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Examining the evolving definition of life

Aug 27,2019
A performer dangles as part of Jung Seung’s “Prometheus’s String VI” during a press tour of “Da Vinci Creative 2019: Living Life” on Aug. 22 at Geumcheon District, southern Seoul. [SEOUL FOUNDATION FOR ARTS AND CULTURE]
The annual city-run technology art festival “Da Vinci Creative” returned last week and this year’s theme is “Living Life.”

Given the exhibition’s scientific character, works question the traditional definition of life, begging a reassessment of the thought that living things are naturally-born, breathing organisms. Bright pink chickens and self-moving robots on display at the Seoul Foundation for Arts and Culture’s Seoul Art Space Geumcheon in southern Seoul, are just a few works that try to broaden the concept.

“Augmented humanization is steadily increasing due to exponential growth in convergence technology,” writes art director Cheon Hea-hyun, who also teaches at the Korea Polytechnic University, in an introductory statement. “A cyborg is no longer just a super humanized machine that we encounter through movies, but an actual being in our daily life and its rights need to be protected with certain boundaries.”

A large, moss-covered automated sculpture designed after Pulgasari, a Korean mythical creature that feeds on metal, is the first non-human organism that visitors will see as they approach the Art Space. Titled “Indestructible Creature” (2019) by Kim Seong-ouk, the sculpture may at first appear menacing and foreign, but it’s programmed in such a way that it stops moving when a person gets in its hollowed torso, where they can maneuver the sculpture’s head and arms.

The exhibit, with works by 13 participating local and international artists and teams, urges visitors to ponder the political and ethical consequences of scientific development.

“Self-Sounding Town Resonant” (2019) by singer-songwriter and engineer Kwon Byung-jun uses cutting-edge technology to remind visitors of an important part of human identity - communication. Visitors are encouraged to walk towards one another while wearing specially programmed headphones that play a single tune. As they get closer, participants will be able to hear the sound coming from the other’s headphones overlapping with their own, and by bowing, they can even swap tunes.

Also on display are Oh Joo-young’s “Blind Landing” (2019), an interactive work that uses artificial intelligence to analyze viewing patterns of YouTube videos, Swedish duo Nonhuman Nonsense’s “Pink Chicken Project” (2019), which proposes genetically modifying chickens, and many more.

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

“Da Vinci Creative 2019: Living Life” runs through Sep. 11. Hours are from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Entry is free. For more information, visit davincicreative.org