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Progressive and innovative artist, Eunsu Kang, embraces the future with a theatrical aesthetic that seems dramatic but soft, flowing but suffocating, sensual but eerie, obscure but with intense areas of light. Through a universal balancing act she combines sound, technology and dance to create immersive and interactive environments for the audience. Radical progress made in technology allows Kang to bring her visions to life like never before. Her work functions as a dreamscape that participants can use their imagination in. Not simply asking to be viewed, the work creates an altered mental state, a portal that transports the audience to an alternate reality, if only for a moment.
KL: Why do you feel it is important to support interdisciplinary collaborative relationships in the arts?
Kang: Our society and culture is changing. It is becoming more and more interdisciplinary. There is research showing that what we do is a lot more interconnected with other fields. We think it is other and we, but it is not exactly other and we. They are all connected together as us in human society. It is reflecting the paradigm shift of our time. When we have interdisciplinary collaborations we can actually create a better outcome, better works of art because we are using all these teammates’ specialties and thoughts, but of course there are a lot of chances for failures because it is a lot harder working with other people than by yourself.
Do you have a favorite color?
That is actually not an easy question. That is what people always ask. I have had trouble answering this question since I was very young because I have always liked a variety of colors and I couldn’t understand how people could pick one when every color has different beauty depending on the situation. Depending on the situation and how the color is represented it is going to have different meaning, different relationships with other colors. In one setting I might like black. In general I like greenish-blue. Probably because it is one of the most comfortable colors in nature that we can see all the time. I want to really emphasis that I could like any color in context as long as it is presented beautifully, but I don’t want to pick one color because it cannot be the best possible color in every situation. It is impossible.
I read online you have a lifelong interest in aliens. Is this true? If so, why and how has it influenced your work?
Alien does not mean only outer space aliens. It actually means a person you are not familiar with. People you consider the outsiders, the others. In society we always create boundaries for our communities. There are outsiders and insiders. Through the male dominated perspective women could be the others, the alienated group. Minorities in terms of anything, financial situation, level of education, where you live, there are many different levels of alienation for them happening in society all the time. Whenever someone is considered to be the other, they can be called aliens. In my work I use it all the time. I was using monster like forms to represent that. Not because I was thinking aliens are these monsters literally, but because it represents the status of these minorities. I am a minority in three perspectives. I am a woman. We cannot deny that our society is still male dominated. It is getting better but it has not completely shifted. In the United States I am Asian. I was not born in the United States, so my social status is actually alien. Being an artist we are living in the world of capitalism and we are not magicians of using the system and creating a fortune out of what we are doing. I like to think aliens are these creatures living in between spaces, not here or there, but somewhere or elsewhere.
Do you consider yourself a Korean artist or an American artist or do you all together find these labels silly?
I think those labels are not seriously meaningful, but legally I am a Korean artist. I am not an American citizen, and the other reason I call myself a Korean artist is I lived in Korea almost thirty years before coming to the US. I have lived here for eight. So after living here for thirty years, I can say I have been equally influenced by two cultures. Now it is not really equal it seems. I was heavily influenced by Korean culture. Human beings are really influenced by their surroundings, culture and education. Since I have more influence from Korean culture, I consider myself a Korean artist but it is shifting as well.
What is your biggest regret?
I do not have any regrets. That does not mean I do not regret any moment. I do regret every second about what I could have said, like in this interview, or I could have written an email two days before, small things I could have done but did not. But this question is asking about one big regret in my life and I actually do not have one. Not because my life has been perfect, but because I feel living a life is more about living in flow. I try to find the best experience through this flow. I do not have 100% control over it. I really believe any experience is worth having because it makes you grow up as long as you can actually consume and digest it. If I regret something it is probably because I did not digest it enough or I did not accept what happened. Whether it was failure or success it does not really matter because I did the best to make it fully mine.
Why are you interested in communication without words?
