In 2015 Kenji Lim spent two and a half weeks in Cambridge, each day inscribing lines from a fairy tale around the base of a large woodstack installed outside the Ruskin Gallery. The work won the Cambridge School of Art ALL2015 award, presented to Kenji by Head of Art, Chris Owen (above).
Here is the article that ALL Committee member Sara Lerota wrote in 2015 after meeting up with Kenji to find out more…
Sara Lerota talks to ALL2015 award winner Kenji Lim about his work
Just as meeting Kenji in person was much more vivid than communicating with him via e-mail, seeing his work live was so much more intense than seeing it in on photos. In both cases, the same feeling of calmness, sense of focus and pure dedication to the cause was present. The connection between Kenji and his work is obvious in more than one way and that adds value to the authenticity of his expression. Somehow, it was very easy for viewers to immerse themselves into the story of Kenji´s work, to breathe in the atmosphere of “Daughters” and even express their own projections and thoughts about the work. There was no doubt that Kenji´s work would cause reactions since the moment it started to develop on the first day of ALL2015, but it was nice to see that with the progress of his work the number of conversations and thoughts exchanges related to it also increased.
Kenji Lim is one of the 70 artists who participated in this years Art Language Location – an annual art festival which, for the fourth year in a row, brings artists to Cambridge and gives them an opportunity to express themselves and create work related to text. The festival is a must-see presentation of contemporary UK art scene of today, including works by Tom Hackett, Joseph Young, Kimvi Nguyen, Jonathan Rogerson and many more emerging and established artists from across the UK and beyond.
Art Language Location was an excellent opportunity for Kenji to develop his work and show it to audience in a very appropriate environment of Anglia Ruskin University campus.
The name of the work is “Daughters”, it is inspired by his original story “The Squire´s Daughters” but including additional elements which bring it far away from being just a reproduction. The continuity of work – which is evolving until the last day of the festival – and its vulnerability to weather, passing foot traffic and other elements makes it related to the nature of storytelling, fairytales and all the mysteries behind them.
In words of the artist: “The fairy tale is an original story, The Squire’s Daughters, which has as it’s inspiration the real life trial of the Witches of Warboys in 16th century Cambridgeshire. The wood bundle is reminiscent of a witches broom and also brings to mind the forest which many tales involving witches are set in. Its location in the courtyard brings to mind a theatre or arena, where stories could be told or justice meted out to witches and heretics. As the text is weathered away we are reminded of the nature of storytelling and of memory. A fairytale is not a text, and it must change as the teller changes. As it is spoken it disappears and must be remembered to be passed on.“
Even though Kenji Lim has a very detailed description of his work and a strong direction in which it develops, he was interested to hear thoughts of audience and how it appeared from their perspective. Every single one of them had their own view on the subject, all related to core ideas of the work (including woods, stories, mystery etc.), but all very different. However, there was no doubt that they were all impressed by the visual aspect of his work and even more by its meaning and background story.
“Viewers have stopped to read what text they can, and formed their own opinion on its content, some unwilling to engage in the physical act of circling the bundle that is required. The story in so many parts is long and the difficulty for repeat visitors of discovering the full content has in many cases been described by them as frustrating. There is a desire to know the story, to glean some form of meaning from it, or for a fuller understanding of where the events they are reading about fit into an overall scheme. There is a real desire to know more, and the glimpses of these characters may not satisfy. In many ways this is what is seen by academics researching ancient manuscripts and stories, where only fragments are available and that sometimes this will be enough to form some kind of narrative, but sometimes not.”
Also, as the work progresses, a dose of unpredictability is present and it is interesting to see the artist´s point of view on those form variations.
“The process of the writing has been a very interesting aspect for me. The visual way that the ring around the branches has been expanding feels like a ripple, or even like a fungal organism spreading out across the paved surface. The way that the words have disappeared because of the the rain have left the words that are written hanging in space in the mornings, freshly written, and quickly the footsteps of people walking over them has broken the ring and left it as a memory, not only the memory of the writing, but a memory of their passing. Because of the swift disappearance of the text, the content of the story has been somewhat overshadowed.”
Kenji was expanding his work every day until 1st November 2015 so this collaboration between him and Art Language Location was an excellent opportunity to see both his work in situ and the rest of 69 works by other participating ALL2015 artists, at Anglia Ruskin University and around Cambridge, UK. The content at Art Language Location 2015 was so extraordinary that even thinking about ALL2016 brings one into a pleasant expectancy!