Kunsu Shim is a composer and performance artist. His sound world is a melting pot of ideas from opposing forces such as chaos and order, chance and causality, striding forth and dwelling, sequence and interruption, smooth and rough, I and you (we). Shim understands his works to be a contemplation of form, and so without mysticism. His performances in the tradition of Fluxus seek to destroy the visible reality of things, and thus render them intangible.
Deeply influenced by his cooperation with German composer Gerhard Stäbler since the 1990s, their original concept of “PerformanceMusik” has led to many collaborative works. Together with Stäbler, he has developed countless interdisciplinary ideas such as Trialog with video artist Kyungwoo Chun in 2009/10 and CAGE 100 for Tonhalle Düsseldorf in 2012.
Shim and Stäbler directed EarPort, the centre for contemporary music in Duisburg, from 2000 to 2010. Since 2012, both composers have been organising performances at various museums in Düsseldorf as well as the concert series, Natürlich schön!, where traditional and new music meet at Düsseldorf’s Schloss Benrath. Here, they have also established their annual Winter Academy for “PerformanceMusik”.
In October 2015, EarPort was relaunched as a centre for experimental synergies between art forms. Interdisciplinary events have since included Frequenzen-Resonanzen with Schlosstheater Moers, Donnerhall at GROSSE Kunstausstellung NRW (Kunstpalast Düsseldorf) and IM GEGENÜBER, a collaboration with the Diocese of Würzburg.
The most significant commissions from Kunsu Shim have included ATEMWENDE - Stille for orchestra (2007), STEINSCHLAG·ZEIT (2008), numerous chamber and ensemble works, and the major a capella choral works, HIER·SEIN and HERE TO ME, both from 2012. In 2011, the Essen Philharmoniker commissioned AFTER A HUNDRED YEARS for soprano and orchestra. In Autumn of 2014, the Würzburg Philharmoniker successfully premiered AND HERE AGAIN - eine Perlenlandschaft supported by the Kunststiftung NRW. ZKM Karlsruhe followed with its premiere of UM ZU HÖREN for string orchestra. In June 2016, his WOLKEN.BLINDENSCHRIFT for soprano, vocal ensemble and orchestra received its premiere in Würzburg’s Kiliansdom.
He has given numerous portrait concerts, readings and workshops throughout Europe, Australia, North and South America, the Middle and Far East. Recently he has been invited to premieres and performances of his work in Iceland, Norway, Korea, Japan, Portugal, the USA and South America.
The son of a Japanese migrant, Kunsu Shim was born on the 15th September, 1958 in Pusan, South Korea. The sea transported him as a teenager to the experience of wide open space, a characteristic foundation of his subsequent works. At only 18 years old, then again at 19, he became known as the first prize winner in a competition for young composers in Busan, along with the DongA Newspaper Prize (1982) and the JungAng Newspaper Prize (1983). He studied composition at the Yonsei University of Seoul (1979-1983). In 1985, Kunsu Shim came to Germany, where he studied in Stuttgart with Helmut Lachenmann. From 1989 to 1992, he studied in the Folkwang Hochschule with Nicolaus A. Huber, whose “simple but powerful language” electified him.
During this time, he developed a new stylistic direction, not least because of his interest in new music from the USA, along with visual art and literature. He found his true voice through his composition orchester in stereo mit fünf sinustönen (1990). He was recognised throughout the 1990s for his work, including the WDR Prize at Forum junger Komponisten (1992), as well as becoming artist-in-residence at Djerassi, California and Schreyahn in Germany. He belonged to the group of composers “Wandelweiser” from 1994-99, during which time he incorporated some fundamental aspects of his compositional style, such as stillness and simpicity. In 2003, Shim received the scholarship of Akademie der Künste, Berlin and the renowned Genko Uchida Fellowship Scholarship, which enabled a three month visit to Japan.