"Because chaos doesn't mean there is no regulation that governs where it should be or how many can be. So I'm just wondering, how we can use this new digital landscape in creative ways, rather than just being exposed to a never-ending consumerism advertisement manifestation."
Drift, 8' 30'', Projection Mapping on the Ground
Wantong Yao: I want to start with a self-introduction question. How do you define yourself as an artist?
Doyeon Kim: I regarded myself as a 3D motion graphic designer before, but now I am trying to expand from it, considering myself an installation artist using 3D computer graphics software.
Wantong Yao: That's new and very interesting to hear. That does speak to your solo show project and talking about that, could you briefly introduce the solo show piece? What is your philosophy behind this work and what is your approach?
Doyeon Kim: I wanted to use my skills, such as 3D computer graphics and installation design, and have the audience experience something unusual and extraordinary because of the barriers, which can be social structure or inequity that inhibit us from seeing beneath the surface of daily life. Accordingly, I am now interested in immigration as a theme for my work. Although many immigrants live in Los Angeles, at UCLA, where I showed my work, many students are descendants of 1st generation immigrants or spent a long time in the US. And there are also many students whose families have lived here for generations. For them, the impacts of immigration are experienced secondhand. So, I wanted to immerse them into the living experience of being detached and living in others' life by installing my work 'Drift' (2023), in the Broad Art Center, UCLA. Therefore, I simulated the wave sweeping life rafts to the beach, symbolizing the precarity of immigrants' lives.
When We Become You and I Again, Solo Exhibition Banner
Wantong Yao: What is your reflection on the solo show? How do you feel about it in general and does it do anything to your art afterward?
Doyeon Kim: In my work, the language served as a critical element. I used the words "we" in two languages to convey the subtle feeling I had from my experience of leaving my country to come to LA. I juxtaposed Korean and English words because even if the English "we" is legible to the audience here, I felt that the depth of feeling could not be transferred without my language. But somehow, I also felt that it would disorient the American audience because they do not know those words or what they mean in this work, and in a good way, I thought it would work to have them frustrated, some frustration in reading the word so it can overlap my feeling with theirs and implicate them in the world that I'm living in now, full of frustration and anxiety of precariousness. During the exhibition, I realized that many students speaking English were disoriented by the tangled words and frustrated in an attempt to read the context. They tried to associate the words that lost their forms with gender symbols. Later, I accepted their reception because the struggle they attempted to connect them to their knowledge always happens to immigrants. I thought I succeeded in implicating the audience in such anxiety.
Additionally, the illegibility or half-legibility of the work let it stay as a mystique to some extent, retaining the quality to be open in various interpretations. I believe this helped the work not to be read seriously, but rather it could be subliminal by having people meditate. And this extended to the point where it could give solace to the immigrants by inviting different interpretations but combining them in universal emotion.
Swept ver.4, 3' 50'', Single Channel Video
Wantong Yao: I really like the idea of creating myths around the language. So you're also creating that conceptual space for the work that opens up for free association and imagination from the audience. And it's building connections between people.
Doyeon Kim: Can I also add something to it? I keep thinking of what kind of universal things we can all share, regardless of where we are from, what kind of group we're in, or whatever language we speak. And I think the illegibility of the work created a room that invites people to think about their own experience with the work itself freely. So, it wasn't intentional, but as it invited more people and more interpretations, it reached some point that I kept seeking to get, which is a universal reception.
Wantong Yao: I'm also curious, last time for the solo show, you used projection on the floor, which I think it's very effective. I wonder what are some other ways you envision in the future that you might combine the work with the space to really set up the atmosphere and spatial relationship for the audience.
Doyeon Kim: Projection mapping, which took an important role in my work ‘Drift,’ was a handy technique to cover a large area with a video, but how it enabled the work to involve the space is crucial for recreating it. It was designed to remove the frame that divides the video projected on the ground and real space. Without the boundary between them, the whole space could turn into an illusionary dark sea. Subsequently, photo-realistic rendered videos made the viewer perceive the gallery as an alternative space before analyzing the physical space. Regarding an illusion that disorients cognitive process, I referenced the 18th-century panorama building in England, a building whose wall inside was covered by a 360-degree enormous painting of the landscape of London. It was a big hit and caused many other variations later. Now, many entertainment and media art companies such as Disney, Team Lab, and d’strict are the successors of the early theme park that used optical illusion. The paramount design for this immersive illusion could be discovered in two edges of the painting, the edges of the ceiling and ground. Robert Mitchell, who designed the building, intentionally hid these two edges, making the painting more immersive. In conjunction with the platform where people watched the representation of London, this architectural trick shifted it to simulation, leading people to experience something beyond just seeing a painting. I was also influenced by Robert Mitchell’s panorama building which worked as a simulation environment by eliminating the boundaries. So, putting together, projection mapping, which replaced the gigantic 360-painting of the panorama building, is a mere technique for playing the video on the ground. However, the key element is to erase the borders of the video to simulate rather than to represent somewhere close to a beach.
Old Dream, 2' 40'', Single Channel Video
Wantong Yao: The next question is, what is your next step? What are you working on right now? And has your primary focus shifted or changed?
