Miru Kim

[Miru Kim’s site] I was raised in Soeoul Korea, and I moved to NYC to attend college. I was pre-med and I thought I’d become a surgeon because I was interested in anatomy and dissecting animals really piqued my curiosity.

At the same time I fell in love with NYC and started to realize that I could look at the whole city as a living organism. I wanted to dissect it through artistic means. I became interested in creatures that dwell in hidden parts of the city.

In NYC rats are part of everyday lives and most people ignore them, I took a liking to them. I started looking around and trying to photograph them. One day I was snapping picutres of the tracks trying to catch a rat or two, and a man came up and said you can’t take photographs here the MTA will confiscate your camera, and then started going into the tunnels and following the rats. There’s a whole new dimension to the city.

I started meeting “urban explorers” who regularly explore urban ruins like abandoned subway stations, factories, hospitals, and so on. When I took photographs in these locations, but I felt there was something missing in the pictures, simply documenting these wasn’t enough for me, so I wanted to create a fictional character that dwelled in these spaces. The simplest way to do this was tho model myself, and decided to do it without clothing because I wanted the figure to be without cultural or time-based indicators.

[she’s now going through pictures from factories, aqueducts with herself as the model inside and around the area.]

When you go into spaces like this you’re directly touching the past because they remain untouched for decades. Instead of looking at reproductions at home, you’re feeling the bricks, the cracks, getting wet and muddy and walking in a dark tunnel with a flashlight. This is a tunnel underneath Riverside Park, the murals were done by graffiti artists to commorate the thousands of homeless people that were displaced when the trains started to come through.

I decided to title my series Naked City Spleen. Naked City is the name for New York.

The tunnels were once built for the prosperity of the city, but is now a sanctuary for the outcasts.

This is underneath my alma mater, Columbia University, and the tunnels are famous for being used in the Manhattan Project.

After exploring recently abandoned buildings I felt like things could fall into ruins very fast. I was reminded by how fragile our sense of security is and how vulnerble people truly are. I love to travel and Berlin is one of my favorite cities, it’s full of history and full of bunkers and tunnels from the war. I explored the catacombs in Paris extensively in the off-limits areas and fell in love right away. There are over 180 miles of tunnels, and only about a mile are open to the public as a museum. The remains of over 6 million people are housed in the catacoms, some over 1300 years old.

There are phone cables that were used in the 50s, and many bunkers that were used in the World War 2 era. I found a lot of grafitti from the 1800s. After exploring below decided to go up. In all this time I never saw a single rat in any of these places, until recently in the London Sewers. This was the toughest place to explore, had to wear a gas mask and when the tides of waste matter come in in sounds as if a storm is approaching you.

The last place I visited were the Mayan ruins in Honduras. This was taken in an archeological tunnel in the main temple. I like doing more than just exploring these spaces, I feel an obligation to animate and humanize these spaces to preserve them in a creative way before they’re lost forever.

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