Exclusive Interview: Hyunjin Kim’s fresh Perspective on “Frequencies.”

As noted in an earlier post, San Francisco’s Mission District gallery, KADIST, is staging the “Frequencies of Tradition” exhibit through July 16, bringing together a group of internationally acclaimed artists, many presented in the U.S. for the first time.

Frequencies of Tradition at KADIST San Francisco is adapted from its large-scale iterations at the Guangdong Times Museum, Guangzhou, China (2019-2020) and Incheon Art Platform (2021-2022) and is the culmination of an eponymous series of exhibitions and programs initiated by KADIST in 2018 and curated by Hyunjin Kim, KADIST’s former Lead Regional Curator for Asia (2017-2020).

In this exclusive interview, Hyunjin Kim a fresh perspective on “Frequencies.”

Cultural Currents: What makes this exhibition so ambitious?

Hyunjin Kim: The works in the exhibition deal with meta-narratives that have come together over the last 10 years through the artists’ extensive, in-depth research into the Asian region. The artists have developed a profound historical knowledge combined with advanced visual art production skills in film, multi-channel video installation, performance, and Virtual Reality. Their approach to uncovering the lesser-known regional histories comes through in my research and also vice versa, as mine does in theirs, enhancing rich, insightful narratives to rethink the relation and entanglement between tradition and modernization in the Asian region.

CC: What are the greatest challenges faced in redefining tradition?

Hyunjin Kim: The term tradition itself is a heavy term and has offered a conventional image for the Asian region for centuries. The exhibition aims to see tradition as a space of contestation to examine histories of Asian modernization which have gone through imperialism, colonialism, nationalism, cold wars, and accelerated cutting-edge technological development in the region. Furthermore, the exhibition perceives tradition in Asia in a new light, going beyond conventional notions of patriarchy and conservatism. For example, the works by the artist Tomoko Kikuchi, siren eun young jung and Ming Wong wonderfully reveal a gender queer, heterogenous space found in Asian tradition. I hope the audience reads the complex, critical context that the exhibition investigates, rather than considering the exhibition as a typical “Orientalism-driven” exhibition of Asian artists.

CC:  Can you provide an example of how some East Asian philosophies have been misunderstood?

Hyunjin Kim: The work ‘Hotel Aporia’ (2019) by Ho Tzu Nyen investigates Zen Buddhist philosophies such as notion of “the Void” which was utilized by Kyoto School Scholars to discuss how to metaphysically overcome Western Modernity in the early-mid 20th Century during the Pacific War. Ho’s work provides a critical space to reflect on the problem of the promotion of the scholar’s philosophies that contributed to the war discourse and legitimized Japan’s invasion of other part of Asia in the 20th Century. And at the same time, Ho is interested in the ambivalence of this philosophical event by Kyoto School because it was one of the significant early arguments on the problem of the Western canon.

CC: What will be the greatest impression viewers may expect to take away from this exhibit?

Hyunjin Kim: I hope that visitors will recognize the complex, critical context that the exhibition investigates, as well as the critical discourse that has come together through artists’ extensive, in-depth research into the region’s histories through several years of research over the course of the 3-year Frequencies of Tradition program. I hope that the exhibition provokes viewers to rethink the relationship and entanglement between tradition and modernization in the Asia.