Sylbee Kim’s Unindebted Life (2021) is a single-channel video installation with retroreflective screens and mobile phone flashlight, premiering at the Biennale. The work unravels stories of people who are judged according to various social standards such as class, appearance, age, and identity and reflects the artist’s life sense of non-belonging. Focusing more on the shared problems of the human experience than on a specific group of identities, the artist argues that in order to accept the cycle of life on this planet, one must examine the validity of accepted ideas and actions. The artist asks whether there can be a time and place where we can be genuinely comfortable with the body and mind with which we are born and raised and if such a world can be achieved in the future as promised by technology, capital, and life sciences. It is worth reconsidering what ideology can compartmentalize and who asserts the legitimacy of history; by doing so, it is possible to reject normative criteria and explore heterogeneity as a mode of future coexistence. Unindebted Life shows how five performers’ songs overlap to create an unexpected harmony, with lyrics that imagine a time where people are free from biases of the past and finally able to live as they are.
Kim has divided her life between Berlin and Seoul since 2005. Her work addresses concerns about daily political and social issues, and her video installations experiment with digital production processes, light, and sound. The artist is also committed to creating display structures to produce a parallel reality that proposes different possibilities of audio-visual languages. In Unindebted Life, flashes of light illuminate the retroreflective, manipulated calligraphic motifs on the screen, a metaphor for signals of cell energy and the light of change from within, projecting the faint yet persistent hopes that trigger fundamental shifts over generations.