Marina Tsekou

Kimsooja, Bottari, 2017. Site specific installation Bottari made from traditional Korean bed covers and used clothes from Athens and Kassel. Variable dimensions. National Museum of Contemporary Art Athens (EMST). This installation was donated by the Artist on the occasion of the inauguration of the EMST’s new museum building in 2017. Copyright EMST. Inv. No. 1100/17


The following interpretations of Kimsooja's art work come from a unique project at the National Museum of Contemporary Art, Athens (EMST) in 2017. Face Forward …into my home  was an interactive art project focused on the stories of people who have been forced to leave their homelands and were rebuilding their life in Greece. It included storytelling workshops inspired by a selection of contemporary artworks from the collection of EMST, the photo shooting of portraits, and a photography exhibition about and with refugees and asylum-seekers, then living in the greater Athens area. Link


Bryan, Student / Zimbabwe

The bundles in Kimsooja’s work could symbolize refugees. Different colors in the fabrics symbolize the different cultures each of us comes from or the different race we belong to. Also, as bundles contain things that we cannot see, every refugee hides the ideas and talents that he has not been given the opportunity to reveal. It takes time and, perhaps, some day, the bundle will open and refugees will be able to make use of their abilities and talents. Only then will they feel free.


Daas, 28 years old / Syria

In Bottari, Kimsooja perhaps wants to tell a story of love or joy or sadness, or one that has to do with refugees. These are things that have always engaged people. But still, we’d have a better idea of what the work is talking about if the bundles were open and we could see what’s hidden inside. Also, the fabrics she used and the designs she embroidered on them perhaps weren’t from her country but are fabrics and bundles that people all over the world use. In Syria, for example, women usually wrap their things in their headscarf or, in the old days, when a woman got married, she would receive her dowry wrapped in a similar cloth of pure white. And when the farmers went out to work, they’d put their food or clothes in a bundle like that. So, I think the artist wants to convey a universal message through this piece.


Hassan, Student / Pakistan

I saw a lot of artworks in the Museum. Some of them reminded me of my country and others made me remember things I’ve experienced. Like the “bottari”, the tied bundles of clothes. They reminded me of the bundles we made in Pakistan. My grandmother used to make them and store different things in them.


Kourosh, 34 years old / Iran

During our first session at the Museum we had a very interesting discussion about an artwork by Korean artist Kimsooja, called Bottari¸ which means “bundle”.  The image felt familiar, because my grandmother used to store things in bundles like that and put them under the bed. I thought there could be some symbolic meaning in the work. The bundle symbolizes man, since we all conceal something inside us and only when we begin communicating with each other do we become aware of what each of us is hiding. Refugees, too, are like bundles. It’s hard being a refugee, being forced to leave your country. At least at first. Your life and day-to-day routine change drastically. You miss your family, your parents, your country.


Mahdi, Student / Iran

The work with the clothes bundles reminded me of my country. We also used to wrap our clothes up and tie them in a bundle when we’d take small trips. I liked the colors of the fabrics in the work, especially the red. I have a gift someone gave me once and if I had a bundle like that today, I’d put the gift inside to keep it safe so that it wouldn’t ever break. If each of us is a bundle where we hide stuff we’ve experienced and have inside our mind, it takes a long time to open up and share all that with other people. I’ve got things inside me that I don’t share with anybody. My bundle has a really tight knot, and I don’t take anything out into the open. The only thing I do now and then is to go down to the sea and share what I’m thinking with the water. The shelter is near the sea and I can get there easily. Even when I was staying at another facility, which was farther away, I’d come down to the sea to be alone and just listen to the water. To be alone with my thoughts.


Patricia, 34 years old / Cameroon

Kimsooja’s Bottari reminded me of the boats we all started out in when we left Turkey for Greece.


Idris, 17 years old / Afghanistan

The bundles that we saw in the work of Kimsooja are something we also make in Afghanistan. We may be from different countries, speak different languages, but we have some things in common. In one such bundle I would keep the book that I want to write about what I’ve been through in life. And when I get to the point where things will no longer be so hard for me, I will open it so I can read it and never forget what I’ve experienced.

As we can see, each bundle has a different colour, and that is the way we need to look at people too: each one has their own personality and we need to adapt our behaviour accordingly. And just like all bundles put together, one next to each other, create a beautiful set, the same happens to a country: it’s better for people of different origins to live together, united.


Mo-Sabi, 19 years old / Iraq

When we talked about the work of Kimsooja, I thought that if I too was a bundle, I wouldn’t have a tight knot. It’s not good to have hidden secrets. I’m an “open book.” In my opinion, when we hide something, two things may be happening: either we have done something that we think is wrong, or we are scared. But, mistakes can be fixed and we must confess them, otherwise we will be forever living with guilt. And if we’re afraid, it’s not bad to show it. Anyone who’s afraid and doesn’t talk about it, will be afraid for the rest of their lives. That’s why I believe we don’t need to keep secrets.

In the bundle I would put things that I cherish, things that I would put in in my car to take with me. I really miss my car in Iraq. I had a Chevrolet, my most beautiful possession ever!


Reem, 23 years old / Syria

Each bundle, or Bottari, in the work of Kimsooja could symbolize a person, each one with their own characteristics. The green one, for example, could represent the love we carry inside us. Inside my bundle, I would put those secrets that are precious to me. And the bundle would be tight, because I wouldn’t want anybody to see them. I do not agree with Mo-Sabi, that we must not keep secrets. I may have a special secret that I don’t want to share with others. I want to keep it for me. Even when I’m very happy, I want to keep it for me.

The only way I might undo the bundle and share my secret with others, is when the importance I attribute to it will have changed, when it will have become less important to me.


Aboud, 26 years old / Syria

Metaphorically speaking, our entire life is a journey with many stops along the way. This is the meaning of travelling as portrayed by the bundles in the work of Kimsooja, which remind me of when we decided to abandon our country and had to pack our things: our clothes, some personal items and some mementos, while so much more was left behind. Among the things I managed to salvage until now is a beautiful memento: five years ago I exchanged a piece of paper with a friend on which we had written our names and the date of our separation. Just like in the installation, where bundles are far from each other, we each went our own way once we parted. But we keep the memory of our friendship alive.


Farida, 28 years old / Afghanistan

Every work of art that we saw reminded me of our journey. The bundles by Kimsooja reminded me of how we packed our things in Afghanistan to come here. It’s in bundles like these that we keep our clothes back home as well. And the Koran, which is something sacred, is wrapped in a cloth and kept high on a shelf. During the trip I had put it close to my chest so it would protect me and we would arrive safely. We were travelling for forty to forty five days. One day we even had to walk thirteen hours non-stop. We have kept some photos from the journey on our mobile phones.