial ruins underneath New York and then photographs herself in them, nude -- to bring these massive, dangerous, hidden spaces into sharp focus." [Via]
posted by homunculus (56 comments total) 9 users marked this as a favorite

 
Previously.
posted by homunculus at 8:01 PM on March 15, 2009


She looks really nervous giving that speech.
posted by delmoi at 8:08 PM on March 15, 2009


Naked they came. All naked n' stuff.

SHE IS NUDE.
posted by longsleeves at 8:15 PM on March 15, 2009


Who is taking the piss out of who here?

If I photographed myself nude in front of the Houses of Parliament or Cardiff Castle, or any other work of architecture, ruined or otherwise, and then managed to claim, with a straight face, that including myself nude in the photo was an attempt to "bring these massive and dangerous spaces into sharp focus", I would not expect to be taken seriously by anyone with a brain. If I got some woman to pose nude instead of myself I would expect to be taken even less seriously.

Is there any reason at all to click on any of these links?
posted by motty at 8:19 PM on March 15, 2009 [1 favorite]


where are the cat pictures?
posted by billybobtoo at 8:23 PM on March 15, 2009


posted by motty Is there any reason at all to click on any of these links?

Yes. People post cool stuff on MetaFilter.
posted by mattdidthat at 8:23 PM on March 15, 2009 [3 favorites]


Is there any reason at all to click on any of these links?

Nah, it's not necessary. It's just as easy to snark when you have no idea what you're talking about.
posted by homunculus at 8:44 PM on March 15, 2009 [1 favorite]


Is there any reason at all to click on any of these links?

Yes. The centuries old catacombs beneath many of the major cities of the world are, in a word, fascinating.

Thanks homunculus.
posted by netbros at 8:44 PM on March 15, 2009


Largely, mattdidthat. But this is not cool. I have seen these photos before and they are not art, they are narcissistic bullshit of the worst kind.

Kim devalues the interesting spaces by plonking herself nude in the middle of them. She devalues her own nude body by plonking it in contexts where it is entirely superfluous; she devalues her own photography in the same way, and by extension, the photography of others who strive to take interesting shots of interesting spaces without cheating by inserting themselves nude for no good reason. She devalues the viewer by wasting your fucking time having to figure all this shit out. And she devalues art by taking the 'self-nude photo' shortcut to media buzz, rather than, you know, doing something actually interesting.

So if there is a reason to click here, other than 'some stuff on MeFi is cool', I have yet to see it.
posted by motty at 8:46 PM on March 15, 2009 [7 favorites]


These are actually an interesting spin on the standard urban decay photos. Without a person, the scale of this thing would be hard to capture. And of course there's the contrast between big dirty old machinery and small fleshy human. I approve, even if motty won't be bothered to look.
posted by echo target at 8:48 PM on March 15, 2009


The centuries old catacombs beneath many of the major cities of the world are, in a word, fascinating.

Indeed. So I'd like to see photos of them that didn't take a shit both on the place and the viewer by inserting a pointless nude woman.
posted by motty at 8:48 PM on March 15, 2009


Taking a shit on the place....plonking entirely superfluous things out of context...motty, that sounds like what you're doing here, not what she's doing there.
posted by echo target at 8:51 PM on March 15, 2009


> the Houses of Parliament ... that including myself nude in the photo was an attempt to "bring these massive and dangerous spaces into sharp focus"

Perhaps you are using the Houses of Parliament incorrectly.
posted by shadytrees at 8:53 PM on March 15, 2009


While I don't know if the nudity helps or hurts -- having a human figure in the spaces lends a sense of scale to spaces that might be hard to fathom otherwise.
posted by device55 at 8:54 PM on March 15, 2009


Listening to that woman drone on about her boring, one dimensional "art" is kind of like listening to the Windows text-to-speech assistant recite someone's random twitter feed about folding each and every piece of their laundry.
posted by Burhanistan at 9:00 PM on March 15, 2009 [1 favorite]


Echo target, device55 - the scale of that thing could be captured by including any number of other foreground objects other than a nude human female. Or, indeed, by the kind of photography that does not require a specific recognisable foreground object in order to capture scale. That, of course, would require imagination.

Homunculus, there is no need to be rude just because we disagree on Miru Kim.

May I refer you to the comment by longsleeves, which is nothing if not honest.
posted by motty at 9:13 PM on March 15, 2009


photographs herself in them, nude -- to bring these massive, dangerous, hidden spaces into sharp focus

Like others, I find myself somewhat skeptical. But hey, if that's what she says she's doing, then I guess, in at least one sense of the phrase, that is what she's doing. The question then becomes whether that sense is also in effect for anyone other than her.

