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Seoul eye: Mirrored images

Kim Taedong takes us on the No. 7 train, all the way to the end— a boundary

geTTIng oFF THe No. 7 train at Flushing-Main Street, instead of the iconic yellow cabs or a glimpse of the Empire State Building, one is greeted by beauty parlors and taekwondo academies with Korean flags hanging from windowsills that echo Seoul in the ‘70s. Artist Kim Taedong captures the landscapes and people in this area that perhaps resembles Korea more than the U.S. to which it belongs.

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Kim grew up in the outskirts of Seoul in Yeonsinnae. He was eight when Line 3 began operating in 1985. Kim and his friends would take the subway from Yeonsinnae Station all the way to Yangjae Station and back, just for fun. What these excursions afforded him, even at a young age, was the ability to intuitively relate to the boundaries between the contrasting urban and suburban settings. The transitional landscapes linking the outskirts to the city center have become the subject of study for this artist, who grew up in a sleepy residential area. He took this mindset with him to New York, where Asian  neighborhoods, inevitably, became the subject of his camera and a way to explore that which is unique yet omfortable, imperfect yet beautiful and foreign yet familiar.

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The series of works done in and about Flushing, which Kim has described as “the Korea that isn’t Korea, the New York that isn’t New York,” are titled Symmetrical. Like mirrored images that are identical yet so distant in nature, Flushing as an imagined land that inherently contains the characteristics of New York City and that of Korea never finds its match in reality. This is due in large part to the fact that Kim reveals the details and subtleties within the realities of the neighborhood as a discreet observer, without blurring any of the subtle boundaries between these fabled lands.

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