We talked to Kim Hankyul about the inspirations for his show with us, Jazz by Jazz, as well as what prompted him to take on jazz music as a thematic in the first place. Jazz by Jazz is on view at Atelier Nord until the 14th of June 2020. Hope to see you around soon!
Nicholas Norton: Jazz by Jazz attempts to recreate jazz through mechanical means. How did that idea come about?
Kim Hankyul: I have been working on imitating natural sounds with mechanical sequences, mostly borrowing motifs from nature and detaching the sounds from their implied sources. The installation I made as part of the degree show for the Art Academy in Bergen last spring for instance, was an attempt to recreate the sound of fire with industrial or domestic objects. When I was planning Jazz by Jazz I wanted to apply the same approach to music. I thought music is very different from what I had been working on, in that there is no necessity in the connection between a certain musical sound and what it implies. I was attracted to this linguistic vagueness. I thought jazz could maximize this aspect by creating its own rule at each time.
NN: Have you been listening to a lot of jazz?
KH: Before I started working on this project I did. In the beginning I was listening to jazz almost 24/7, but I stopped at one point. I began enjoying it less than before, because I was very focused on understanding the logic behind it. Studying it too much made it harder to expand my imagination and intuition when it comes to what jazz should and shouldn’t sound like.
NN: So the danger is that you become too familiar with the genre and you end up with an idea of what jazz that the work can never realize?
KH: Yeah, exactly! I was accumulating too much information, making myself forget about the essential nuance of «jazz». My goal has never been logical analysis or finding formula in it, and jazz has never been math, but at that time I was becoming more and more trapped in calculating so much. I was trying to make a generalized formula for all the small rhythms and variations, and the composition of different notes and instruments. I made so many different parts to mimic the existing beat and sound of existing jazz music, but nothing felt like jazz. I didn’t know why, until I found a video of a guy explaining jazz as «something that you will know when you hear it».
NN: Do you enjoy jazz? Any favorites or recommendations?
KH: Yes, I do. I managed to listen to jazz again yesterday, Sun Ra on the recommendation of a friend of mine. I like Bill Evans a lot.
NN: The look of your work is very consistent across projects. Almost anti-aesthetic with metal fastenings and motors left visible, black coated wood that is often visibly worn. Is it a signature you’ve developed over time or is it mostly a functional choice?
KH: I would say it’s more an aesthetic I developed over time. My goal is to make the audience concentrate on the sound and be able to see how the sound is made. I want the sound to be the primary focus and the visuals come second, as a temporary landscape where the sound is being mimicked. I want everything to look like it can disappear anytime, something like a street theatre or a traveling theatre. I often use thin and worn-out wood for this purpose, making things look shaky and precarious.
NN: Do you imagine that your next project will be keeping with same aesthetic?
KH: I want to try out something that looks different now. It feels like it’s time to explore new materials and I also want to find a way to mix decorative details with my ongoing aesthetic. I feel that there are still a lot of layers that could be added to my work.
NN: Any plans for the near future?
KH: I have upcoming exhibitions in Berlin and Helsinki, as well as in USF and KRAFT in Bergen. I am working on the piece to be shown in Helsinki at this moment, which is the remake of <The Temple of the Golden Pavilion> that I presented last year.