Preis der Erwin und Gisela von Steiner-Stiftung

Ghost in the Shell


2029 AD. New Port City, a fictional city somewhere in Asia. Major Kusanagi, a cyborg, the protagonist, is looking down at the city night from a skyscraper rooftop. Soon, she initiates a free fall, disguising herself with optical camouflage and slowly disappearing among the technicolor neon lights. This iconic opening sequence of Ghost in the Shell (1995) by Mamoru Oshii seemed to be an analogy for the ambitions and frustrations of Japan’s last
bubble economy of the 20th century.

In 1985, the Reagan administration forced the Takeshita cabinet to surrender at the Plaza Hotel in New York. The desperate close of the Showa era and the vain arrival of so-called the Lost Decades. Francis Fukuyama’s history came to the very end at this moment. History had finally entered a unipolar world with a complete transition to Henry Kissinger’s petrodollar and neoliberal system.

Artistic director Chan-kyong Park invited Manshin (an honorific term for a female shaman in Korea) Sang-soon Lee for the opening performance Seoul Saenam Gut (a religious ritual of shamanism in Korea) of SeMA Biennale Mediacity Seoul 2014 Ghosts, Spies, and Grandmothers (2014). It was the most self-evident project since curator Youngchul Lee’s Seoul in Media: Food, Clothing, Shelter (1998). Ghost was interpreted as the spirituality of Asia, spy as the fear of the Cold War, and grandmother as the Other of history. Next year, Good-s (2015) was held, and artists born in the 80s became visible as the New Emerging Space generation.


By the project proposal of Wanho Joung, while attending the Department of Sculpture, Chung-Ang University, Younsik Kim participated in his debut exhibition The Real Ghost (2017), with his friends Sungtae Kim and Jeonghyun Lee, at Flower Kim’s Space 413, which was leading the New Emerging Space phenomenon at the time. The review was contributed by the curator Alba Dawoon Lim of Kigoja. In the field of epoche secured by the artists born in the 80s of the New Emerging Space generation, it was a symptomatic event that the “ghost” of Chan-kyong Park of the Alternative Space generation was inherited as the “ghost” of the artists born in the 90s who had not yet been called a specific generation. After graduation, Younsik Kim and Wanho Joung went to the Academy of Fine Arts, Munich, Sungtae Kim, to Musashino Art University, Tokyo, and Jeonghyun Lee opened his studio in Seoul.

2020. Younsik Kim had to helplessly endure the pandemic that humanity faced, in Munich, Germany. A time of death and burial. When the situation was about to turn into a trauma, Younsik Kim took a camera and headed to the family mountain in his hometown with his father, to relocate the graves of his ancestors. His video work Moving (2023) departs here. At first glance, the family mountain in Gangwon-do that Younsik Kim captures in long shots resembles the auspicious scenery of the jungle in Isan, Thailand that Apichatpong Weerasethakul depicts on screen in Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives (2010). However, Younsik Kim’s perspective on this is not simply contextualized as the third world postcolonial victim identity. Merely like Hayao Miyazaki’s attitude toward death and rebirth in Princess Mononoke (1997), he humbly reveres nature as a god who cannot be easily approached. Due to the Buddhist traditions combined with indigenous religions, forests and mountains throughout Asian cultures are often considered as spacetime of dependent origination where the boundaries between this world and nirvana have collapsed. In the Asian worldview, humans and nature go beyond materials and are rhizomatically intertwined, as advocated by Deleuze and Guattari.

The history of “moving” in Asia is as old as its importance. The northern nomads of Siberia were the beings who traveled on horseback and circulated the ecosystem of the barren tundra, and at the same time, the heralds of death and unknown devils themselves to the Chinese in the central plains and the Europeans in the west. In the meantime, the Bedouins of the Arabian Desert, along the constellations of the Silk Road, connected the economies of the East and the West and spread knowledge and religion. The prosperity and fall of a civilization depended on the flow of the movement and migration of nomads.

Perhaps that is why the critical awareness of mobility found throughout Younsik Kim’s oeuvre, tracing up far before the story of an individual who lives between Korea and Germany, may be an archetypal narrative handed down from his father, his father’s father, and his father’s father’s father. Liberation and division. The people of the Korean peninsula had to disperse to Manchuria, the Japanese archipelago, Central Asia, Europe, and America, in order to survive. Jung-seob Lee (1916-1956), who suffered from mental illness and passed away while missing his wife and sons sent to Japan, was like that. Jin-kyu Kwon (1922-1973), who studied at Musashino Art University, was like that, and Ufan Lee (1936-), who led Mono-ha, was like that. Nam June Paik (1932-2006), who walked a violin on the streets in Cologne, was like that, Mo Bach (1957-2004), who crossed the Brooklyn Bridge with a rice cooker around his neck, was like that, and Viktor Tsoi (1962-1990), who was the spirit of the Soviet Union, died young tragically in a car accident in Latvia, was like that.

Younsik Kim’s Gestalt, which was disassembled in pieces without being able to form a single piece, moves from place to place, is assembled and operates according to the laws of mechanics precisely calculated based on causality. The relationship between 3D dissegno in digital Euclidean space and printed sculpture is also connected to the issues of film and print that emerged in art history with the invention of photography. The development of 3D technology applying AI has exponentially increased the efficiency of productivity and mobility, and now works of art can vividly manifest theoretically anytime, anywhere, and at any scale. In the Real where the discrepancy between data and material pointed out by Hito Steyerl occurs, interestingly, Younsik Kim is still coping with this feeling of impotence by tactile experience of touching, measuring, moving, and colliding intimately with his own body, unfailingly revealing the attribute of a sculptor (in a Seoyoung Chung-like-manner).

There are five years left until 2029, the setting of Ghost in the Shell (1995). In 2022, the Japanese economy showed significant inflation for the first time in history since the Plaza Accord. Certainly, this must not be unrelated to the excessive liquidity provision during the pandemic. On the other hand, in the endemic phase, the Fed announced policies of high interest rates every day. Pax Americana is eventually over by the rise of China and the Russian invasion of Ukraine. In addition, the war between Israel and Hamas broke out in 2023, and the situation in the Middle East is also alarming, with Iran and Saudi Arabia joining in.

The multipolar world of the new normal has just begun.
The ghost of a boy and his journey following the Newtonian mechanics of causality that overcomes postcolonial mentality and moves forward steadily into the future through the era.

Boy, become a legend.


Text: Wanho Jeong, 2024