Babel: The Chaos of Melancholy
July 16 – September 11, 2009
Los Angeles-based Korean American artist, Kyungmi Shin will develop a site-specific installation for the Nichols Gallery at Pitzer College. Synthesizing and expanding upon many of the formal and conceptual themes explored in her recent projects, this solo exhibition is Shin’s most ambitious work to date.
Babel: The Chaos of Melancholy takes its name from a quotation cited in Robert Burton’s infamous work, the Anatomy of Melancholy (1621). Written to combat the debilitating effects of depression, Burton compares the “confusion of tongues”—in the Biblical story of the Tower of Babel—with the eviscerating effects of melancholy. Taking Burton’s quotation as her starting point, Shin’s creates a sprawling, vertiginous installation reaching from the second floor mezzanine to the gallery floor below. Comprised of scrap metals, recycled plastic, discarded building materials, trash, photo collage and glass, the 25 foot high installation faces a large-scale projection on the opposing wall. Featuring video footage from Dubai juxtaposed with clips from a shantytown near Shin’s studio home in Ghana, the work raises challenging issues about class, race, economics and global politics. Furthermore, Shin’s recycled and scrap materials collaged together references the make-shift and impoverished shantytowns ubiquitous in certain parts of the world and contrasts them with the wealth displayed in ‘uber’ rich communities elsewhere.