Artist Christine Sun Kim on the Tech Tools That Helped Her Realize a New Mural in Queens, and the Virtues of Procrastination
The artist opened up her studio to share her tricks of the trade.
A 40-by-100-foot mural by the Berlin-based artist Christine Sun Kim just went up at the Queens Museum this week, wrapping a wall that encases the institution’s famed 1964 Panorama of the City of New York. Kim’s series of drawings show bodies signing the words “Time,” “Owes,” “Me,” “Rest,” and “Again” in American Sign Language. (Animations relating to the work have also been released as NFTs on Foundation.)
The evocative phrase is meant to have a number of different associations: Kim’s interest in “the societal and systemic inequity that persists between Deaf communities and the hearing communities,” as a press release explains; the general contemporary state of fatigue with the Covid-19 pandemic; and the specific experience of the immigrant communities in the Queens Museum’s vicinity, which have been particularly burdened by the fallout of the pandemic and the associated “amplified malignancies of capitalism.”
The artist gave us a look inside her studio as she prepared for the show at the Queens Museum.
What are the most indispensable items in your studio and why?
The most important thing that’s recently found a permanent home in my studio is my new Wi-Fi signal booster. I’ve been having issues getting a decent connection in there and had to move back and forth between different rooms for Zooms and actual work. Now I can stay in one place to work.
What trait do you most admire in a work of art? What trait do you most despise?
I love it when you can really see that the artist is having fun. And I really admire people who combine colors so well; I’m always afraid of using colors. I despise NFT aesthetics, but I’m pretty sure that will change very soon now that more people are participating.
What snack food could your studio not function without?
When it’s crunch time, I love me some Korean instant ramen. But basically, whatever my husband sets in front of me.
Is there a picture you can send of your work in progress?
When you feel stuck in the studio, what do you do to get un-stuck?
Pre-Covid: drinking wine with friends. During Covid: binge watching whatever the hot show is at the time. Succession! Euphoria! Single’s Inferno! Pen15! Also, baths. Tons of hot baths. Procrastinating helps.
Are there any pictures, items, or artworks in your studio that serve as inspiration?
I really try to keep my studio as bare as possible. The less distractions the better, and good for my ADHD.
What is the studio task on your agenda tomorrow that you are most looking forward to?
Continue drawing about various forms of debt that I’ve been seeing in the U.S.: student loans, mortgages, credit cards, and taxes. Living in Germany has made me even more appalled by how shitty social welfare is in the U.S.
Who are your favorite artists, curators, or other thinkers to follow on social media right now?
No specific names: Meme accounts on Instagram, doctors on TikTok, writers on Twitter, and NFT stuff on Discord.
How do you manage large-scale works, such as the mural you’re creating for the Queens Museum, in your workspace?
My friend Harper Reed gifted me a Remarkable brand drawing tablet some time ago and it has made my work processes so much easier: making sketches, putting them together in Photoshop, and sending them back and forth. Now I’m giving the iPad a try. I am also lucky to have people who help me execute the pieces in situ. Shout out to Jake Kent and Shaun Motsi who have done multiple murals for me.
What is the last exhibition you saw (virtual or otherwise) that made an impression on you?
My mind is blanking right now. The last two years have been a bit blurry.
If you had to put together a mood board, what would be on it right now?
Books I’m currently reading with my kid: Mud Book by John Cage and Lois Long, Too Much Noise by Ann McGovern, A Sound Like Someone Trying Not to Make a Sound by John Irving, No More Kimchi For Me! by Aram Kim, Sign Language Fun with Linda Bove by Sesame Street, Pete’s a Pizza by William Steig, Handtalk by Remy Charlip, Mary Beth, and George Ancona.
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