Whitehot Magazine

Mimi Park: Treasure Hunt at Sebastian Gladstone

Installation view of Mimi Park: Treasure Hunt at Sebastian Gladstone, Los Angeles (January 20 - February 17, 2024). Photo by Nik Massey. Courtesy of Sebastian Gladstone.

By HO WON KIM February 17, 2024

In November 2023, on the cusp between fall and winter, I had the opportunity to visit Mimi Park's studio, situated in the industrial heart of Brooklyn. Located above a hardware store and an auto repair shop, the studio’s setting contrasts sharply with the delicate nuances of Mimi's practice. This juxtaposition serves as a prelude to her solo exhibition, Treasure Hunt at the Sebastian Gladstone Gallery in Los Angeles, introducing a story that began to unfold with my arrival.

Treasure Hunt encourages visitors to engage in a search for hidden "treasure" within the gallery space. The installation, comprising "ordinary" objects of various sizes, creates an illusory landscape. Central to the exhibition is a structure reminiscent of an arch or bridge, crafted from magazine paper, which extends toward the gallery's end, evoking a mountain ridge. Adorned with an array of things, including books, analog transistors, garments, footwear, broken glasses, beach balls, and patches of soil, the space transforms into a metaphorical forest brimming with diversity. Each object, whether motorized or stationary, radiates vibrant colors and distinct textures, collectively forming a scenic view akin to a botanical haven. The atmosphere, both chaotic and playful, is further highlighted by trails of yellow and purple glitter across the floor, simulating a river meandering through a forest.

Within this panorama, Mimi draws our attention to the significance of sensory experiences. Above all, this landscape and its ecosystem epitomize a form of hyperlink–not one of hyperconnectivity, but rather a link forged amidst the convergence of diverse materials and the enhancement of their individual agencies. These tangible connections between the artist and her materials conceptually signify the intricate network of interactions foundational to Mimi’s artistic practice. The “treasure” Mimi urges us to find lies in the sensory experiences enabled by the linkages easily overlooked. 

In a digitally dominated environment, many connections remain invisible. Technologies such as the internet, networks, Bluetooth, and RFID operate unseen, their physical infrastructures hidden beneath the earth and oceans. What Mimi constructs by hand, through tactile engagement, transcends mere representation of reality, reimagining the very basis of reality's construction. The hyperlinks crafted in the gallery do not mimic seamless telecommunications or an uninterrupted continuum of time and space; they are characterized by interruptions, fragmentations, and recompositions. Mimi thus redefines the concept of treasure, prompting visitors to reassess what constitutes value and beauty in the often ignored aspects of daily life.

The connections Mimi establishes through her exhibition extend beyond the gallery's physical boundaries. During the installation phase, Mimi identifies resonant markers within the exhibition environment, related directly or indirectly to her objects. For Treasure Hunt, she draws inspiration from celestial maps accessed through a stargazing app, echoing ancient star-based navigation practices. She explores the dynamic interplay of forces, such as gravitational pull, in relation to both herself and her artworks. This reflective process culminates on the exhibition floor, where Mimi presents a synthesis of cyclical motifs that bridge architectural and astronomical dimensions.

Installation view of Mimi Park: Treasure Hunt at Sebastian Gladstone, Los Angeles (January 20 - February 17, 2024). Photo by Nik Massey. Courtesy of Sebastian Gladstone.

Mimi's installation also forges connections to the earth. In the left corner, just by the entrance of the gallery, a tent-like structure made from cardboard boxes and draped in white cloth featuring intricate black botanical illustrations invites visitors inside through a small opening. Inside, one discovers crumpled commercial receipts on the floor, evoking the discovery of a secluded waterfall in rugged terrain. Inside, paper-based air-dry clay figurines embedded with seeds from California-native plants are displayed on a table, and offered to visitors to take and plant, initiating a cycle of growth.

A white cubic gallery space typically signifies purity and detachment from its surroundings, asserting independence from external contexts. Mimi's choice of cardboard boxes and invoices serves as a powerful statement on the inescapable influence of human activity on the material world, both within and outside the gallery. Furthermore, her deliberate inclusion of seeds challenges anthropocentric perceptions associated with white-walled galleries, questioning human temporality and disputing narratives of human dominance over nature.

Installation view of Mimi Park: Treasure Hunt at Sebastian Gladstone, Los Angeles (January 20 - February 17, 2024). Photo by Nik Massey. Courtesy of Sebastian Gladstone.

Mimi recognizes the inherent power and agency of materials. As a result, rather than starting her creative process from scratch, she focuses on articulating the interaction between pre-existing elements. By reconfiguring components, altering their proximity, and transforming their relationships, Mimi infuses new life into familiar materials. In Treasure Hunt, resin panels come alive with colors, textures, and materials, incorporating dust from previous exhibitions, photographic elements, and fragments of other artists' works into a textured mosaic. Despite the challenges of working with resin, such as its rapid setting time and the need to prevent overflow, Mimi leverages these limitations to create patterns reminiscent of waves or the Milky Way, aiming to capture fleeting moments and chronicle her artistic journey.

Mimi reflects on her artistic trajectory, transitioning from transient expressions, akin to the fleeting beauty of fireworks, to manifestations of permanence, reminiscent of fossils or entities in hibernation. These motifs of "hibernation" and "fossils" symbolize the fluidity of time and the transformation of spaces. Hibernation signifies a deliberate slowdown to accommodate seasonal changes, while fossilization highlights the evolution of landscapes and their inhabitants. In her quest to construct landscapes and ecosystems, Mimi's goal is not to mimic divine creation but to delve into the understanding of life's inherent cycles. Her works, far from being isolated creations, engage dynamically with their surroundings, inviting viewers to explore her diverse realm. This engagement challenges us to examine our own perceptions and the environments we inhabit.

More than just a treasure hunt in the gallery, Treasure Hunt invites viewers to deeply contemplate the essence of time and space surrounding them, to observe the often overlooked things, and to illuminate the invisible connections.  WM


Ho Won Kim

Ho Won Kim is a curator and writer. He is interested in the intersection of human and mechanical, as well as artistic and technological. His most recent research has concentrated on the hybridization of old and new media, with a particular emphasis on vision and perception. His practice spans writing and curation, traversing from Seoul to New York.


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