Universal Skin Salvation
Knockdown Center
November 10 - December 16, 2018

Knockdown Center is pleased to present Universal Skin Salvation, the artist’s first large-scale solo exhibition, featuring a custom line of K-beauty products and a fully immersive sauna alongside new video, photo, and collage works.

Lactic acid is a bacterial compound found in sour milk, in muscles, and in fermented foods like Kimchi. Recent studies show that lactic acid can fortify the composition of the microbes in the gut, improving the metabolization of bodily injuries and building immunity to post-traumatic stress disorder. The bacterium can also lighten the flesh by exfoliating dead skin and rejuvenating new skin cells, and is popularly used in K-beauty products as a whitening agent (K-beauty refers to the multi-billion dollar Korean cosmetic industry). Shin engages with the concept of “lactification,” a term coined by philosopher Frantz Fanon that refers to the whitening of a race or to make one “milky.”

Visitors are invited to apply Shin’s custom K-beauty products such as lotions, mist sprays, and serums, and enter the sauna, absorbing small amounts of home-brewed lactic acid. For Shin, the active bacterial agent acts as stand-in for bodily rehabilitation from the Korean War and as an extension of the Korean “flesh” enlivened by biological matter. Through this immersive exhibition Shin asks: how does K-beauty’s emphasis on achieving a “glassy” and “transparent” complexion render Korean skin exoticized and impermeable, or plasticized, following the trauma and migration of the Korean War? How does Korean subjectivity emerge through flesh that has undergone extreme processes of cultural possession?

Programming Information


Untitled (Lactic Acid Brew), 2018. Lactic acid bacteria, whey protein, wood, cinder blocks, glass jars, mason jars, food grade container, funnel, 8 x 2 x 2 feet. Untitled (K-beauty), 2018. Lactic acid bacteria solution, glass, plexiglass, mirror, wood, dimensions variable. Untitled (Self-Portrait) 1, Untitled (Self-Portrait) 2, Untitled (Self-Portrait) 3, Untitled (Self-Portrait) 4, 2018. Digital print, frame, 25 x 37 inches.  Untitled (Lactic Acid Sauna), 2018. Lactic acid bacteria solution, vinyl, PVC pipe, humidifier, bucket, ventilator, 8 x 8 x 8 feet.
Stills from Five Step Skin Care, 2018. Single-channel video, 6:00.