By Miru Kim
Over the last ten years, New York City has grown to be my favorite city. The island of Manhattan alone has a dense, mysterious network of man-made structures soaring fifteen hundred feet aboveground and digging eight hundred feet below. The five boroughs of New York are connected by more than thirty-five bridges and tunnels that make the city a miraculous feat of engineering, architecture, and design. The city has an anatomy and a psyche as complex as that of any human being.
Experiencing feelings of alienation and anxiety in the city – a city that has increasingly become more surveilled and commodified – I began to understand how many artists and authors suffered from severe bouts of depression, inertia, and isolation, which the term spleen embodies. One of the ways I escaped such feelings was to visit desolate and hidden places in the city. Every time I stepped out of the ordinary aboveground spaces that were filled with anonymous crowds, I felt regenerated and unrestrained.
Exploring industrial ruins and structures made me look at the city as one living organism. I started to feel not only the skin of the city, but also to penetrate the inner layers of its intestines and veins, which swarm with miniscule life forms. These spaces—abandoned subway stations, tunnels, sewers, catacombs, factories, hospitals, and shipyards—form the subconscious of the city, where collective memories and dreams reside.
I have always been fascinated by living beings reclaiming the urban ruins, having come across more than just rats: wild dogs, cats, birds, and bees nesting in sugar barrels in abandoned sugar factories. Envisioning imaginary beings that could dwell in these spaces, I began to occupy them myself. I became an animal or a child interacting with the surroundings. As I momentarily inhabit these deserted sites, they are transformed from strange to familiar, from harsh to calm, from dangerous to ludic.
Miru Kim is a New York-based artist who has explored various urban ruins such as abandoned subway stations, tunnels, sewers, catacombs, factories, hospitals, and shipyards. For her new series that examines the relationship between pigs and humans, she has visited various industrial hog farms. She was featured as one of America’s Best and Brightest 2007 in Esquire magazine. Her work has been spotlighted in countless other international media such as The New York Times, TED.com, The Financial Times, ARTE France, Ovation TV, Time Out New York, NY Arts Magazine, The Korea Daily, La Stampa, Berlingske Tidende, VanityFair.de, Korea Herald, Vogue Girl. Public collections of her work include Leeum, Samsung Museum of Art and Hana Bank. Her work has been shown in various galleries, museums, and art fairs (Gallery HYUNDAI in Seoul, Queens Museum of Art in New York, National Museum of Visual Art in Montevideo, Coreana Museum in Seoul, SCOPE Basel, Miami International, Lodz Biennale in Poland, etc), and she was invited to present her work at the Entertainment Gathering in Monterey, CA (2008), and the World Culture Forum in Dresden, Germany (2009).
Miru was born in Stoneham, Massachusetts in 1981 and was raised in Seoul, Korea. She moved back to Massachusetts in 1995 to attend Phillips Academy in Andover, and moved to New York City in 1999 to attend Columbia University. In 2006, she received an MFA in painting from Pratt Institute. She is an avid cook and a rat lover.
Follow Miru’s work on her personal website