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04.22.10

The Art of Voyeurism

The photographic fantasies of In Sook Kim peek inside the private worlds of people who live in glass houses. VIEW OUR GALLERY.

People who live in glass houses shouldn't throw stones, but no one minds if they expose their daily lives—especially In Sook Kim, a Korean artist with a fascination for what goes on behind the glass. Kim stages psychological settings, often based on newspaper articles about people and the ways they cope with isolation, and then photographs them. Taking it a step further, she digitally places her rooms in the windows of high-rise, modernist buildings—making her fictions seem real. Inside Out, a solo show at New York’s Gana Art Gallery that runs through May 8, presents these and other voyeuristic works by the Düsseldorf-based artist to an American audience for the first time.

Click Image to View Our Gallery of In Sook Kim’s “Inside Out”

Saturday Night is Kim’s opus maximus. A color photograph that’s 10-feet high and 15-feet wide, Saturday Night shows staged scenarios through the front windows of 66 rooms of the Radisson Blu Media Harbour Hotel in Düsseldorf. Kim started the project while still a student at the Kunstakademie Düsseldorf, where she studied with the renowned photographer Thomas Ruff, and worked on it for three years. The rooms offer a variety of true stories that take place behind closed doors. A woman kills a man with a wine bottle; a man masturbates while watching porno; a woman obsesses over her cat; a group of young men get drunk; two women entertain a bachelor party by having sex together; a man leaves his child alone in a hotel room; and a wife waits late into the night for her husband to return home. Sordid tales of loneliness, pleasure seeking, and corruption get played out in the big picture and through individual photos of each room, which can also be viewed in a recent book on the series.

Other photographs in Inside Out capture the action behind the panes in one straight shot. Das Abendessen (The Dinner) depicts a banquet, where women are the food, at a rooftop restaurant in a Düsseldorf art museum. The gruesome scene of gore and bondage was staged with Kim’s friends and neighbors. She put them to work again in Langen Foundation, a four-panel picture about the process of making art and displaying it in a museum—from the blank wall and conception of the work to the hanging and opening reception. Both of these scenarios were shot from the voyeuristic position of being outside looking in. Meanwhile, Die Auktion (The Auction) captures a scene witnessed from within. A nude, blond woman stands on a draped pedestal while surrounded by businessmen that are examining her and making their bids. Shot in a majestic interior of a courthouse in Düsseldorf, it’s shocking in its truthfulness about both prostitution and trophy wives.

In a new series, titled Drugstore, Kim takes the 20 most dangerous drugs from a British study and constructs visual metaphors for each of them. Heroin, which is No. 1 on the list, is portrayed as a nude woman on a bed, admiring herself in the mirror. The reflection she sees is slimmer and more beautiful, thus her ego is equated to the potent drug. For Kokain (Cocaine), Kim staged a street scene outside a Cologne coffee shop, where passersby are caught by the alluring poses of the women inside—making the metaphor that the mind-altering drug is similar to the appeal of commercial sex.

A photographer that thinks before she shoots, In Sook Kim comments on the human condition in uncanny ways, while fabricating fictitious images that are totally believable.

Plus: Check out Art Beast, for galleries, interviews with artists, and photos from the hottest parties.

Paul Laster is the editor of Artkrush.com, a contributing editor at Flavorpill.com and Art Asia Pacific, and a contributing writer at Time Out New York and Art in America.