The breakthrough in pictorial methods found in her early works expanded across three-dimensional space to perfectly occupy the space.
WRITE Youn-Ji Lee PHOTOGRAPHY Rama
Artist Yiyun Kang, who I interviewed in the London studio. She is sitting at her work desk working on ‘digital drawing’ by taking coordinates in a virtual space.
Over the past few years, Yiyun Kang has seen a tremendous period of growth as an artist. The breakthrough in pictorial methods found in her early works expanded across three-dimensional space to perfectly occupy the space. Actually, it is difficult to explain Kang’s works in brief. Her work style, called ‘projection mapping’, should be understood both as the comprehensive conception of time and space with the existence of numerous variables enclosing her work. It is not just the infinite expansion in space, but also the potential for grafting various fields such as science, technology, music and architecture onto her artwork. The easiest and quickest way to understand her works is to go to her exhibition and thoroughly experience them for yourself. Chemistry, created by the works and visitors as they share time and space, is the keyword of her work in the moment of the experience. The explanation by the artist explaining her own work is fast and fluent. I can feel the effort behind how long she has been thinking about explaining her work, how many times she has talked to a multitude of people about her art.
It has been a long time since you participated in a group exhibition in Korea. Shall we start with that story?
Early this year, I participated in the Immortality in the Cloud exhibition at the Ilmin Museum of Art. The theme of the exhibition was ‘How history changes in a digital environment.’ I think history is ‘action and reaction’. From the French Revolution to the current issue of Brexit, there has been a continuous stream of events. And all the information exists and remains immortal in the Cloud. In this work, ‘Continuum’, I utilized the most basic units used in computer modelling with the computer color model, RGB. Then I planned to put a mirror on the floor of the exhibition hall and let the audience feel as if they were completely surrounded by the work. The images reflected in the mirror and the actual images act and react against each other, and together they create an extra dimension in the exhibition hall. It’s like you are in another dimension. If the beginning to the middle of the work was a perfect digital story, the atmosphere of the work suddenly changes with the sound of a dharma drum, and then shapes reminiscent of red blood and the white blood cells would appear. The sound of people waking. The digital as a being with life that lives with us. I wanted to tell people that we and the digital are living together endlessly and we should be awake independently in this situation.
When we think about the artist Yiyun Kang, V&A Samsung Korean Digital Art Resident comes to mind first. It is not too much to say that V&A Samsung Korean Digital Art Resident made you who you are today. The work ‘CASTING’ you showed on the V&A Cast Courts in 2016 was very impressive.
While I was a doctoral student in England, I wasn’t caught up with the news. One of my friends told me that there was such a project, and I thought I must do it. And it happened that the V&A (Victoria and Albert Museum) was close by to the school where I was studying, and so I went to the exhibition hall many times for research. I submitted the proposal and participated in the program for six months. On the first day I exhibited ‘CASTING’, and the curator in charge said that they wanted to buy the work. Then we started discussing and it took a year for them to have the work.
I think it would be hard to define the work ‘Projection Mapping’. From where can we say it's a work? Even though the work is installed in different places, can it be said to be the same work? I wonder about many of these things.
Places and spaces are important in my work. The only way to show this work again is to re-project it in the V&A Cast Courts. If the projector is accidentally turned off, the space will return to the original exhibition hall. Even if we project onto the real pillar in Rome, we can’t say it is the same work. We could say it is another version, couldn’t we?
The Cast Courts of V&A is a special space where models based on temple pillars, huge statues, and decorations of architecture from around the world are displayed. Even though they are not the original ones, the works displayed here have a more special meaning because of the buildings and architectures have been lost over time due to fire or war, etc. Kang found some similarity between her work trend and this exhibition hall that she felt was interesting. Among the architectures, she showed projection mapping work on the collections of the museum including the symbolic and huge Roman architecture column ‘Trajan’s Column’, and after that the work came into the possession of the V&A.
