Digital Art at Walker Hill Art Center

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Digital Art at Walker Hill Art Center

Connected to a hundred computers stands a giant screen, where a small character dances amid an array of vibrant colors and dynamic sounds. As a viewer moves closer to the screen, the character starts to run away. The viewer types a message: “Why do you keep running away from me?” The character stops, looks quizzically at the person and smiles. A delightful piano melody begins to flow from the screen and the character laughs and runs away, leaving only a dazzling mosaic of colors on the screen.

Let your imagination run wild; most anything is possible today, including cyber art. Since 1990, the fine arts have been incorporating multimedia tools such as graphic design, moving images, and digital music to produce a new form of art now called 'digital art.'

In March, the Walker Hill Art Center began work on their 'Electronic Canvas Project.' Defined as an interactive image produced through several web browser windows, the electronic canvas crosses boundaries of science, art, and philosophy. Its original and unique concept continues to attract interest from a variety of people since its inception.

The electronic canvas displays a digital image through a mosaic of several computer monitors, each displaying a different color or pattern or scene. It strikes a similar chord as do the works of video artist Paik Nam-jun. whose familiar use of television screens have been replaced in the digital canvass with computer monitors.

What most distinguishes the electronic canvas from other existing works of art is its interactive capability. The project uses a variety of sensors to produce an interactive dialogue between the object of art and the audience. Consequently, if the audience was to laud the piece, the artwork would respond with a polite, “Thank you.”

The first digital art piece produced by the Walker Hill Art Center is “Mirre”. Formed by combining the Internet and artificial intelligence, Mirre is currently located at the Walker Hill Art Center at the SK Building in Chongno, Seoul. Mirre is displayed on 100 monitors and 30 computers.

Mirre is not a great departure from Paik's video art. Acknowledging that Mirre is still in its development phase - the people involved in the electronic canvas project endearingly call Mirre their “Millennium Baby.”

Dr. Chang Dong-hoon, professor of fine arts at Ewha Women's University, explains, “Mirre will grow according to our imagination; there will be endless possibilities for improvement. Mirre will be able to duplicate and act like a living organism.”

Working on Mirre alongside Dr. Chang are Lee Won-gon, professor of communication art at Kyongju University, Won Kwang-yun, professor of computer engineering at KAIST, and Roh So-young, curator of the Walker Hill Art Center.

Mirre is only at its initial stage. With plans to open a digital art center in September, the art center is working with various experts from the humanities, art, and computer fields to develop other art pieces similar to Mirre. Combining science technology, humanities, and fine arts, they are hoping to open a new chapter in the history of art by bringing forth a wholly new kind of art form.

In the sciences, Yoon Song-ei, a recent MIT doctorate graduate is working with Dr. Won in developing the project, while in the fine arts, professors Kim Se-hoon of Sejong University and Yoo Jin-sang of Kaywon School of Art and Design join writer Lee Yong-baik to map out the project's artistic objectives. The literary figures involved in the project include professors Kim Yong-ho of Sung Kong Hoe University and Kim Joo-hwan of Yonsei University, as well as philosopher Kim Jae-in. The Art Center plans on further enlarging its panel of experts for the digital art project.

Noh explains, “It's hard to say where we'll be for sure in September, but everything looks positive right now. We'll work hard and do our best to make the electronic canvas project a new road to a new art field.”



by Shin Yong-ho

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