“I went with two friends, but I definitely didn’t talk much and basically isolated myself in these beautiful foreign environments by constantly photographing. I couldn’t think of a title more fitting, as it refers to both the act of withdrawing as well as the physical space in which one can exist in a reflective, solitary state.”
The pictures indicate Kim has sympathetically passed through rather than actively trotting through Korea and Japan. It seems, in most of her photos, like the one with a man sitting alone in the park, she wishes to observe rather than interpret, evoke, replicate, or articulate, the unfamiliar surroundings.
The man in the picture could be sitting in a park somewhere in London during one of many festivals we have. One can not find strong cultural references of Korea or Japan in the album but that, to me, makes these banal, almost too simplistic images interesting to click through.
Retreat is portrayed through the mundane existence void of known made up “variables”, including temples, Kimono, Kimchi, Zen monks, sexually desirable school girls and whatever else we’re so accustomed to seeing. What Kim gives us is a soft, curious, but not to be underestimated, serious, glance at ourselves. If you look at what the pictures imply, Retreat, is an invitation into human conditions inside-what appears for a moment to be – Kim’s still mind.
Conditions and existence are usually contemplated during retreats. The mind, as they say, holds the key to wisdom. It’s the wandering of the mind that isn’t found in her album. The variables, things that give big personalities, core identities or popular references have been removed and what you’re left with are moments of noiseless contemplation of life.
You can compare Kim’s Retreat to a drawing of a shipwrecked by a Buddhist monk below. The ship is a metaphor for a mind full of habits we accumulate for the comfort of having an identity.
When emptied, it will swiftly move
Cutting off lust and hate
To Nibbana will you thereby go.