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THOUGHTS

Borahm Kim

Working process

I tend to create a variety of outputs. It can be in the form of video, sculpture, performance, etc. The important point for me is for the audience to play or interact with the work I create. 

 

There could be many reasons to start creating. It could be an opportunity to exhibit or perform, or because I feel like I really need to make something on particular subject such as climate crisis.

My current interests include, climate change, birdwatching, invisible systems that control our life, and the power of law.

The first question I ask myself when starting to create is "What experience do I want the audience to have?" For example, when I had the opportunity to make a work for open public space. I wanted to make a performance happening in the subway. Where audience will walk through the train, and each train will be different chapter. To make this idea possible I had to use technology such as iBeacon and create a mobile application for the performance. With this background I created Untitled Train.

My recent series Moving a Forest started from building a board game for 4 people because it was develop during Covid19. It was impossible to invite several audience.

 

As for the quality, I think I have my own aesthetic standards. But because I create audience participation work I evaluate my work by watching the audience interact or play with it. 

 

Collaboration is a very important part of my work. This means that the quality of the work may not be exactly what I want it to be. I often work with actors, programmers, sound designers, lighting designers, set designers, and producers.They are all creators, so working with them is challenging. But at the same time, it's very interesting. After working together many times, we seem to understand each other more and more.

 

I love game and I get a lot of inspiration from it, but I also feel quite lonely because my working method is not common.

John Carberry talks to Borahm Kim about her project Moving Forest.

Boraham[ed]
00:00 / 19:50

Talking about the process

The conversation was held as a Zoom meeting on February 12th 2024. Following transcription has been slightly edited for readability.

 

Borahm Kim (BK): 

It's good to have a partner, you know? I also make a lot of theatre work, so I usually work with the same person, like the same light designer often, and the same composer. I have two composers that I often work with.

 

And also, there's the stage designer too. It's really hard to find someone that you can match with and collaborate with.

 

John Carberry (JC):

I understand the same sort of collaboration. It's about understanding what people mean when they say things. When I work with new people, like the first couple of times, I remember when I worked with Gustav (Hellberg), basically all we did was talk. I was like, I know what he says, but is that what he means? It takes a while to get to know someone. So, when you find someone that you just click with, it's great.

 

BK:

Even though I decide I want to do something, it doesn't mean I know exactly what to do. So, yeah, if you can find someone to co-work with you, then it's the best.

 

JC:  

It's really good. A lot of the time, you just want to do something, and they're like, I also want to do that. I've been thinking about this sort of thing, and it all comes together, which is really fun. That's what's good about collaborative processes, working collaboratively. Cool. We've talked about your process a bit. That'll do. (giggles)

 

It's really easy. We just talked.

 

Tell me about Moving the Forest. What I found interesting about it is that I've seen a lot of environmental works, you know, about how we should treat the environment better. But what's interesting about your work is that you give people playing the games an opportunity to actually think about solutions. It's not just about saving the panda; it's provoking them to think about ways we could actually do a better job with the environment. I find that interesting because it asks more of the audience than different kinds of environmentally focused works.

 

BK:

Moving a Forest started in 2020 during the pandemic. All my theatre plays were canceled, and the exhibition was gone. The pandemic changed my life, and it struck me. I sat down and really thought about why this happened. It led me to think about climate change. Reading books and looking through the news, I realized we really need to do something.

 

It felt overwhelming, like there's nothing I can do. But I wanted to find out if there is anything we can actually start trying as individuals. I'm a woodworker, a media artist, and I make theatre works. My major is woodworking, so I have a huge love for wood.

 

In the last 10 years, the price of lumber has gone up a lot. I lived in Perth in 2000, and at that time, I could get good wood at a good price. When I went back in 2018, the price had gone up a lot, and it was really hard to find what I used to get. People were saying, we don't have it anymore. It felt like nature is really disappearing, the whole forest is disappearing.