As I know, there was a lot of discussion in the process of owning the work.
The biggest issue was how to archive and show this work if all the technology was gone. The solution the V&A chose was to have everything that happened during my work, such as the research, drawing, modeling and models, etc. as a package. There are over 100 possessions on the list. It was the first case study at the V&A in which they possessed a ‘projection mapping’ work. We also had a technical workshop at the request of curators who wanted to know the concept of projection mapping. I think that the mutual idea of creating a criteria let me suffer in a fun way through the difficult process.
After this project, you collaborated with a large brand.
I worked with Italian Fashion House Max Mara on a project called ‘Deep Surface’. It was a big project to design an exhibition space and visitors’ circulation that included the story of Max Mara’s 70 years. I collaborated with Milan architects to build a dome-shaped structure, and installed my work on the inner celling of the dome. I researched other similar exhibitions in preparation of this exhibition, but the entrance and exit were fixed. Personally, I felt ‘restrained visitor’s circulation’ and ‘oppressive’. So I designed the crowd circulation to allow visitors to freely tour the exhibition with multiple entrances and exits. The concept of a Piazza that Italians regard as important was also key. There were real difficulties working with people who have faith in their brand and who are stubborn about technology. I visited the head office in Reggio Emilia three times where I met and had lots of conversations with the design team and the representative. Because our relationship was not one as an exhibition designer and a client, I needed a process of persuasion in order to protect my work as an artist. I had a lot of experiences collaborating with architects and I was able to create synergies. It was also different in that I was able to project my work out of the standardized space such as museums, galleries and white cube, and I was able to experience a new context of fashion and meet new types of visitors. I felt another thrill too. It was an exhibition that I couldn’t easily experience as an artist, and I was personally affected by this project. In addition, the exhibition also won the Red Dot Award.
Deep Surface, full dome projection mapping installation, dimension variable, 2018 (서울 DDP, 막스마라 Coat exhibition). 작가는 사방으로 이어지는 전시공간의 중앙.
돔의 천정 면에 프로젝션 맵핑작업을 설치했다. 관람객은 편안하게 앉거나 눕고, 걸으면서 작품을 감상할 수 있었다.
How did you start working on the medium of digital?
I majored in painting in my undergraduate studies. I first experienced videos in media class. I could make a work with only a computer and camcorder. It was neat and concise in material terms. It was very interesting to be able to use the concept of time beyond two-dimensional planes, and to expand into three-dimensional space with the addition of an installation. I showed a large multi-channel video installation work at my graduation exhibition, but it was unfamiliar scene at a painting exhibition. I used to go to Art Center Nabi to take digital art classes because the newest media I could learn in school was video at the time. By 2006, I knew for the first time that I could make something purely with digital, without material. I don’t work emotionally, so I was worried about my major and my career as an artist at that moment. But I naturally overcame the slump through the medium and went abroad to study the medium of digital more in depth.
After that you studied media at UCLA. What did you study and deal with?
I had very hard time then, but now I think that taking the media master’s program was a really good decision. The skills l learned at that time still form the basis of my work. I mastered the techniques such as coding, circuits, 2D, 3D, web, etc. every night without sleeping. Students from all different backgrounds such as Neuroscience, Computer Science, Design, Architecture, etc. were gathered, but how could I keep up with the coding skills of students majoring in computers? So, I set up my own survival strategy. I made use of my background majoring in painting. I learned a lot from my academic adviser, Dr. Jennifer Steinkamp, who I met there at the time. And I made ‘Between (2009)’ as my graduation work. Actually, the work was about myself. I tried to do my best to survive, but I ran into a barrier that I couldn’t overcome. I went in behind a white cloth, performed it myself, recorded and projected the video onto the canvas. It was a personal story, but anonymity was important. I emphasized the tension on the surface, eliminating femininity as much as possible. Ironically, I had learned a lot of technology, but the work finally ended up reverting into a painting.
