April 12, 2019

PEM Invites Visitors to Participate in a Meditative Sculptural Installation by World-Renowned Korean Artist

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Kimsooja: Archive of Mind
June 22, 2019 through January 19, 2020

Save the Date: Press Preview Reception | Wednesday, June 19 | 6-8 pm

Salem, MA — This summer, the Peabody Essex Museum (PEM) invites you to roll up your sleeves and participate in a meditative sculptural installation by world-renowned Korean artist, Kimsooja. Archive of Mind transforms the simple, repetitive actions made by thousands of visitors into a monumental, texturally-complex sculpture. Sitting at a large work surface, Kimsooja encourages you to empty your mind of distraction and sink into the essentialized experience of forming a ball of clay with your hands. Over the course of the exhibition, thousands of clay spheres are generated, each revealing the emotional traces and individual signifiers of their makers. Kimsooja: Archive of Mind is on view at PEM from June 22, 2019 through January 19, 2020.

“There is a mesmerizing quality to the work as you watch it slowly build and see individual gestures accumulate into something large and powerful,” says PEM’s Curator of the Present Tense, Trevor Smith, who first saw Kimsooja’s Archive of Mind presented in Venice. “There is something in this work that reminds us of human potential and shows us the importance of slowing down and paying attention.”

Kimsooja conceived Archive of Mind in 2016 as a conceptual and meditative practice. The repetitive act of rolling clay introduces a polarity between the forces of the participants’ palms—transposing their state of mind into matter. Clay is elemental and Kimsooja sees clay as a container, one that holds water and is pliable but once it dries, the clay ends up storing, or containing, the energy its participants created.

“What is particularly exciting about this work is the universal creativity that everyone, regardless of their age or artistic ability, can express through humble materials,” says Smith. “This work is physically simple, yet overflowing with associations – from the microscopic perspective of atoms and molecules to the planetary and intergalactic; from the use of a material that has such deep associations with the earth to invoking immaterial practices of meditation. It has a calming and introspective effect on everyone who participates.”

Kimsooja was born in 1957 in Taegu, South Korea. She earned a BFA (1980) and MA (1984) from Hong-Ik University, Seoul. Her performances, videos, photography and installations use light, sound, and culturally specific materials to express how various cultures intricately overlap and coexist in society. She has developed many projects that explore the role of weaving in cultures worldwide. She has also drawn on the metaphor of the body as needle and as mirror of its environment to question our lives, world, and the major issues facing our world. Kimsooja’s videos and installations blur the boundaries between aesthetics and transcendent experience through their use of repetitive actions, meditative practices and serial forms. A well-known multidisciplinary conceptual artist, she uses a one-word name, Kimsooja, as it refuses gender identity, marital status, socio-political or cultural, and geographical identity by not separating the family name and the first name. Living and working in New York and Seoul, she has held countless solo exhibitions and has represented Korea at the Venice Biennale.

Under the guidance of curator Trevor Smith, PEM’s Present Tense Initiative celebrates the central role that creative expression plays in shaping our world. The Present Tense Initiative engages leading creative agents and thinkers to cultivate innovative experiences fueled by the intersection of cultures, disciplines, and technologies. By encouraging innovation and fostering new forms of creativity, PEM seeks to push the boundaries of what a museum experience can be.

High-resolution images and captions are available at the following link:http://bit.ly/kimsooja

Share your impressions of this experience using #archiveofmind

Kimsooja: Archive of Mind was commissioned by the Peabody Essex Museum with the support of Axel Vervoordt Gallery. This exhibition is made possible by the Nancy B. Tieken Memorial Fund and supporters of the Present Tense Initiative, including The Jeffrey P. Beale Fund for Contemporary Art, and Susan and Appy Chandler. Carolyn and Peter S. Lynch and The Lynch Foundation, Jennifer and Andrew Borggaard, and Kate and Ford O’Neil provided generous support. We also recognize the generosity of the East India Marine Associates of the Peabody Essex Museum.

Kimsooja, Archive of Mind, 2017. Photography by Jean-Pierre Gabriel. Courtesy of Axel Vervoordt Gallery and Kimsooja Studio.


Over the last 20 years, the Peabody Essex Museum (PEM) has distinguished itself as one of the fastest-growing art museums in North America. Founded in 1799, it is also the country’s oldest continuously operating museum. At its heart is a mission to enrich and transform people’s lives by broadening their perspectives, attitudes and knowledge of themselves and the wider world. PEM celebrates outstanding artistic and cultural creativity through exhibitions, programming and special events that emphasize cross-cultural connections, integrate past and present and underscore the vital importance of creative expression. The museum’s collection is among the finest of its kind boasting superlative works from around the globe and across time — including American art and architecture, Asian export art, photography, maritime art and history, Native American, Oceanic, and African art, as well as one of the nation’s most important museum-based collections of rare books and manuscripts. PEM’s campus affords a varied and unique visitor experience with hands-on creativity zones, interactive opportunities and performance spaces. Twenty-two noted historic structures grace PEM’s campus, including Yin Yu Tang, a 200-year-old Chinese house that is the only such example of Chinese domestic architecture on display in the United States. HOURS: Open Tuesday-Sunday, 10 am-5 pm. Closed Mondays, Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Day. ADMISSION: Adults $20; seniors $18; students $12. Additional admission to Yin Yu Tang: $6 (plus museum admission). Members, youth 16 and under and residents of Salem enjoy free general admission and free admission to Yin Yu Tang. INFO: Call 866-745-1876 or visit pem.org

Whitney Van Dyke | Director of Communications | 978-542-1828 |whitney_vandyke@pem.org