Since I was young I liked to read books a lot. I always felt our language was not enough to express what we think, see, imagine, and how we are connected. So I looked for something better than talking to each other because it really cannot show what I think or imagine. It does not transcend. It gives a certain description of it, but not exactly what I think. Also when I was growing up, I noticed all these communication barriers in our society: Maybe because of their social status, maybe because of their education level, maybe because they are from a different country and literally speaking a different language. There are so many reasons, having a different personality. I saw it everywhere. Everyone was struggling and it seemed like a fundamental question a human could have; how do we communicate with each other?
Why do you make interactive art?
When we make art it resonates with people on some level. Still it shows my subjective perspective on the subject. There is no way if it is my artwork that it is not going to have me in it at all, but I wanted to leave more room for other people to find their own communication with the artwork. I wanted to make art that was a little more embraceable. I wanted to make a situation that was less forceful, so people had more room to relate to the piece. It is impossible to make art that relates with everyone, but we can try and leave a little more room so most people can be connected with the work instead of left out. That is why I started working with interactive technology.
Do you feel you have arrived it in the art world?
When I was in Korea I achieved a certain amount of fame for a young artist. When I shifted from traditional media art, to interactive art, I was giving up everything I had and moving to the U.S, learning new technologies, and making new art. I was beginning my career again in this field. It is not exactly disconnected; it is connected. Still I had to step down and become a newcomer. So in this field I do not think I am that famous. I get invited to shows and people know me, but not in terms where everyone knows my name, but that is not important. Someone told me if I stayed in Korea I would have been better off in terms of fame, but I do not regret that because I know what I wanted was to make new and different artwork than what I used to make. I believe my work has grown up a lot. It has not reached the point where I say, “That is my master piece,” but it is getting better and better, and getting closer to what I want to achieve towards the end of my life.
Do you feel the new media program that you launched at the University of Akron has been successful?
Yes, it has been very successful. We have a new media lab that can test spatial sound and large size video projections. Students work on brand new laptops, with one of the best video cameras and professional audio recorders. Software we are using is mostly free such as Processing and SuperCollider. They are designed as computer languages for creators. I am gradually shifting the Intro to New Media (7000:100) seminar class curriculum so students will not only have been exposed to state of the art information but also experience more simple practices which help them to understand our subjects intuitively. In my studio class (7000:300, 7000:400) students are constantly making successful outcomes. This semester you will be able to see some of their works at the Student Innovation Symposium. The New Media Minor has been offered for less than two years. I started to teach New Media classes only three years ago when I first came to the University of Akron. It is very encouraging for me to hear students wanting to take more New Media classes and wishing to major in this field if possible. I hope to make this program more visible to students across the campus. I am now making a Facebook page of this program. Its address is facebook.com/newmediaprogram. It will be up and running in two weeks.What is the relationship with dance to your work?
Dance is one of the most intuitive forms of humans communicating with a space. When you talk with dancers they do not describe a lot in words precisely. They use a lot of abstract expressions, so when we hear what they say it could be very confusing, but if we just see the person dancing it all makes sense. It is like other art forms. It is a really great communication tool that helps explore my work.
Why are you intrigued by water and sound?
Sound intrigues me because I am always interested in creating space and sound is space. You can describe a space without seeing it. I am intrigued by water because it is fluid. Fluidity is very important in my work so it can always transform.
Do you have any up coming exhibitions?
EK: Currently my work Membranes is being shown at the Emerging Technology Room of the Bierce Library as a part of the Collider4: SPECTACLE exhibition. It will be up until March 28th. In May, there will be a theater play, 13 Most American Dreams, showing at the Cleveland Public Theatre. It is directed by Pandora Robertson, and my interactive pieces will be integrated in some parts of this play. In June, my work will be presented with a new dance choreography at the DAIPAN Butho Dance Festival in Seattle.
Kaitlynn Lane is a student and writer based in Akron, OH. View more articles by Kaitlynn Lane.