But that's art for ya.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 9:22 PM on March 15, 2009


Kim devalues the interesting spaces by plonking herself nude in the middle of them. She devalues her own nude body by plonking it in contexts where it is entirely superfluous

motty: you sound like the worst kind of prude. I think the pictures are pretty interesting.
posted by delmoi at 9:32 PM on March 15, 2009


motty's reading of this seems a little antagonistic, but I would agree the self-nudity seems more like marketing than art.

In the linked video, Kim says (@2:45):
When I took photographs in these locations, I felt there was something missing in the pictures. Simply documenting these soon to be demolished structures wasn't enough for me. So I wanted to create a fictional character or animal that dwells in these underground spaces, and the simplest way to do it at the time was to model myself. And I decided against clothing, because I wanted the figure to be without cultural implications or time specific elements. I wanted a simple way to represent a living body inhabiting these decaying, derelict spaces.
Now, looking at the collection (provocatively titled Naked City Spleen,) it struck me that every instance of the human subject is explicitly posed. Not only this, but the human subject is never interacting with or responding to the environment in any contextually meaningful way. The posing is particularly unnatural and heavily suggests standard nude photography in which the model is the focus. Look at the picture that links to the gallery: the model is the center of the shot. Indeed, every picture in the collection has the model posed centrally and lit very carefully to contrast with the scene. This isn't like a scale photograph with a bunch of people standing off to the side.

Though Kim may claim some artistic idealism in supposing a viewer will understand the photographs as she explains above, it seems extremely disingenuous to construct an image where the posing calls to mind model-focused photography and where the model is placed against a strikingly non-contextual background then expect that the focus of attention will be anything but the model itself.

I simply do not see how the photographs at all suggest a body inhabiting the space - they merely show it being juxtaposed against it. Nor do I understand her appeal to simplicity.
Furthermore, why is it important to avoid time-specific elements, when the structure itself enforces a modern or contemporary time frame (these buildings aren't thousands of years old)? Does a nude, young Asian woman placed against Western landmarks and presented to a Western audience (with its dominant sexualised Orientalism) seem acultural?

It sure does seem, however, that adding naked Asian women moves merchandise.
posted by Sangermaine at 9:44 PM on March 15, 2009 [6 favorites]


That whole presentation can be reduced to a flashback on The Family Guy. This looks like exhibitionism to me. I guess it meant a lot to her.
posted by Flex1970 at 9:44 PM on March 15, 2009


Well, at least she has a nice bottom.
posted by bz at 9:45 PM on March 15, 2009


Some poor, smitten YouTube commenter:


chinaliew (3 days ago) Show Hide
-1
Marked as spam
Reply
i want her so much
i pray for god

i know god will help me
chinaliew (3 days ago) Show Hide
-1
Marked as spam
Reply
i want to hug her so much
please let me hug her for two hour

posted by Burhanistan at 9:49 PM on March 15, 2009


I was really struck by the photo at 3:28. It has an almost "Garden of Eden" sensibility to it, which wouldn't have come across without the human figure.

(And the theater production she mentions at 13:20 sounds really cool!)
posted by en forme de poire at 9:55 PM on March 15, 2009


Sangermaine has it exactly, for me: adding naked Asian women moves merchandise. She could have worn overalls. Or whatever she was wearing anyway to go to those places and take those shots. But that would have been honest and much harder to market.

Delmoi, I'm no prude, for all that I can see how I might have come across as such. Happens I am largely deeply in favour of and keenly interested in pictures of nude women whether as art or as porn. For me these photos are neither.

I see that scholars are divided.

Belated apologies to those of you who do like this stuff, because I'm now being that guy who pops up to say he doesn't (your favourite self-nude inserting female photographer sucks etc) and won't shut up about it, so it's high time I stopped.
posted by motty at 10:06 PM on March 15, 2009 [1 favorite]


Geez. When people have this strong of a reaction to your photography, you're probably doing at least something right.

Does a nude, young Asian woman placed against Western landmarks and presented to a Western audience (with its dominant sexualised Orientalism) seem acultural?

It sure does seem, however, that adding naked Asian women moves merchandise.


Should the artist necessarily shoulder the blame for her audience's racially-based objectifications? Is she supposed to try to be less Asian next time?

