THE NIGHT WATCH (2011-2017)

The Night Watch

This series began when the artist worked as a night watchman at the Demilitarised Zone between North and South Korea. Straying from his post one night, and driying in and out of wakefulness, he stumbled into a tree and mistook it for another man. The photographs that he developed out of his experience of the night watch suture the cleft between blindness and vigilance, recording the sensory experience of an artist with eyes wide shut.

In Shinwook Kim’s contribution to The Night Watch, the clarity of the camera flash counters the cloudy gaze of the sleepwalker. He exposes skeletal, swaying trees and wrenches them cleanly, without shadows, from their natural surroundings, abstracting them into two dimensions. Eerily and ethereally illuminated by his camera lens, they are flattened and fetishised, almost superimposed onto the night sky.

‘Long exposure’ is a metaphor that permeates the series. The artist himself, during The Night Watch, was pushed past exhaustion into a waking dream. His camera gradually gathered light to record this comatose nocturnal reality. It can be seen, thus, that night-time registers tangibly in these photographs, both in their conception and in their technical realisation.

In order to produce these images, the artist went in search of borders. The florae that he photographs have spread their roots at territorial boundaries across Europe. Yet, while the Demilitarised Zone is an emotive, contended and mediating space electrified by grand-scale political and civil conflict, the border sites that Shinwook Kim chooses to photograph are comparatively meek and unassuming.

In The Night Watch, he begins to build photographic identities for these otherwise uncelebrated slices of no man’s land.

Ralph Day