Text & Interview: Alec Coiro
Images Courtesy of Hansol Kim
When I first saw Hansol Kim’s project “Why Do People Cover Things,” I immediately liked it; it was something entirely unique, I was intrigued by it, and a large part of what intrigued me was the Kaufman-esque conundrum of how many levels is Kim working on. The project posits that we are comfortable in our homes surrounded by our familiar objects. That is definitely true on any level. It posits that we are often uncomfortable out in the world, outside of the home. Again, inarguable on any level. Working from these two contentions, Kim then creates wearable versions of comfortable objects from around the house so that by ensconcing oneself in their familiarity, one can dispel the anxieties of the outside world. At this point, there might be a few levels at work. Definitely, security blankets are real. Definitely, this all makes sense based on the first two contentions. And yet walking around wearing a comfy chair would — for me personally — make me feel a little weird, I’d have to say. But it is this additional level of weirdness that rounds the whole project out for us. Because it’s a project that brings up all these questions, it was great that we were able to sit down and see what the intentions behind the project were. It turns out that Kim takes these things very seriously, and there is a detailed philosophy behind every aspect.
The project was the culmination of Kim’s studies at Brighton University, and we feel it shows promise along the lines of Bless.
Your title poses an intriguing question? What do you mean by “cover up”? And did you find any answers to the question you posed in the course of the project?
Of course, because people do cover things intentionally or unintentionally every day. Sometimes they cover more than one layer which to me seems like they’ve become addicted to covering something for whatever reason. Also, the word ‘cover’ can be interpreted differently, it depends on cultural, political, historical and even personal situations.
I found out some interesting reasons for this question that can be summarized into 3.
The first reason to cover an object is for its protection and changing the object/human’s role. Clothing can be referred to as a ‘second skin’ which protects our body. These pieces are wearable so that, by wearing them, they help to protect not only objects but also people’s bodies. Furthermore, I can bring them outside and put them on a chair or table in public spaces. Then, this space gets personalized because when we put our things on the table or chair, public objects temporarily get ownership.
Making objects invisible and mysterious is the second reason. It arouses people’s curiosity because these 3 works look like that objects are attached to the flat fabric. However, it could conceal things, so nobody knows what is inside the cover. It could cover my body at the same time that it shows my personal belongings to the public. So people compare their table, kitchen, and toilet to mine and they could build their picture of my identity with their own aspects.
The last answer of this question is because of people’s personality and value.
I feel relieved when I cover my body with a duvet or blanket. Also, I need a space for meditation and need time to release my stress away from busy life. This cover consists of my personal belongings from my room which are carefully selected by me. I visualize my studio’s state that objects are spread on the table, kitchen and shower booth, their random arrangement is decided by me unconsciously/consciously. Therefore, when I bring and use these outside, I feel that I’m surrounded by my belongings and feel secure.
Developing a little bit further on those reasons, three different pieces can be an independent object, not a just for covering things. When objects are covered by things, the object’s features such as materiality, functionality, and form could be blurred, transformed or disappeared. As people are using these, they can think about the change while objects are covered. Also, people are playing with it and wearing it, they can possibly find other functions and usage of these pieces. Through this experience, users can discover the unique meaning of cover themselves.
What sort of comment on modern anxiety are you making with “Why Do People Cover Up”?
People wear a wig and try a cap on the wig, put a hood on the cap and sunglasses on the hood. People put a mattress topper on a mattress and a cover mattress protector on that, then put a duvet cover over their duvet. They seem to be obsessively concealing and covering things, from their whole body to their household objects. As society gets more complex in our globalized world, people find it challenging to know what others are thinking and the reason why they do some things. Furthermore, because of rapid changes in society, people want to hide/conceal themselves from the outside world by covering themselves. People’s ‘cover’ is common behavior seen in our daily routines even though it could be done consciously or unconsciously in some ways. As I said before, the word ‘cover’ relates to a gamut of diversified fields and can be interpreted differently in different situations. So I’d like to pose the question about their ritual behavior of ‘cover’ and give an opportunity to reconsider it in our modern society, that any behaviors could be easily justified and accepted as one’s individuality.
How do you conceive of the boundary between home and the world? This distinction and the erasure of it seems central in the work.
I find the key element to define home and the world is whether I have my belongings and domestic objects in some space of my own, or not. That’s the reason why I made the huge 3 different garments with household objects. However, I don’t know how many and big domestic objects are needed for a feeling of home. That could be my next step of research. Household objects signify their owner’s lifestyle and also, it gives us emotional reassurance. Therefore, space, where I have mutual communication between me and the household object, is a parameter which differentiates home and the world.
Similarly, do you see garments and objects and distinct? Is this a distinction that you are interested in blurring?
Exactly, I was wondering ‘why household objects should always be in the house?’. Through my project, I got a chance to show my objects that I spent a lot of time and money to buy, to random people. Furthermore, I gave a mobility and wearability to household objects to push the boundary between garments and objects. All of my works are multifunctional and people can find their own usage and meaning of one object or garment. I find that there is no object in the world which has one specific function. For example, running machine could function as sofa or drying rack. Who knows?
What are your pursuits when not creating “Why Do People Cover Up”? Is this project part of your career in fashion?
Frankly speaking, I’m not a fashion designer and am quite enjoying that I don’t belong to any specialized design field. However, for me as a designer, clothing is an interesting medium to convey my idea. Every morning I choose my clothing which shows my taste, personality and emotional state but at the same time, it confines myself to others taste or design which already made for company’s profit. I like the way that these contexts conflict.
My main interest is finding interesting issues in our daily routines, which others easily overlook. It could be a small action or objects. I’d like to make this ritual moment, small action and object to more valuable and charming through my work and ask a question to people about it for reconsideration or redefinition.
This cover consists of my personal belongings from my room which are carefully selected by me...Therefore, when I bring and use these outside, I feel that I’m surrounded by my belongings and feel secure.