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in The Orange Brown Box (toy figurine), 2023

Acrylic on linen, 10 X 8 Inches











Memento Vivere - what one wants


‘Memento Mori’, a symbolic trope, serves as a reminder of the inevitability of death. Latin for “remember you must die", the phrase insinuates that worldly pleasures, including life itself, are at best, transient. With a shift of emphasis, one can argue that its contemporary counterpart is YOLO, the acronym for “you only live once” (and so, indulge while you can). There is also the term ‘Memento Vivere, which means “remember to live”, supposedly created as a direct counterpart of ‘Memento Mori.


While the former values a form of humility, and the latter terms (for lack of a better term) hedonism, both are reminders that life is only once. The difference lies in the philosophical solutions that we choose to pursue in the mind of this truth. It is important to note the life and death dichotomy (as we currently understand it today) cannot be understood without the respective’ opposite counterparts; one cannot suggest death, as death is a state reserved only for those that have been alive, without bringing to mind life. Life is not life if death is not death and vice versa. "Memento mori" - remember you must die…everything is meaningless in the face of death - but conversely, the hopeful truth is that in the present moment, you are alive. Still, the undercurrent question looms. "Why do we choose to live if one day we'll die anyway?". Philosophical solutions aside, I think it is safe to say that for conscious life, desire, with all the plethora of forms that it can take, acts as a driving force of one's choice to stay alive. Desire can be a new car. Desire can be a promotion at your job. Desire can be the will to make one's mother proud. It can be whiskey after a long day of work. It can be an unanswered question.  Desire is a shapeshifter - it is a hidden entity. It may materialize only to be hidden again. One can hide one’s desire in a box only for it to be lost and lost again. One may find one’s desire in a box that has never been seen before. It is a perpetual cycle, and we will never know when it will end. It is a paradox, a tragicomedy, that these things meaningless in the face of death are the engines that keep our life going.


Kyung Tae Kim is an artist who was born and raised in Seoul, South Korea. Working primarily with painting and installation, he received his BFA in Painting at Kookmin University, Seoul, and graduated with an MFA in Fine Art from the School of Visual Arts, New York (2017). Furthermore, he studied abroad as an exchange student at Sheffield Hallam University in the UK (2008). In 2019, Kim gained the Young Artist Award from “The Korean Artists” Group Exhibition, awarded by the Mayor of Jersey City. Selected exhibitions include Sematic Net at First Street Gallery, New York (2020); Cognitive Dissidence at Ray Smith Gallery, New York (2017); The Southern Slopes of 8 Shadows at Nampo Museum, Goheung, S.Korea (2013). Kim currently lives and works in Jersey City, New Jersey.




In The Orange Brown Box (toy figurine) - Kyung Tae Kim