Exploring art's binaries

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Exploring art's binaries

Is it possible to stage a drama without anyone on stage?

How do you create a picture that is 360 meters long but just 5 centimeters wide?

Can 50 artists simultaneously collaborate on a project in exactly one spot?

Technology meets art, surmounting challenges like these, at the Media City Seoul digital-art exhibition now at the Seoul Museum of Art.

Under the theme "Lunar Flow," the show consists of two exhibitions: the main exposition inside the newly renovated Seoul Museum of Art in downtown Seoul and outdoor displays nearby.

The museum building serves as an organic medium; each room symbolizing different body parts, such as eyes, skin, brain, heart and bones.

Projects include digital videos, animated films, sculptures and video-game installations. In one called "Cyber Mind," 50 artists from around the world are connected via the Internet with 16 monitors showing works in progress.

The outdoor exhibition has a night gallery, theater and mobile projects. The stone walls by Deoksu Palace are also backdrop for art by Ahn Soo-jin.

A half century has passed since the celebrated Korean artist Paik Nam June began turning video into an art form. Today, mixed-media artists go far beyond video. They are exploring what can be done with computer-generated animation, synthesized music and computer-designed sculpture. Progress has created new waves of technology, and with them new currents of art.

Two years ago, Media City Seoul's organizers highlighted respected digital artists from around the world, including Paik.

This year, organizers have chosen younger artists, taking more of a risk with the roughly 130 works on display. The emphasis is on interactive art that may be more approachable to a wider audience.

"We want the art to be accessible to the public and create a festive atmosphere," said Cho So-young, an organizer.

The JoongAng Ilbo English Edition spoke with four of the artists. Interviews follow.

The exhibition runs to Nov. 24. The museum is open from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily; the outdoor show runs from 6:30 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. Admission for adults is 7,000 won ($6), children 3,000 won. For more information, call 02-2124-8938.




Sunday, Oct. 6, 7:30-8:30 p.m.

Hour-long light show + eyes project


Saturday, Oct. 12, 7:30 -8:30 p.m.

Hour-long electric music concert + visual performance



Film and video has been the focus of Ken Feingold's artistic life since the early 1970s. His works have changed over the years from narratives that mimic the thought process to explorations of cultural otherness.

His works deal with philosophical issues such as language, consciousness and perception. He uses art as a strategy to understand the human mind and spirit.

His "House of Cards" is an interactive installation set up in a photography darkroom. Using a microphone in the center of the room, visitors can talk to an image projected on the wall.

"The first 'digital' work I exhibited, in 1991, was an interactive installation called 'The Surprising Spiral.'

For me, art is not about the medium or the tools, but about the concept and the experience it creates with the viewer. If it really is art, then whether a computer was involved is unimportant.

Most people think digital art is something to see on a computer screen -- my works use computers, but you never see them; they are behind the scenes, giving the works personalities.

During the 1970s and 1980s I was making installations using video and sculptural materials, and I got interested in having these works change in response to the presence or the actions of viewers.

Computers allowed me to do this. My works have always been about the mind in some way. I first took a course in Fortran, an early computer language, in 1970. It was only interesting conceptually; not something to make art.

When personal computers came in the 1980s, I decided to teach myself how to write programs in order to see how computers could 'think' and 'speak' and 'see' and 'hear' because I knew that if I could understand how to write a personality for a computer, it would involve something deeply philosophical.

Each of my works has a specific central theme. They are, in a broader sense, something like consciousness, and how we make meaning out of our experiences. My works raise questions about our interior existence and how it interacts with the 'real world.' In this respect, they are somewhat psychological.

The works in this exhibition talk about how we make our lives into stories by connecting many fragments, and how moments in our lives connect across time and place. In other words, the meaning we make of the world is constructed by our experiences, and that our experiences are constructed by our stories.

I hope to see art which can bypass the object altogether and connect directly with the mind. Once it is possible to record and play back mental activity, we will have artists making hybrids of object art, cinema, dreams and imagination, utilizing all of the senses. Perhaps holographic projections or something like them will permit large works which are immaterial, yet exist in the same space as our bodies. That would be wonderful."



East is east and west is west. But in Cody Choi's world, they collide and the results are often humorous.

Choi explores the stereotypes of West and East in mixed his media works, which have attracted global recognition.

