A cylindrical exhibition showroom stands outdoors, surrounded by other exhibition rooms nestled amid nature.

Yunchul Kim, Gyre at Korean Pavilion, 2022.

Courtesy of the artist. Photo by Roman März

Dean Kissick travels through Yunchul Kim’s journey of body and soul—and takes us along for the ride.

Visiting this year’s Korean Pavilion feels like wandering through a laboratory from a dream, a laboratory in which each room contains a mad new experiment, a cybernetic machine made from strange and unfamiliar materials. We might be in a spaceship that has landed in the gardens in Venice. What is being built here?

Patterns are drawn large across the walls. Intricate mathematical and biological structures. There are clues written on the walls also. A quote from the filmmaker Robert Bresson in chalk:

“Let nothing be changed and all be different.”

On the other side of the room, a poem by the artist, the maker, Yunchul Kim, concludes,


swollen sun


all such present in the air

carved by the flap of wings

like deep sea creatures

asleep since the beginning of deep time

like some dream

one never wakes up from”

A metallic art installation reminiscent of a snake node hangs from the ceiling in a gallery hall. The hall is surrounded by windows with scenic views of nature.

Yunchul Kim, Chroma V. Korean Pavilion, 2022.

Courtesy of the artist. Photo by Roman März

At the center of the glass pavilion hangs Chroma V, a giant serpentine sculpture that changes color like a chameleon as waves of movement travel down its body. It has the form of an ouroboros: a snake eating its own tail, representing eternity and endless return. This brings to mind the Bresson riddle, suggesting a reality without end. The sculpture’s 382 laminate-polymer cells change color with the stress of each rhythmic, hypnotic contortion, twisted close to bursting. Each looks like a photograph of a faraway galaxy seen through a telescope. The space serpent is decorated with shifting patterns of cloudy galaxies, with 382 patches of infinite space. We keep looking for life in the universe, but what if the universe is just one scale on a gigantic neverending cosmic snake? This might be the form of everything that ever was or will be: a knotted-snake multiverse that devours itself forever, releasing random moments of beauty as it does so.

These ecstatically engineered cyborg installations are psychedelic mixtures of the ancient and futuristic, steeped in cosmic mythology. I was reminded by Chroma V of the classical sculpture Laocoön, from the Vatican, in which the Trojan priest and his sons battle a terrible writhing serpent. Now Laocoön and his sons are here among Kim’s swollen suns.

A metal and glass installation showcased in a room with dark walls, windows revealing surrounding nature.

Yunchul Kim, Argos - the Swollen Suns. Korean Pavilion, 2022.

Courtesy of the artist. Photo by Roman März

His installation Argos – The Swollen Suns takes the first part of its name from the hundred-eyed giant of Greek antiquity. Dangling from curling matte-black metal arms are electronic blooms, like bundles of light bananas, which play an irregular composition of flashing lights and soft hums. It’s an intergalactic Christmas tree hung with 246 Geiger-Müller tubes that detect cosmic rays colliding with the Earth’s atmosphere. Processes beyond our perception are turned into a light show, a concert performance conducted by the dance of the spheres.

An industrial metallic installation consisting of three vertically stacked blue-lit hexagon shapes, resembling semi-filled aquariums, displayed under visual effect lighting.

Yunchul Kim, La Poussière de Soleils. Korean Pavilion, 2022.

Courtesy of the artist. Photo by Roman März

In the semicircular conservatory is a tall standing sculpture. It’s called La Poussière de Soleils, the Dust of Suns. On its back are tubes full of murky amber fluid; sunlight that has yet to be illuminated, still yet to set fire. Its façade comprises three hexagonal panels filled with a magical alchemical solution of la poussière de soleils, of the artist’s own invention. Each appears filled with thick golden sunshine. The bubbles blown through them leave trails of light even brighter and more golden; like trails of light torn through the heavens, like pools of shooting stars.

In the shadow of La Poussière de Soleils stands a smaller piece, Flare. A sealed glass vessel containing two liquids coated in hydrophilic (which is to say, having a special affinity for water) materials, which are stirred around one another into a vortex, like a gathering storm. They do not mix at all. At the bottom the heavy iridescent gloop gleams like metal. It turns like wet flames in a fire. Everything here seems unreal. This whole exhibition could be a map of the universes.

On the wooden floor between the sculpture’s legs is a blurry revolving prismatic shimmering pattern: the pavilion lights refracted through the Flare, spinning slowly around, glowing delicately, soft around the edges. It’s the faintest, most beautiful sun of all.

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