Exhibition shows the dark and humorous sides of the digital world

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Exhibition shows the dark and humorous sides of the digital world


The Seoul National University Museum of Art’s “Media Field” exhibition features works that explore how people’s lives have changed in the digital world. Hyun Sejin’s “Ventriloquial Triptych II” (2017), left, shows texts being typed using auto completion. Mun Sang Hyun’s “ZXX” (2012) introduces a typeface that can avoid detection. [SEOUL NATIONAL UNIVERSITY MUSEUM OF ART]

Whether we like it or not, we often find ourselves being dragged into the almost magnetic field that is the digital world, where our private information becomes public and artificial technology is threatening to make human skills and knowledge obsolete.

“Media Field,” a new exhibition by the Seoul National University Museum of Art, seeks to explore how people’s lives have changed in the digital world. For most artists, the experience doesn’t seem to have been such a positive one.

Works by Choi Hae Min and Lee Young Joo bemoan the contemporary social phenomenon and the extent to which highly private activities have become dehumanized as they take place online.

Through “Relation Interface_SNS-Collage_” (2018), Choi expresses the wariness of people, including herself, who consume personal and painful stories that others upload on social media as if they’re reading the news. The work features both recreations of actual posts, alongside collages of images that capture the sentiments that the texts conjured up for her.

“[Social media] is convenient and enables you to network whenever you want, but there is also a sense of helplessness that stems from the inability to completely sympathize with others,” said Choi, who was present at the press day for “Media Field” last Tuesday. “For example, a few hours after I was notified of the death of an acquaintance, I found myself browsing through posts about how another friend was enjoying their holiday. I felt a certain fear in knowing that my information will also be consumed like this once it enters the system.”

Even an activity as personal as choosing a sperm donor can become desensitized, Lee warns in “Dreaming Eggs” (2018). In the video, a 3-D animated woman flicks through a list of possible sperm donors, her eyes jumping from one candidate to another as if she is online shopping.

In contrast to works that highlight the dangers of technology, some artists address the limits of technology’s intelligence and its failures, which have the potential to produce either comical or painful results.

Hyun Sejin’s “Ventriloquial Triptych II” (2017) for example, shows a video of the artist using an auto word completion tool to text. She writes up entire paragraphs only using the tool, which results in the creation of nonsensical phrases like “my mom is so much fun and addicting and fun to play with my friends.”

Lee Eunhee collects actual instances of people suffering injustices like racial discrimination because of digital failures in her video “Contrast of Yours” (2017), warning of technology’s potential infringement on human rights. One case introduced in the video is of how an African-American person was categorized as a gorilla by some facial recognition software.

Mun Sang Hyun even shares a way of escaping the trappings of the digital field through a typeface that he invented that’s allegedly undetectable online. In “ZXX” (2012), the new alphabet font he’s created is decorated with dots or has lines going through it, making it identifiable only by humans.

The exhibition runs through Dec. 4. Hours are from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. except Mondays. Admission is free.

BY KIM EUN-JIN [kim.eunjin1@joongang.co.kr]

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