For "Twin Funeral," Choi downloaded a picture of a funeral scene from the Internet, expanded the pixels and imbedded another image within. The work, a Vutek print on mesh, is mounted on canvas.

One of his theories is that digital culture is destroying creativity.

"One day I took my daughter Holy, a fourth grader, to a zoo. When we came home, I asked her to draw a tiger we had seen that day.

When I was a child, I would have tried to remember what a tiger looked like and then draw an 'impression' of the tiger I had seen.

What Holy did was turn on the computer and search for a database that stored hundreds of images of tigers. She clicked on one, downloaded the image, tinkered a little bit and printed it out.

She didn't have to get anything from her own head because she knew her computer already had data for her to use anytime.

When underground musicians in Germany and Tokyo began making compilation sound using samplings of sound data about 10 years ago, no one even considered it music. When the synchronizer was invented, no one thought it was a real musical instrument. But these days you don't need real musicians to play each instrument.

Digital art was already around when electrical art prospered during the peak of post-modernism art. Avant-garde artists such as Paik Nam June began experimenting with television sets and video to initiate computer-generated images.

Just as technology brings social changes, computers have dramatically changed the way people live and think. Today's generation is all about the database.

I use the database to make art. I also use a printing technology, Vutek, which enables me to produce works of any dimension. I only create one image, and then destroy the file."



Two years ago, Milotos Manetas helped coin the term "neen." He defined neen as an "undefined generation of visual artists."

A new word that represents an undefined generation?

That sort of eccentricity, coupled with a vision for the future, consistently lands the Greek-born Manetas in the midst of public debate.

In spring of this year, he executed a cunning publicity stunt at New York's Whitney Biennial, which did not include his works. He held a press conference saying that even though he was invited, he would deliver a new work requiring 23 U-Haul trucks.

The trucks never arrived, but they were on-line. Manetas constructed a Web site, www.whitneybiennial.com, as an counter exhibition space.

At the Seoul Media show he is presenting "After Tomb Raider" and "Abstract Super Mario," in which he copies scenes from the popular video games and prints the images. Before the ink dries, he wipes them with a tissue. Once the print is dry, he expands the image using a technique called fedex.

It's a technique he says he uses to explore the pleasures that people derive from arcade games.

"Most of my works are not digital. They are oil on canvas, and represent computers, cables and people playing video games. I always do them. It's like a video game where an invisible SuperMario is playing Miltos Manetas and directs him to be a painter.

It happened in 1994. Somebody sold me a computer and I noticed that it seemed ready to talk. It had a face (its screen), a light coming from inside and a sound system. So, I had it say something, as if it was just opening its eyes and it was surprised. I wrote a program that would turn its screen blue for a second and it would say 'Whoops!'(www.biribiri.com).

I showed that piece in Paris, leaving the gallery empty, with only the little laptop as a performer, saying its 'Whoops!'

Later, I discovered video games. They offer a new kind of non-human actors, who you can ask to do different things. I started making very simple videos, such as killing Lara Croft for hours or having SuperMario falling asleep.

The critics says that my Internet and after-video game pieces don't even look like art, so I suppose that is their most important element."



If any person is able to create a project drawing on abstract painting, structuralist film, light and space art, architecture, music and performance, it's Jennifer Steinkamp. The results of her creativity are often a dream-like experimental space.

In the past, she has collaborated with musicians to create light installations and make computer-generated video projections.

In "Luna's Eyes," part of the Eyes Project, a building's facade symbolizes skin and the windows represent the pores. It's a metaphor for the Greek mythological hero Argus, known for his many eyes.

"Before getting into digital art, I made abstract film and photography, and did a little painting. Then I was inspired and intrigued with images created by computer while watching the films of Ed Emshwiller in a video art class. Digital art can open up new possibilities we have not yet seen, heard or experienced, and it is a great way to melt away categories and their limits. Through my work, I want my audience to consider their personal experiences. I would like them to consider the limits and possibilities of their perceptions.

The most important aspect of my work is the beauty of visuals, audio and motion. In the future, art will be generative; it will live and breathe, perhaps have emotions based on a set of rules set forth by the artist. Art will be ubiquitous, part of our clothing, accessible in new ways."

by Inēs Cho

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