Since then, you had been working in Korea for few years and you started your PhD in England again.
I had been working in Korea for about three years. I was busy doing exhibitions, going to lectures, and participating in the residence program. I had many chances to talk to other artists and critics, but I sometimes felt that there was something I couldn’t share with them. Back then, the difference between projection mapping and video wasn’t very clearly defined. In fact, my work doesn’t directly show any social or political issues. I always felt this seemed like a weakness in my work. The first reason I went back to England was that I felt I didn’t belong to the Korean sentiment or in the Korean fence at that time and felt left out. The second reason was that I wanted to work abroad as an artist before it was too late. It was not enough to have a platform to introduce Korean artists abroad at the time, so I found a way to work overseas. I also regretted coming back to Korea because it looked like I ran away after I finished my Master’s degree in the US, and I felt lacking when I taught students. The future concerns and the needs for research as an artist, everything was mixed.
What does the material of digital mean to artist Yiyun Kang?
Actually, digitals are same as paintings. When you click the mouse, the XYZ axis changes in your hand, and when it is added to the real space, it creates a totally new space and experience. I need to have endless questions as an artist, what kind of experience I can give with this media and what story I can bring to people. People say that it takes ten years in order to understand one material, right? It’s the same with digital media. I feel sorry to see that people still think digital only as a technology. It is easy to think inversely. If I, who work with digital, suddenly exhibit a painting work, wouldn’t everyone think it is strange? Fortunately, however, there are some groups of artists who understand and work on the material and philosophy of digital.
강이연 작가의 런던 작업실. 노트에는 작업 구상에 관한 메모가 빼곡하다.
Was there any point which you considered the most important time when you worked?
In the past, I worked on ‘Artificial Vessel (2012)’ which was a projection mapping on an empty exhibition hall with fluorescent lamps. Unintentionally, the light reflected from the lampshade, and it created an effect like drawing with light on the wall that was not projected upon. Since then, I have been thinking about the targets on which I am projecting. I obsessed over how to make nothing for a long time (laugh). I think the arts are experience, and I think now is the time to invest in the experience. I want to give people a powerful experience using the most of spatial of elements. It is especially important to actually feel the place and space in my work. I hope viewers move their bodies and feel the work using all of their senses. I try to find a balance between technology and the concept of work. I want to give a poetic meaning to the work beyond the ‘Wow Effect’ in the moment made by the technology.
Media Artist | Yiyun Kang
Yiyun Kang works with the digital arts of ‘projection mapping’, a work that can only be fully understood in when it shares time and space. She majored in Painting at Seoul National University, received her MFA from UCLA’s Design & Media Arts Department, and got her PhD from the Information Experience Design at the Royal College of Art. She participated in the V&A Samsung Korean Digital Art Resident Program and showed ‘CASTING (2016)’ in 2016, with this being the first ‘projection mapping’ work possessed by the V&A. After that, she published her dissertation thesis research subject on the concept of ‘projection mapping’, and successfully completed her PhD with a record result of ‘no modification’. She has participated in numerous solo exhibitions and group exhibitions in Korea and overseas, collaborative exhibition of 14th Venice Architecture Biennale in 2014, space planning and commissioned project ‘Deep Surface’ at Max Mara’s Max Mara Coasts! Seoul in 2017, and the Immortality in the Cloud exhibition at the Ilmin Museum of Art earlier this year. She usually works in England and currently teaches as a visiting professor at the Royal College of Art. www.yiyunkang.com
매거진 <아트마인>에 게재된 기사의 모든 사진과 텍스트는 저작권법에 의해 보호되는 아트마이닝㈜의 저작물입니다.
사전 동의 및 출처 표기 없는 무단 복제 및 전재를 금합니다.
작품 이미지 © YIYUN KANG – ARTMINING, SEOUL, 2018
PHOTO © ARTMINING – magazine ARTMINE / RAMA