Thanks homunculus. I thought this was a good post.
posted by dosterm at 10:10 PM on March 15, 2009 [1 favorite]



My problem isn't with the nudity, but with her assertion that the nudity allows the photos to transcend time period or cultural specificity. For me, these images are very culturally specific, and seem to contain certain unexamined assumptions about what it means to "rediscover" a space or "fall in love" with a city.

Basically, it's really hard for me not to view her work as part of a larger wave of young, mobile, privileged MFAs gentrifying derelict parts of Brooklyn and making art about it.
posted by ducky l'orange at 10:16 PM on March 15, 2009 [1 favorite]


The scenes are interesting, and I'm not dead or ancient so a nude female body holds a certain inherent interest. But does one really add to the other? I would've been more convinced if she used models. As it is I think it's mostly about exhibitionism, or just a cheap ploy to sell DVDs for $350 a pop.

And the lighting in some of these is really, really distracting.
posted by 1adam12 at 10:27 PM on March 15, 2009


Did anybody even look at this shit?
posted by seagull.apollo at 10:31 PM on March 15, 2009


Homunculus, there is no need to be rude just because we disagree on Miru Kim.

Fair enough, and I'm sorry for being snarky myself, but I thought you were trolling. I didn't see why someone would come into a thread, any thread, and say "this sounds stupid, why should I click these links?" unless you're trying to provoke people. Don't click them if you don't want to; I posted them because I like her work.

Kim has never struck me as being an exhibitionist, or trying to use her nudity to try to move merchandise, but maybe that's because I don't find her work sexy and I'm just missing it. I just find the juxtaposition of these decaying, man-made environments with a naked human body striking. It works for me.
posted by homunculus at 10:46 PM on March 15, 2009


No worries, homunculus. Reading back I did perhaps overstate my case and so can see how you may have thought I was trolling, but I really wasn't intending to. I just have (perhaps absurdly) strong views about art and certain things push certain buttons for me in certain ways, as this did. Glad we can amicably agree to disagree.
posted by motty at 10:55 PM on March 15, 2009


this shit?

Wow, that is completely uncool.
posted by Wolof at 10:56 PM on March 15, 2009


When people have this strong of a reaction to your photography, you're probably doing at least something right.

Sometimes people have a strong reaction because the work sucks, and they're astonished that other people don't realize it sucks.

So no, just because people "react strongly" doesn't mean the artist is doing something right.
posted by jayder at 11:39 PM on March 15, 2009 [1 favorite]


these are definitely art, if she says they're art. now it's just a question of whether or not it's good or crap or somewhere in between. I think they're in between.

this is the best thing I've read about art, from the photographer Robbie Cooper's blog - http://blog.robbiecooper.org/ -

Jonathan Jones, on the Guardian Blog, has written what seems like a long overdue observation about art;

The world, since the 1980s, has stopped believing in such a thing as reality. Money was unleashed from facts of any kind. Art became its delusive mirror.

Art is fun, it’s a laugh, it’s entertainment, it’s spectacular, it’s cool … art now aspires to be all the things fashion is… Its success is totally bound up with the same fiction that anything is possible that has inspired banks to lead us all into a looking-glass world.

I’ve tried to resist this fact for a few months, but I’m done with illusion. Art as we know it is finished. It is about to be exposed as nothing more than the decor of an age of mercantile madness. On what bedrock might a new art arise?

It’s been obvious for years that art has been characterised by many of the qualities of interior decor; interior decor for the super rich. Almost as soon as the bubble began to pop, it was amazing how fast that felt dead. As a symbol of this abrupt and spectacular sea-change, The Golden Calf stands like a huge, gilded, gravestone. I was in London last September, the day Lehman Brothers went bankrupt- and the Golden Calf shared the front page with the news of the beginning of the full-scale collapse. You have to hand it to him, Damien Hirst timed it to perfection…

And as for Jonathan Jones’s question about bedrock- here’s my vote; science, relativity, string theory, evolution, technology, psychology.
posted by TMezz at 12:38 AM on March 16, 2009


they're very pretty photos of a very pretty girl. i don't care WHAT most of you think.. if she were fugly, no press. it's the way of the world.
posted by ChickenringNYC at 1:06 AM on March 16, 2009


Sorry, my comment upthread is ambiguous. If I might clarify, this image, linked to by seagull.apollo, gets my back up something fierce.
posted by Wolof at 1:55 AM on March 16, 2009


inserting a pointless nude woman.
posted by CynicalKnight at 2:00 AM on March 16, 2009 [1 favorite]


It is about to be exposed as nothing more than the decor of an age of mercantile madness.

