Dawoon Kim

with Emily Butler

‘…my work often references youth culture, entertainment, and online platforms, but then, my artistic gesture intervenes. What intrigues me is how such a slight twist can make reality appear strange or unknown.’

Listen to the full interview here:


My name is Dawoon Kim. I work across a range of forms, including photography, sound, video and installation. I’m interested in making work that explores the themes of identity and desire in the digital age.

What are you showing in The London Open 2022?

I am showing a photograph titled Practice (Mirrored) (2019). This is from a series of photographs capturing young women dancing, who I contacted through their YouTube channels. I invited these participants to a rehearsal studio and photographed their reflections in a mirror as they danced to their favourite pop songs.

I am also presenting a soundtrack I created in collaboration with a music producer. Through my lyrics, I attempt to explore how technology and digital networking culture shapes the human condition.

The work Practice (Mirrored) is really engrossing as it conveys how powerful an image can be. But on the other hand, as you say, it’s highlighting the obsessions of the YouTube generation. It captures them off guard, engrossed in their own world. Do you see this work as a social mirror?

I’m really interested in responding to the time and the generation that I’m part of. And I suppose my work reflects how I see the world.

To make the images, you used similar techniques to, as you say, your generation’s social media influencers, to record the dancing. But obviously your work has an artistic intent behind it. You made the accompanying soundtrack by appropriating beats from K-pop or club songs, and you wrote the lyrics yourself. Can you tell me a little bit more how you inhabit different situations to create your projects?

I like to use elements that are popular in society. And my work often references youth culture, entertainment, and online platforms, such as YouTube, so people might feel like they recognise what they’re engaging with, but then, my artistic gesture intervenes. What intrigues me is how such a slight twist can make reality appear strange or unknown

Dawoon Kim
Practice (Mirrored) I, 2019 C-type print
125 x 87 cm

Hyperconnectivity, 2019
3 mins

Listen here:


Dawoon  Kim (1994, Seoul, Korea)
2019 MA Photography, Royal College of Art, London
2016 BFA Media Arts, Seoul Institute of the Arts, Korea

Selected exhibitions: Playful Futures, Valletta Contemporary (2021); Performing Dawns, Hoxton Gallery, London (2021); Why do it together when you can do it alone?, Lewisham Arthouse, London (2019); RCA Show, Royal College of Art, London (2019); RAW: Research As Work, Hockney Gallery, London (2019); Voices of Korean Contemporary Artists, Bargehouse in Oxo Tower Wharf, London (2018); Showpiece, Galleri Nicolai Wallner, Copenhagen (2018); KIMDAEMON, Hello Museum, Seoul (2016)

What makes London’s art scene so vibrant? What are the concerns of the next generation of artists? What insight does their work offer in challenging times?

This triennial exhibition showcases a cross-section of the most dynamic artistic talent from across the capital. Established in 1932, this much-celebrated open submission show features 46 London-based artists working across painting, sculpture, moving image, installation and performance.

Since the last London Open in 2018, the city has experienced the COVID-19 pandemic, the UK’s withdrawal from the EU, demonstrations demanding racial and climate justice, and widespread questioning of institutions and their structures.

The London Open 2022 traces the ways in which artists have witnessed and responded to these events with resilience and heart. In times of hardship and crisis, and when exhibitions were cancelled and moved online, these artists experimented with new sites of production and means of dissemination, from the kitchen table to the back garden.

The exhibition is loosely structured as a journey from the personal to the social, moving from individual to collective concerns, the cathartic to the poetic, the political and the environmental.

The artists were selected from over 2,600 entries by a panel of experts including collector Maria Bukhtoyarova, artist Shezad Dawood, curator and art historian Christine Eyene, gallerist Stephan Tanbin Sastrawidjaja, with Whitechapel Gallery curators Emily Butler, lnês Costa and Wells Fray-Smith.

Gallery 1, Downstairs

The relationship between our bodies and the material world kickstarts the exhibition. Rafał Zajko‘s wall-based reliefs appear like hybrid beings, processing the gluten found in wheat and barley flour, leaving us unsure if this is for machine or human consumption.Likewise, Madeleine Pledge‘s stretched fabrics and ceramic boots imply absent bodies and their physical role in manufacturing.

Materiality and belief systems intersect in Candida Powell-Williams’ handmade objects. A unicorn and swing inspired by medieval tapestries are fenced off by a trellis, prompting questions about the divisions between what is mythical and real. Alicia Reyes McNamara‘s paintings feature non-binary, shapeshifting figures drawn from various mythologies, from Meso-America to Ancient Egypt, to consider alternative notions of time and embodiment.

Gallery 9, Upstairs

This gallery features works that delve into the impact of technology, algorithms and quantification on our lives. In his series The Spectre of a World Which Could Be Free  2019, Ben Yau looks at the parallel rise of Neoliberalism and the CIA’s role in sabotaging the socialist government of Salvador Allende in Chile in 1973, bringing together both economic data and declassified documents.

Set in a parallel present reminiscent of sci-fi films such as Blade Runner 2049, The Underlying by Ami Clarke considers the implicit role of capitalism in environmental disaster.

Meanwhile, Rory Cahill and George Mackness offer a walk through a dystopian, corrupted digital landscape of the future, with an immersive soundtrack. They consider: what does a digital wasteland look like, what happens there and what is its afterlife?

Gallery 8, Upstairs

The artworks in this gallery reflect on family, identity and community. Seema Khalique travelled to Bangladesh to photograph two communities of transgender people called hijras. In this behind-the-scenes series, she questions the prejudices they face, revealing the economic hardships they endure alongside the strong network of mentorship and care they create.

Pioneering photographer, curator and writer Sunil Gupta took photographs of his neighbourhood on Walworth Road during lockdown. This work celebrates the increased relevance of our localities during the pandemic, as well as reflecting on the processes involved in created photographic images.

On three vintage TV monitors, Hussina Raja‘s short narrative films look at the subject of migration to the UK from post-Partition India, tracing the continued experiences of displacement and exploring nuanced notions of identity.

The works in the last part of the show focus on our relationship to and impact on the environment. In Agrilogistics (2022), Gerard Ortin Castellvi films in an automated greenhouse, in which the growth of tomatoes, tulips and chrysanthemums is controlled by cameras and sensors, in order to question the future of food production.

Having spent lockdown excavating her back garden, Maria Roy Deulofeu meticulously records each layer of soil like an archaeologist, collecting artefacts and ecofacts, before assembling a kiln to fire hand-thrown urns with the different layers of clay. The process is recorded in a video shown alongside the objects. Finally, a flock of parakeets cast in lead are scattered on the ground in Patrick Goddard‘s Blue Sky Thinking (2019).The parakeet exemplifies a non-native species increasingly common in London parks and hints at a mass extinction event, highlighting mankind’s role in the impending climate disaster.

See the full list of works here.

An illustrated catalogue is available to purchase from the bookshop.

Artists have generously made limited editions to coincide with the exhibition to support the Gallery’s education programme.