By Kendall Tichner
Every city has hidden worlds few see, most of which is right beneath our city streets. I came across photographer Miru Kim’s work while browsing TED Talks, an informative lecture series published online. Kim is part of a network of urban explorers who investigate ruins like old subways, aqueducts, factories, tunnels and shipyards. Her renegade, hit-and-run style exhibitions are held in places that have been left untouched for decades.
To me and other New Yorkers, Kim’s work is compelling because it acts as an eerie history lesson. Kim titled her series Naked City Spleen. Naked City is one, albeit archaic nickname for New York, while spleen embodies the melancholy and inertia that accompanies feelings of alienation in an urban environment.
At first, Kim simply took photos of these desolate hidden dwellings. But, documenting the soon-to-be demolished structures wasn’t enough for her; she felt the photos needed something else, a hint of life. She used her own body to act as fictional character that within the underground fringes. Moreover, her character does not wear clothing, so there are no cultural implications or time specific markings.
Recently, Kim visited a Sugar Factory in Red Hook, Brooklyn. The building will soon become a shopping mall, positioned across the street from the new IKEA store. Next, Kim visited the old abandoned Croton aqueduct, which once supplied NYC with its first water resources.
Other NYC dwellings Kim photographed are the tunnel underneath Riverside Park, the Williamsburg Bridge, a tunnel in Hells Kitchen and an insane asylum that was demolished when Colombia University moved in.
Kim’s photos make you question what’s beneath your own feet. She uses the city’s past to ignite curiosity and encourage exploration of the unknown. Her photos evoke both familiarity and fear, something city dwellers hold close to their heart.