I don't know who it would be exposed to. The public? They could not care less. The world of collectors? Those that are buying speculatively deserve to get burned (only because that is a risk they knowingly take and the smart ones are already out and/or making other provisions) and those that don't aren't being told anything they don't already know.

Art is and has always been about pretty things to hang on the wall or stand in the garden. The mushy part comes when that pretty thing is 'pretty' in a complex and compelling and provocative a way as we have not previously been able to think of. Then it gets considered something else, and all the 'art' that is not as compelling and etc., is considered meh.

I knew an artist once who made very provocative photos that were at least superficially about Islam. Watching her talk with collectors was impressive and something I've recognized (since) as the only smart tactic for an artist. She would say the something, at best, platitudinous about the work to get the ball rolling, the collector would say what they thought, and then she would echo what they had said. Not word for word, but in substance. People were not just buying the images and whatever they thought of that, they were buying the conversation she had with them. (The images were/are compelling mind you, and not all were bought only after talking with her about them).

And that's kind of what I hear this woman doing. She is compelled to take these pictures for reasons that maybe aren't even that clear to herself but she's smart enough to talk a good game about it, buying herself time as she makes the next piece. Art is a bit of a racket, but some of it is, also, better than that.

This post is better than the work.
posted by From Bklyn at 2:23 AM on March 16, 2009 [1 favorite]


I like the idea but I agree there seems to be something a bit off in the execution. Very few of them actually give any sense of scale - I'm not feeling much tension in the pictures. I quite like the body being part of the composition but it's not enough of either 'naked body in peril!' or 'massive inhuman mechanism!' to say much to me. I'm too used to the dizzying imagery of anime/cgi for this type of thing to work.

Also, her body type doesn't help, she doesn't seem in any way tiny or vulnerable to me, in fact it's the opposite - she conveys the plastic indestructability of youth, beauty and priviledge. This would be way more interesting if the nude was elderly, or diseased, or pregnant, for example.

I also agree with Sangermaine, it would be good to see a deeper interpretation of the relationship between the body and the space, or for the pictures to focus on one or the other.
posted by freya_lamb at 3:16 AM on March 16, 2009


The problem is that most of the photos are obvious and boring. Poorly composed and not particularly effective in conveying the size of these places in an interesting way, or any sense of the magical "moment" of the ethereal naked art-pixie making art in a dank railway tunnel. There isn't an idea on her site that I couldn't find in 30 seconds on deviant art. A couple are decent - this one, this one and a couple others, but they get really dreary really fast.
posted by fire&wings at 4:36 AM on March 16, 2009


I would welcome a temporary* ban on young women photographing themselves.

*say 50 years
posted by unSane at 5:12 AM on March 16, 2009


I'll see your fifty and raise a hundred.

Also, the work she talked about where she was staging performance pieces in these spaces sounds promising. Maybe her next piece will be more interesting.
posted by From Bklyn at 6:29 AM on March 16, 2009


It's definitely a marketable conceit, to be sure. I don't really buy the no-clothes-equals-no-context argument. You could definitely find clothing that imparted no specific time period or culture.

This whole series was very interesting to me, but I didn't think the addition of a human figure added anything to it, in fact it detracted from the amazing setting. I kept going back to the thought of "wow, that girl is really working through some stuff with all this", instead of thinking "these sites are gorgeous and it's rare to visit them."
posted by Lipstick Thespian at 7:58 AM on March 16, 2009


She was easy on the eyes and the settings were interesting, so I didn't mind looking at the pictures. Didn't think the whole thing was any more or less artistic than if she hadn't been there naked. My main distraction was thinking that since she took the pictures, she might be disrobed in these areas alone, some of them at night, a very dangerous proposition. I'm sure she had someone there for safety and moral support, at least I hope so. I don't want to read the news story in a few years, you know what i mean?
posted by jester69 at 8:51 AM on March 16, 2009


It certainly is marketable... I very much doubt these would be getting the same kind of attention if she were old, or overweight, or otherwise distractingly-specific. Instead she's just yet another pretty girl with a nice body. It's boring, and doesn't say anything new. Her work reminds me of perfume advertisements. And I am saying this as someone who loves artists like Cindy Sherman, who work primarily in photographic self-portraiture, but who actually does something interesting with it. I also love ruined urban environments, but I don't need a naked chick in them to find them beautiful/sad/compelling.
posted by chowflap at 9:20 AM on March 16, 2009 [1 favorite]


