Sung Hwan Kim’s Temper Clay
June 5–July 18, 2021
Marie-Josée and Henry Kravis Studio

The Museum of Modern Art announces Sung Hwan Kim’s Temper Clay, a multimedia installation highlighting a single channel video work from MoMA’s collection, on view at the Museum for the first time in the Marie-Josée and Henry Kravis Studio from June 5 to July 18, 2021. Over the past two decades, New York–based artist Sung Hwan Kim (Korean, born 1975) has been producing lyrical multimedia installations and performances that merge the mythological and the everyday. Originally commissioned in 2012 for the inauguration of the Tanks, Tate Modern’s space for live art, performance, and film, Temper Clay (2012) illustrates the artist’s distinctive way of intertwining video, music, storytelling, and sculpture within the space of the gallery. For this presentation in the Kravis Studio, Kim expands the single-channel video through a bespoke installation of drawings and objects created specifically for MoMA. Sung Hwan Kim’s Temper Clay is organized by Ana Janevski, Curator, and Martha Joseph, Assistant Curator, Department of Media and Performance.

Kim describes Temper Clay as “a re-sketching of William Shakespeare’s King Lear.” Borrowing the title from a line in one of Lear’s tirades, Kim was inspired by “a play written around a father and daughters exchanging real estate properties for love, loyalty, and class reaffirmation.” In this film, the artist combines images of his parents’ home in the Hyundai apartment complex in Seoul—the complex was created by the government and Hyundai group, thus becoming a standard model of modern housing in South Korea—and his family’s country home. Juxtaposing those two environments, the artist analyzes the dynamics of the contemporary Korean family from the perspective of different generations and social classes. Kim’s film reflects on matriarchy, domesticity, and Korean society in poetic form: the footage is interspersed with surreal, dreamlike scenes of choreographed actions, strange gestures, and repetitive daily activities. Voiceover and written text from various sources—including an interview with the artist’s childhood nanny Misoon Huh and a text on urban planning by Jung-Mok Sohn—weave throughout the film.

The exhibition in the Kravis Studio expands upon the single-channel video through an installation of drawings and objects created specifically for MoMA, such as metal ellipses and a wooden bench. The installation environment connects with the video’s fictional world inside the gallery space. Throughout the film and the installation, we see objects used outside of their intended functions and reinserted into different contexts, questioning their original roles. This approach to objects is one Kim shares with his friend and former professor Joan Jonas, whose work Mirage (1976/1994/2005) is on view nearby in the fourth-floor collection galleries. The exhibition’s soundtrack is developed with Kim’s frequent collaborator David Michael DiGregorio, the musician known as dogr.

Sung Hwan Kim’s Temper Clay will be accompanied by the premiere of the artist’s new film Hair is a piece of head, presented as a Modern Mondays event via MoMA’s Virtual Cinema on Monday, May 24.


The exhibition is presented as part of The Hyundai Card Performance Series.

Major support is provided by the Jill and Peter Kraus Endowed Fund for Contemporary Exhibitions.

Generous funding is provided by the Lonti Ebers Endowment for Performance and the Sarah Arison Endowment Fund for Performance.

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