Embedded Thread


Through a series of writings and one-on-one conversations with Korean artist Kimsooja, I explored the implications of mimicking, re-doing with attentive embodied awareness, another artists' performance using my body and my environment.  I questioned:  How would my physical and emotional experience change my understanding of the original work?  How might my environment alone change the performance?  And whose experience and performance would this mimicry become? 

My investigation culminated with Embedded Thread , a performance that referenced Kimsooja’s 1999-2005 performances, Needle Woman.   My performance occurred one time on a vast, silent expanse of the Ross Ice Shelf in Antarctica.  Needle Woman was performed on many occasions in various densely populated urban city centers across the globe. 

The Ross Island ice shelf is permanently frozen ocean; 40 meters of packed snow and ice floats on 120 meters of ocean water.  The air was perfectly still.  Camera poised on a tripod nearby,  I am completely alone. A horizontalline divided the snow from the sky.  A silence unlike any silence found in inhabited places, hung in the cold afternoon air.  Perfectly still, I remained there.   My body pieces together the expansive silent sky and the lifeless frozen tundra.

Kimsooja and I discussed these ideas in early 2005.  She contended that performances could not be reenacted because the artist's body, in the case of Needle Woman - her body, must be present for the performance.  (Only she could weave together the landscape as Needle Women).  Months later, Marina Abramovic presented Seven Easy Pieces, reenactments of five artists works first performed in the 60's and 70's.  Abramovic's performances were presented at the Guggenheim and were the first major public re-enactments of other artists work;  she considered Seven Easy Pieces homages but did change many aspects of each work. 

Embedded Thread has significantly changed the way I perceive Kimsooja's work, Needle Woman.  I consider this experience a response not a re-enactment.