We caught up with Project Designer, Taehee Kim, to find out more about her experiential design installations and how technology is connected to art.
Hi Taehee, tell us about your work?
I am a multi-media artist based in Los Angeles and Seoul working with sound, video, performance, and digital interactive technologies. My work investigates philosophical ideas around cognitive transformation. I’m exploring the awareness of emptiness, existence, and limits of human perception with experiential, interaction design.
We recently featured your ‘Sentient Space’ project which utilised Bare Conductive's materials, what fascinates you about tactile technology?
I’m interested in what is beyond human’s perception because the world is richer and wider than what we perceive with our senses. For example, we can only see the light in 380-780nm of the light spectrum and hear the sound in 20-20,000Hz of the sound spectrum. But what we see and hear is very limited and just a very small part of what's really there. There is always something happening around us where we think there is nothing, but we just ignore or forget about it because we can’t recognise it with our body.
Using conductive, tactile materials is fascinating to me because I can show the boundaries between emptiness, existence and non-existence and the emotional connection between visible and invisible by using design elements and the material’s own unique properties. Sentient Space is a site-specific immersive installation by animating the whole room with video, touch sensor wires, and the ancient technology of dowsing to show the idea of existence. I was recently invited to have a choreographic residency at L.A. Dance Project where I collaborated with a choreographer Jinglin Liao. The concept was based on the same idea of Sentient Space, but it was quite different. This time I focused more on the sound. We found the resonant frequencies of the gallery space and translated those into pitch so the vocalists could sing. And each touch interactive wire had a different sound in it and was installed based on both sonic spots and dowsing spots that I found in the gallery. The choreographer composed the sound by engaging her body in the installation.
What was the idea behind your latest piece 'The Butterfly Dream'?
The Butterfly Dream is an installation consisted of radio, sound, found objects, earth, mylar, performance and digital interactive technology. The sculptures with conductive paint and the Touch Boards catch every single drop from the IV and use these drops as a trigger for the sound and light. The sounds are sent to the radio transmitters that I made and then finally come out from the radios. Each pole has a different sound, different dripping speed like BPM, and different radio frequency channels.
Actually, if you look in detail, each sculpture has a slightly different form and structure. The Butterfly Dream is based on the famous story by a Toaist philosopher Zhuang Zhou. There are a lot of different ways to interpret his butterfly dream story such as nihilism, optimism, or naturalism, etc., but my own interpretation is cognitive transmutation. It is about a world that does not differentiate between is or is not, reality or illusion, existence or non-existence, visible or invisible, and life or death. It is also inspired by my personal experience with an IV injection in an emergency room which was a cognitive transformative moment for me.
Would you say that technology is a defining medium of your work?
I can’t deny that technology is one of the biggest components of my work but the conceptual idea or what the work is trying to say is more important to me as an artist rather than just showing off cool technologies. I use the technologies not to give birth or breath life to things that are not alive, but to reveal that they already have an existence. I work a lot with Bare Conductive’s products because they are very effective and have so many possibilities. It makes my life easier and fun!
What are your aspirations, is there an artist that you feel you’re connected to?
I want to be an artist who makes work that resonates with people and is accessible to everyone. To be specific, I want to make work for everyone not only for those who have studied art. This is one of the reasons why I like to make ‘experiential’ installations that the audience can feel and experience without needing any understanding of art.
I want to create a user experience, where the audience can engage with each other through a creative way. I’m trying not to be distracted by art. If I can share my ideas and experience with others through the interaction of my artwork and if my work somehow affects their thoughts to make their life more interesting even a tiny little bit, I’m happy as an artist. I was inspired a lot by Fluxus artists, especially John Cage, Nam June Paik, etc. I’m looking forward to the development of post-Fluxus. Also, I get inspiration from different cultures.
As an artist, how do you think technology affects art?
Art, philosophy, and science are not the same thing but I think they are all related and networked. I think everything can be art if it asks a question. There are so many different types of technology. Painting, drawing, sculpting, writing, graphic design etc. are all technologies. Recently the new digital technologies such as interaction, generative projects, Artificial Intelligence and blockchain are adding a lot to the so-called ‘Art’ fields to become more diverse. It’s creating a new genre called ‘Art and Technology’ and it’s growing fast. But I think still the ‘mainstream art’ is missing a lot of ‘art and technology’ work.
How do you show your audience the importance of technology in art?
It’s important to get the audience’s attention for any kind of art, especially for an interactive project. I think the most important part but also the hardest part for making a ‘good’ interactive piece is how to make the audience know there is an interactive element, help them know how to use it and encourage them to engage naturally through experiential learning and without putting any explanatory text.