Technology is redefining art in many different ways. The art world is becoming increasingly innovative as technology rapidly develops and is integrated into our daily lives — not only has the definition of art expanded, but art has also been created using unconventional materials ranging from laser beams to data gathered on traffic speeds for major roads.
Over the past few decades, Art Center Nabi in Seoul, Korea, has been at the intersection of the arts, tech and human reactions. It is not at all difficult to understand why Art Center Nabi has been the clear leader in digital art once you learn about their past and present offerings in exhibitions and education programs — and in this interview with Art Center Nabi’s Creative Team, we did just that.
Art Center Nabi (ACN): Art Center Nabi is the prime digital art museum in South Korea. Starting from Walker Hill art museum where mainly concentrated on contemporary art, it was renovated as an experimental media art space integrating art and technology in 2000. Art Center Nabi is the first organization in Korea to hold an expert community regarding art and science, and commenced various artistic activities by creating Trialogue, a mixed media interactive sculpture, with Zune Lee(technology artist), Jae-Ho Jang(sound artist), and other professionals of different majors such as architecture, computer science, and design.
ACN: “Nabi”, which means a butterfly in Korean, contains varied symbolic meanings such as not only beauty, lightness, ephemerality but also philosophical concepts including butterfly effect and Zhuangzi’s butterfly dream. We currently concentrate on revival as the essential meaning of “Nabi.” Butterfly is an architype of revival and eternal life from antiquity to the present. Along with the notion of revival, Nabi also brings the question ‘how to obtain eternal life in art?’ To discover the immortal life through the very moment of digital art is what Nabi continuously aims for.
ACN: The advance in digital media and information technology has not only changed our daily lives but also fostered a paradigm shift in art and culture. Arts, combined with new possibilities opened up by media technologies, have evolved and expanded its horizon of expression. The interactions between technology and human and the new type of cultural-artistic expressions mediated by technology require constant examination and reflection on the relations between human and technology.
Art Center Nabi aims to act as an intermediary that transforms the cultural desires into vital activities. Our goal is formed around the idea of humanizing technology that technology is fully integrated with human’s cultural life to open a new space for creative practices. This can be achieved only after the fruitful collaboration and understanding among science technology, humanities and arts. Thus, Art Center Nabi maintains the following three ideas; being a ‘critique’ of contemporary culture independent from technological benefits; possessing ‘creativity’ which opens people’s mind to regard a new perspective and enables a new form of expression; creating ‘community’ where these ideas are shared and the new world is dreamed of.
Art Center Nabi is at the center of this new culture, where artistic sensibility is combined with the technological possibility to bring out the power of change and creativity.
ACN: Since Nabi’s foundation in 2000, we have been introducing various projects with the concept of “humanizing technology.” During last three years, Nabi produced the projects with Wearable Technology(2014), Robotics(2015), and Artificial Intelligence(2016) as the theme of year. These convergence art projects were organized by many creative participants including media artist, designer, social activist, and provided a forum for collaboration with their inventive ideas. Each project consists of different programs such as exhibition, Hackathon, conference, seminar, and workshop.
Lately, Nabi presented the exhibition introducing potential possibility of time and the boundary of reality and virtuality. The exhibition showed the ambiguity between time and space by the digital technology and the juxtaposed moment of reality and virtuality. It was simultaneously exhibited at COMO & Happy Screen, a Media Façade run by Nabi, as an extension.
Nabi presents varied education programs. As a representative project, we can introduce Nabi School for Little Da Vinci. Nabi School for Little Da Vinci is a community-contributing arts education program for children which has been operated by the Art Center Nabi for last three years. It focuses on the realization of STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, Mathematics) education, a convergence art education which all family members can participate together. Through this program, participants can enjoy media arts and make creative works using the digital creative tool. (musical instruments, simple electronic robots, VR experience etc). Nabi School for Little Da Vinci not only improves children’s creativity but also becomes a new leisure program for the family.
These projects have been different character, but have included the process of exploring the relationship between developed technologies and human beings and the changing environment based on them.
ACN: To cope with continuously changing new media technology field, Art Center Nabi is running various workshops, seminars, projects, and educational programs. For example, Creative Mentoring Program for Young Professionals is a program which connects field experts(mentor) and beginners(mentee) to run mentoring programs to help young talents in their projects. These field experts consist of artists, professors, and technicians works in various fields related to media art. Young artists(mentee) will complete their personal projects in 8 months with the help of experts and Art Center Nabi’s educational programs. Art Center Nabi’s role is to incubate these young professionals to become the best experts to lead the media art in the future and work in their respective fields.