Make almost interesting photos
Add nude self*
Profit


*works only if female
posted by cccorlew at 10:00 AM on March 16, 2009


*works only if female

*works only if conventionally attractive, young, and female.
posted by pomegranate at 11:38 AM on March 16, 2009


*works only if female

*works only if conventionally young and attractive.
posted by From Bklyn at 11:48 AM on March 16, 2009


wow.
this thread sure got ugly.
most days i cry because i wasn't born biologically female.
not here, though.

is it me or does this attack on her femininity seem like that same weird whining that some folks get to when they say things like, "it sure wouldn't be this popular except that's a black guy doing it."

your moneyshot quotes: "*works only if female; *works only if conventionally attractive, young, and female."

too bad the bitch isn't fat, diseased and male, right?
god, you people need to smoke more crack as you obviously aren't smoking enough.
posted by artof.mulata at 2:20 PM on March 16, 2009


artof.mulata: hypothetically, do you honestly think that if an overweight black man said the same things as Ms. Kim about his pictures of him and his penis swinging around in decrepit old spaces that he would be invited to TED Talks and there would be this intrigue?
posted by Burhanistan at 2:37 PM on March 16, 2009


I don't understand what makes her TEDworthy either, but I thought the pieces kind of interesting. I've seen hundreds of abandoned space photos but after a while find them kind of generically flat despite art effects and fifty different takes on what is artsy about the juxtaposition of discarded artifacts, nature and decaying architecture and some previous visitors interaction with it. Putting a figure in such a space isn't anything earthshaking either and indeed, as mentioned, its art-pixie-arting-about-X but it does provide a sense of moment and movement.

I thought the most interesting facet was her migration from medical school to photographing rats...
posted by Ogre Lawless at 2:51 PM on March 16, 2009


Also, Lipstick Thespian and fire&wings, y'all should take a few minutes to find illustrations for your points, seein' as how its so easy and all.
posted by Ogre Lawless at 2:54 PM on March 16, 2009


I think there would be a market for an attractive young man, albeit a different market. Generally beauty of any kind has its adherents, whether their preference seems fair or not.
posted by jester69 at 3:05 PM on March 16, 2009


My issue was that you only saw her face very rarely, and that at a distance which did not allow one to see it well. Without her reaction to the space as a context, it struck me as more of a game of Where's Wicked Waldo.
posted by Samizdata at 3:24 PM on March 16, 2009


Y'know, this may be one of those photographers whose work looks better big. I think that questions of scale just don't really make sense on the computer screen like they do in person.
posted by klangklangston at 4:17 PM on March 16, 2009


Aside from loving these discoveries, the fact that she posed herself in them give the sites a different meaning and context. It's a shame she has to present the art, then tell folks what they are looking at. I'm not talking about their locations or history. Sounds like a recession in creativity and moreso, a lack of feeling. Are you missing Van Gogh's lecture? Taking the talking tour of an art gallery? One doesn't need the background to appreciate the art for what it is. Art for arts sake is fine with me.

She's quite brave doing it her way also. That dipping the toe in the sewage canal...which may look like a nice underground swimming grotto to the casual observer...but... She puts herself in considerable danger doing this, but if you haven't been there, you wouldn't know. If she wore clothes, it would date the photo, instead it could be from the past or the future. Yes, choice. Choose.


The lighting and mood and compositions are fantastic. I hope they're presented as large Cibachrome's. Very large. Cathedral size [I can wish, k], like Ed Burtynski and his Breaking Ground > Mines/Tailings/Railcuts/Homesteads or Three Gorges.

Thanks for that homunculus, excellent.
posted by alicesshoe at 5:25 PM on March 16, 2009


burhanistan, i do think the reaction could be similar. if the person were sincere in their aim. i gather that you don't see that here in miss kim's work. why?

i listened to the TED piece and i was fascinated. i found her articulate and honest and interesting. and i understood her desire to confront those spaces with just a body.

the fact that it happens to be her body and that said body should also be considered desirable by more than a few people on this site/in this forum is irrelevant; the image is relevant and i find it cool to contemplate the stories generated by the sets. some more so than others and some not at all, but i respect her intentions as an artist and as an intellect.

but really, what part of her presentation irked you so much? i hope it wasn't the naked part. and it really can't be argued that she put on much of a sex show for the TED audience. she seemed a little nervous, but articulate. what gives?
posted by artof.mulata at 5:33 PM on March 16, 2009


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