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레이무숨이 우리를 안고 있어   |  Leymusoom Is Holding Us
Heesoo Kwon

Curated by Luther Konadu

March 4 - April 23, 2022


Delighted to present Leymusoom Is Holding Us, the solo exhibition of San Francisco-based South Korean artist, Heesoo Kwon. 


About five years ago, Kwon opened the portal to her autobiographical digital dream universe, Leymusoom. Grounded within feminist thinking, the lucid 3D animated environments of the universe doesn’t come to us fully formed both in its ideals and aspirations but it is rather ongoing and fluid. Through interactive video games, digital archives, cinemagraphs, and video passages, the imagined worlds which are inflected by the artist's personal memories become accessible to users and viewers. Leymusoom is often populated by avatars of Kwon and her female ancestors in communion with one another, flowing in the boundless utopic conception the artist has conjured. In this intergalactic expanse, there is swimming, dancing, lounging, and perpetual rejuvenation away from selves that are otherwise restricted by the violence of our abject patriarchal world. In this new exhibition, Leymusoom Is Holding Us, various fragments of Kwon’s envisioned exploratory universe are assembled in a sculptural video installation. A built structure that serves as an inlet into the digital universe hosts a projection of videos the artist has created over the years including a newly rendered corner of the universe made especially for this exhibition. The videos include Leymusoom Mogyogtang [ 레이무숨 목욕탕 ], Leymusoom Bridge [ 레이무숨 다리 ], Leymusoom Ssitgimgut [ 레이무숨 씻김굿 ], and the titular Leymusoom Is Holding Us. 


Mogyogtang, serves as an illustration of ‘Women’s Time’ à la Julia Kristeva, a thinker of significance to Kwon’s universe. In the video, we are glided through a sleekly designed basement-level bathhouse that resembled the women-only baths the artist frequented growing up in Korea. Kwon is joined by her mother, grandmother, and great-grandmother in the video as they luxuriate in steam, comfort each other, and cleanse off bad energy as time dissolves away and becomes needless. We see the figures constantly morphing and shedding off old skin as they transition into the reptilian spirit and epitome of Leymusoom--half woman, half reptile. 


In Bridge, the artist creates a pathway between San Francisco’s Chinatown--a place that had a close familiarity to her--and the utopian space of Leymusoom where she’s able to unite with past ancestors. 


Ssitgimgut was created in response to the rise of anti-Asian hate and hostility during the height of the pandemic. The result of which culminated in events like the killing of six women of Asian descent in Atlanta, Georgia. Ssitgimgut is Kwon’s way of showing solidarity and paying her respects to the victims. The title comes from the stem, ‘ssitgim’ which from Korean translates to the act of rinsing off, and the suffix of the word, ‘gut’, translates to ritual. Combining the two terms, 'Ssitgimgut' means a Korean shamanistic ritual honouring the dead with a clean mind that is uninhibited from the causers of their death.   In the video, Kwon enacts the Korean shamanistic ritual whereby a shaman allows the spirit of the dead to inhabit their body. The shaman channels the last moments of the spirit’s past life that led to their death and expresses it. In the video, this is depicted in the form of the violence that took the lives of the Atlanta victims. This ritual serves to confront the climactic end in one’s life and as a result, relieve them of that tragic moment, any baggage attached therein and therefore, bringing about a process of healing. Kwon uses the oasis of Leymusoom’s expanses to further this recuperation and rebirth.


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Installation view: Leymusoom is holding us, 2022

The new video continues this inter-space travel. Kwon’s avatar and her family members float through the neighbourhood where our gallery is situated. As if to protect and be present for their daughter’s creations and her achievements, they huddle and commiserate in an empowered embrace around the gallery. All these videos are blanketed by a soundtrack the artist crafted from the sounds of 다듬이질 [ dadeumi jil ] traditional Korean ironing method that women often partook in as part of the household laundry. This process was a means of relieving wrinkles from clothes by wrapping the fabric around a flat stone and hitting it repeatedly with wooden sticks. Though it's a domestic chore, it's often regarded for its meditative effects as the drumming motion involved brings about a sense of catharsis for the drummer and mild trance-like grooves for the listener. It's a fitting soundtrack for traversing Kwon’s transportive shapeless sanctuary.  


The exhibition also features lenticular lightbox versions of her Premolt photographic series. A shorthand reference to screens, the image-shifting lightboxes highlight family archives with presences of Kwon’s Leymusoom’s reptilian figures. A selection of 3D printed sculptures of the figures that constitute Kwon’s imagined universe are also featured in the exhibition. They are lit up by LED lights reminiscent of the beam of computer screens. Garlanding the walls of the gallery are fabric scrolls with stylized renderings of moulted skin of an invertebrate, often that of a snake. These images serve as backdrops to the ‘moulted’ skins of her ancestors who dwell within Leymusoom. For Kwon, the act of shedding dead skin and continually producing renewed selves is integral to the ethos of the Leymusoom universe. It is a gesture towards a futurity unburdened by past lives weighed down by the iniquities of this world. The moulting process can also be indexed as a pursuit toward stripping away the fluff used to represent the self and an act of moving closer to our unalloyed, carefree self. 


Kwon has an MFA from UC Berkeley. She exhibited with DIS, 47 Canal, New York, the CICA Museum and Visual Space Gunmulsai, South Korea, Et Al, San Francisco, and SOMArts, San Francisco. This is her first exhibition in Canada.


The exhibition opens on March 4th [7 pm-9 pm] and runs till April 15th. Book an appointment to visit the gallery.


Important thank you to the following volunteers for helping bring this installation to fruition:


Colby Richardson, Emmanuel Allieu, Gabrielle Willms, Jake Nikkel, Janelle Tougas,

Same Berhane, Sapphyre Mcleod


Thank you to Video Pool Media Arts Centre for their support.

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