ACN: Art Center Nabi holds a global residency program for media artists. Continuing from the previous year, Nabi Artist Residency program has been presenting the platform that communicates and experiments at the intersection of art and technology with talented artists based on diverse cultural background. The program is collaborated with Netherland V2 and plans to expand the exchange program with various global organizations.
The results of Nabi Artist Residency 2016 were shown by an artist talk and an exhibition. Especially, Harshit Agrawal (1992), who is the artist of our residency, thinkerer, HCI (Human-Computer Interaction) researcher, continuously participated Why Future Still Need Us: AI and Humanity, which was the main exhibition in 2016, and caught a lot of attention of experts and public during the exhibition.
Nabi residency program consists of three branches: research and creative activity, exhibition and related programs (conference, workshop, etc.), and global network. The program progresses with interview of artist’s creative activities, discussion, and critiques. Based on these activities, we expect that the artists derive profound inquiry and further detailed research of creativity from the program. Next, the program presents the exhibition to display the art works created by the artists. The exhibition gives an opportunity to introduce the artists’ works and offers an artist talk as a related program. In the artist talk, we promote the artists while explaining the process of creation in the program. After the residency program, we hold a network event for the artists to have an opportunity to arrange their further project with other domestic and global creative art organizations.
ACN: Art Center Nabi is not only a platform for creators but also a creative community. We foresee a rapid change of the relationship between human and technology and surroundings related them for ten years from now. In this flow of change, Nabi established ‘Nabi Future Studies’ in this year with the aim of a harmonious life of human and technology. Nabi Future Studies notices three values below.
1/ preparing for Singularity
We pay attention to technological singularities that demand individuals and societies to be newly defined. We strive to prevent technology from prescribing and dominating boundaries of human life, and prepare for the future where humans inspire and prompt technological changes.
2/ For 99%
Newly developed, high-level technologies can easily be monopolized by a few with capital and power. As such, we research for the 99% mass who are being alienated. In order to create a just society where every individual pursues everyone’s happiness, we support multidisciplinary studies that can resonate a sense of belonging to members of communities and share the benefits of technological advancements with every individual.
3/ new Humanity
In the midst of rapidly developing technology and socio-cultural changes, we study ways in which humanity can coexist with technology. We work with experts in philosophy, law, technology, and the arts to discover and practice new humanitarian values that surpass the existing humanitarian value.
With these central values, Nabi Future Studies has been proceeding the feasible projects, which enhance local communication and cities resilience. It aims to construct various models for the future society such as rediscovery of public space through data and shared infrastructure, reuse of surplus value, and new relational economic system.
We will strengthen our role as a network platform based on relationships with the projects over the past 20 years in Art Center Nabi. We are going to provide the platform for gathering diverse creators from around the world and conducting various discussions on the global issues with them.
ACN: Unlike other museums, the typical characteristic of our institution is “production”.
Most Nabi’s projects are form of “productions”, which reflect the perception of technological development of nowadays. “Production” is a co-creation by artists, creators, makers, and Nabi. As the media art center which primarily uses the most developed technology, Nabi keeps creating and researching ingenious and extraordinary things.
Lately, Nabi is proceeding self-production by Nabi E.I.Lab, which is the experimental creative laboratory to study the intersection of art and technology.
Nabi E.I.Lab is an acronym for Emotional Intelligence Laboratory. The laboratory focuses on creating new cultural content via an emotional approach and technological research. The lab is not only researching the technology but also making the art production. Also, Nabi E.I.Lab research focuses on implementing ideas into to the medium. And recent topics are robotics, artificial intelligence and Data art. These activities extend collaborative projects with technology and industry beyond expanding the art.
And by planning the project called Nabi Hackathon, we have been collaborating with creators from various fields. We have been doing the Hackathon 10 times with wearable technology, robotics, artificial intelligence and so on. The Hackathon result is not just the area of experiment, it leads to a different view of the world.
This year, Art Center Nabi has been proceeding new project with the theme of ‘Data,’ which is the most essential element of the digital era. The project, organized by the conference, exhibition, and Hackathon, will introduce innovative and practicable ideas utilizing ‘Data.’ Through this project, we expect to suggest positive perspective of future society.
- Featured image on the top: Real Fiction – 2017
- Photos courtesy of Art Center Nabi