 

In Korea, I was reading papers and realized that scientists were saying trees are really suffering because of the earth's temperature. They need to move north if they want to survive, about 6.4 kilometers every year, which is impossible. But there was a university in Canada doing an experiment called "adapting a tree." They were trying to see if these trees could adapt themselves if they moved north where they don't have their neighboring trees.

 

That paper influenced me a lot and gave me an idea. I made this board game type of theatre work called Moving a Forest. I've been developing that work for four years now.

 

Initially, I wanted to make a work where participants sit around and think about how we can solve this problem or discuss why we're not doing anything at all. As a game theatre maker, I love games. Games make you have fun and try to solve problems in a fun way. They give you a goal to achieve. So, I make most of my work interactive, where participants need to find clues and solve problems to move to the next stage.

In Moving a Forest, climate change doesn't have an actual answer. It depends on your situation and what you can do. But if you do something, it can impact nature, and we can make a change, even if it seems small. My aim for this project is to see if we can coexist with nature. I'm from Seoul, a huge mega city. Even though we have parks, they're not for trees or birds, they're for people. I wanted to explore if we can change people's thoughts and see if Seoul can really coexist with nature. That's my initial question. That's why I'm making this piece and developing it every year, every few months, making changes and trying to make a better game or game theatre.

 

What I'm bringing to our exhibition now is my latest work. Initially, it was created for 32 people, but because this is an exhibition, most people will come alone or in pairs. So, I'm bringing a piece where two to four people can sit around and discuss how to change the city to have more space for planting trees.

 

This is more like a test for me. Moving a Forest is an ongoing, never-ending project with endless tests and changes, trying to discuss with people. It's a good tool to meet people and start discussions. I'm very excited to meet people from Perth, as we live in very different environments with different needs. I'm bringing something focused on Korea, specifically Seoul, and I'd like to see what people in Perth think.

 

JC:  

I think it'll be interesting because Perth is a mega suburban sprawl. The density is quite low, but they keep making new estates further and further away. The infrastructure keeps getting pulled out further and further.

 

Yeah, it's interesting. It will be quite different.

 

That was really good.

 

So, you do theatre work and that's interesting too. It's interesting that you chose a board game when you couldn't do theatre work anymore because of COVID. A lot of people did play a lot of games and interacted online through games at that time. Did you think that was really popular again because of things like Dungeons and Dragons, which people can play online?

 

BK:

I was more focused on online games before because I worked in a game company and liked online games, but I'm more into indie games. I like games that you can finish within 30 hours. I don't like spending 300 hours finding all these items and meeting people.

 

I used to work in a game company that created those kinds of games, and I didn't really like the job, so I quit. But I like the game engine. A game engine is like Photoshop or Premiere, which makes the game. You can play with gravity, create your own scenarios, and make your own game. I use the game engine to create my own theatre works. I create an application, so people walk around the theatre and do the play through the app. At the time, I used the game engine, but it was more like a tool for meeting offline.

 

Most of my works focus on what's happening in the real world. Even for exhibitions, I tend to make people come to the place, not the virtual space. Especially with climate change issues, you really need to come together and show what you think. In Korea, I don't know about Perth, but in Korea, people are very polite. If you're participating as a player, people tend to be more honest about their thoughts. Even though what I'm making is not a competitive game, it's more of a collaborative game. But still, the game makes you very honest about what you think and how you play. That's what I really like about games. 

 

During the pandemic, I came across a game called Pandemic. It's one of the best collaborative games, and it influenced me a lot. I didn't know much about board games before, but then I started playing a lot of them. It's very interesting because you can see the system right in front of your eyes. My theme was the system of the city, so I like creating systems for most of my works. Board games fascinated me because you can create your own small system and see how people play with it right away.

 

JC:

And people come in from angles you don't expect. Somebody will spend a year making a game, and then some guy will just show up and be done in 10 minutes. It's bizarre.

 

BK:

My background is not in theatre making; I'm more from a media and video art background. I think a lot like a programmer because I've been doing 3D modeling and 3D computer graphics for a long time. That has influenced me a lot.

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