Doyeon Kim: During the exhibition, there were a lot of people asking me whether the work was interactive or not. Interestingly, they felt that the motion of the video corresponded to their movement. After all, I am still interested in how I can implicate people more in my work. Interactive technology can be the answer, and I am working on it now. But at the same time, I'm still pushing it forward, making an emotional liminal space by using more sophisticated simulations and holding the virtue of meditation because I am afraid that interactivities will change the work totally. In my view, interactivity, even a very simple input and output system, demands labor to some extent and deprives the meditating essence of the work. So, I am working on two kinds of work now. One is continuing the previous work style, and the other is incorporating other interactive technologies.
Wantong Yao: That reminds me of the project you made for Jenna Caravello's virtuality class last quarter, which falls into the genre of interactivity and game and feels very playful to me, compared to your other work that is more meditative as you just described. Do you like to give the agency more to the audience compared to retaining the agency to the work itself? Will the work feel different to you? I'm very interested to see how you will continue to develop the first track you talked about architecture and space. Also, the solo show project you showed really creates a sense of illusion of interactivity, because people always tended to stand on the floor projection. With the light coming back and forth on my body that really created a feeling that I'm part of the work. So maybe that's why people ask you, oh, is it interactivity? Because it creates that sense of connection, I think. Okay, here comes our next question. As a young artist doing your MFA at UCLA, who used to work in the design industry in Korea, what is your plan after graduation? Like how do you plan to position yourself and your practice in the world, and where do you want to see your work evolve?
Doyeon Kim: I’m trying to figure out what I am and can be. Also, like, what kind of social, political, and art realm I can ground in depending on where I live. This contemplation is attributed to my career change which shifted from a 3D designer to a student in the MFA program. And also results from moving to LA from the totally different society, Seoul. This shook the whole foundation where I built my life, and the impact is even more substantial because I moved here at a relatively late age. It has two sides since it is an opportunity to expand my understanding of the world but also challenges me to redefine myself. Regardless of this question, the agitation within my new life ruptures the old ideas I relied on, and eventually, I can find some creativity growing through the fracture. To be frank, I was always struggling to get inspiration, but throughout the period of settling in, every corner of my life has been intriguing. On top of that, the conflicts and tension that occur in this diverse society endlessly give catalysts for my work, which can happen only in Los Angeles. Like, I have traveled between Korea and Los Angeles several times so far, and it actually worked well in finding the real subject that I want to deal with. By comparing the two different regions and the two differences myself between them, the difference in life becomes clearer, and it extended to the work. However, I have to find a way to sustain such a practice. To take advantage of being presented in both countries, I also have to find a way to do so. As such, I need to work for a living after all to stay in the US and Seoul, which is the most frustrating part. Nevertheless, I want to be upfront with the question. People need money, and so do artists. And I am as well.
Other Installation Views
Wantong Yao: Thank you for such an honest answer. It's a universal and ultimate question that many artists and designers share: how do you create work for yourself and express yourself while making a sustainable practice? So I think definitely a lot of us in a master's program are thinking about after graduation. It is not just about making artwork but also about how you can actually live in the world as an artist.
You mentioned that you travel between Korea and Los Angeles often, and I am curious does that somehow affects who you are and how you present yourself to the world? If so, is that also influencing your work? Will you make different work in the two places?
Doyeon Kim: I have two approaches to my work. Each of them is to respectively reflect Seoul and Los Angeles, where I belong to. Whenever I travel back to Korea, the city itself keeps reminding me of its urban life, which is very different from Los Angeles due to the increasing LED walls. This ginormous canvas that changes the city's topography can be seen in other North Eastern Asian cities such as Tokyo, Hong Kong, and Shanghai, which are mostly pedestrian-friendly. In Seoul, South Korea, these LED walls are expanding their boundaries and growing their numbers everywhere. They are present more and more chaotically, covering urban daily life. Although they are relentlessly throwing all those commercial advertisements at us, I think these public screens can mediate connection and creativity in our life in Seoul because this chaotic landscape means that they result from bottom-up desires resisting the dominant force that shapes the city. So, I'm wondering how we can use this new digital landscape creatively rather than just being exposed to a never-ending consumerism advertisement manifestation. I always think about what kind of thing I can integrate into this new digital geography, but in Los Angeles, I focus more on my identity because the place is very different from Korea. In Los Angeles, it is difficult to see various LED walls, but it's easier to witness the coexistence of harmony and conflicts between diverse groups. I think clarifying the reason for using public space and LED walls, which are scarce in the area, is more demanding, and I often find myself hovering around identity questions when I am in LA. I tried to think more about what kind of thing I could question. While I am staying here, the question will be more like how I can define or differentiate myself in the midst of the art world in LA.
INTERVIEWER: WANTONG YAO
CURATOR: KE ZHANG, WANTONG YAO
EDITOR: WANTONG YAO
GRAPHIC DESIGNER: YUXUAN WEI
Doyeon Kim is a current MFA student at the University of California, Los Angeles Design Media Arts Department. His work primarily focuses on experimenting with 3D computer graphic software, aiming to divert its industrial methodology and challenge its dominant influences on our world. Many of his works are inspired by his experience of onboarding on a naval warship for two years, which he always references fluidity for visual language. Tides and waves are significant themes in his works, in which he uses them as tropes for incorporating discourses intertwined through digital culture.
As a Seoul and Los Angeles resident, Doyeon Kim has two primary agendas guiding his work in each location. In Seoul, he contemplates urban life under constant consumeristic stimulation from ubiquitous digital signage walls. In Los Angeles, one of the most diverse cities in the world where harmony and tension coexist, he grapples with questions about self-identity amid colliding understandings, cultures, and languages. He seeks to stipulate the dominance and dynamics of overflowing digital culture through his work.