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Newsletter Vol.2

  • Launch of MMCA’s New Public Contest, PROJECT #
  • LACMA Art + Technology Lab 2019 Grant Recipients Announced
  • Tavares Strachan’s Project ENOCH Launched into Space

  • Launch of MMCA’s New Public Contest, PROJECT #
    Lee Samman, Radiance of Mountains, Colors of Water (detail),
    19th century, Korean, private collection
      Hyundai Motor Company and MMCA announced the launch of a new initiative titled PROJECT #, which will broaden the scopes of domestic culture and art by discovering and supporting Korea’s next generation creators. PROJECT # begins this year as part of the Hyundai Motor Company sponsorship program funding its long-term partnership with MMCA. It will venture into cooperative projects that reach beyond conventional forms of collaboration. The project is an open call to artists, curators, researchers, and creators of multidisciplinary expertise. After rigorous deliberation, two final contestants are named the winners. The name “hashtag” for the symbol # was popularized by social media, but traditionally, the symbol stands for “sharp” in music and it also resembles the Chinese character for “water well.” As such, hashtag serves a variety of functions and holds different meanings depending on the context, country, and the generation of people using the symbol. This unique nature of hashtag is reflected in the name of the newest Hyundai Motor Company-sponsored project at MMCA introduced here, which strives to support creators from various age groups, regions, genres, and experiences, and ultimately aims at introducing a new, creative platform.

      To promote innovative practices sprouting from collaboration among creative minds, PROJECT # supports team projects rather than individual creators. This year’s PROJECT # was open to any team of two or more creators working in a wide range of disciplines, including visual arts, new media, film, publication, design, architecture, music, culinary arts, and science. The contest garnered more attention than anticipated. Despite being in its first year, it received a total of 203 submissions by a host of collectives over the course of twenty-one days since registration opened on July 2. According to an MMCA representative, a great variety of collaborative projects were proposed, from multimedia works utilizing cutting-edge technology such as virtual reality (VR) and artificial intelligence (AI), to installations, film, interdisciplinary arts, publication, design, and participatory projects. The selection process included two rounds of screening, with the first being a review of written applications, and the second being in-person interviews with the PROJECT # juries. Juries with notable global experiences were invited to the final round of interviews in order to provide the contestants with guidance in broadening their spheres to the international art scene. The inaugural PROJECT #’s jury board included Farid Rakun, a member of ruangrupa, the Jakarta-based Indonesian art collective and artistic directors of documenta 15, the London-based curator and the director of the 2020 Liverpool Biennale, Fatoş Üstek, and three MMCA curators: Kang Seungwan, Lee Sabin, and Park Joowon.

      On August 23, MMCA announced Gangnambug (Park Jae-young, Lee Kyung-taek and Lee Jung-woo) and SQC (Seoul Queer Collective; Kwon Wook (Kw.mins.H), Jung Jae-hoon, Kim Jung-min, Jung Seung-woo, Nam Soo Jung, Jo Jook) as the two winners of the first PROJECT #. Today’s populous and glitzy area of Gangnam was once an underdeveloped outskirt of Seoul, but it had undergone a total transformation over the decades as a result of the city’s expansion. Gangnambug considers this transformed Gangnam as an error (bug) and observes key issues of the contemporary Korean society through the changes of Gangnam from the past to present. Gangnambug plans to collaborate with cram school instructors, college prep coordinators, plastic surgeons, valet parking business owners, and gastro-venture YouTubers to incorporate different perspectives on tracing the history and change of the Gangnam district. The project aims to disseminate a broader view of Gangnam to the public through communication with various domains including culture and arts. On the other hand, SQC brings to light a phenomenon caused by the rapid gentrification of the Jongno 3-ga neighborhood. Due to this urban transformation that began in 2016, queer male or the so-called “urban queer,” elders living in poor single-room neighborhoods, the homeless, and prostitutes are being pushed out from the city. Members of SQC—ranging from video artist and urban engineer to architect, landscape architect and more—plan to bring the urban queer back to public spaces through their proposed project. Urban queers’ stories and voices that were tucked away in the course of urban development will be revealed again through film, performance, seminars and publications.

      Kang Seungwan, chief curator of MMCA and one of the juries of PROJECT #, stated that many collectives submitted “outstanding proposals for intriguing artistic collaborations that can strip down stereotypes and expand the boundaries and potential of art.” He added that Gangnambug and SQC were named the two final winners because of the social impact their projects will have as well as their potentials for further collaboration and growth. Each team will be granted a fund of 30 million won, a studio space, and the chance to showcase their complete projects at MMCA Seoul in April 2020. Gangnambug and SQC will also be provided opportunities to work with experts and leading art institutions from around the world for advice and support needed for showcasing their creative ideas on the global art stage.

      In speaking of PROJECT #, a Hyundai Motor Company representative said, “We are delighted to announce a new kind of open call project, especially on the occasion of MMCA’s 50th anniversary. The project will set the stage for next generation creators to freely try out progressive and experimental art projects.” He also added, “Hyundai hopes that PROJECT # evolves into a leading program that lights the path for domestic art sponsorships, along with MMCA Hyundai Motor Series, which supports seasoned artists representing Korea.” MMCA’s director Youn Bummo also expressed his excitement, stating, “PROJECT # is an exceptional project, the first of its kind in Korea, that seeks to discover brilliant collectives that think outside the box. It will actively support and encourage interdisciplinary collaborations, thereby solidifying art museums’ role to foster and promote creativity.” Hyundai Motor Company began its partnership with MMCA in 2014 through the MMCA Hyundai Motor Series. By sponsoring PROJECT #, Hyundai Motor Company will lay the groundwork for Korean creators to grow and step foot in the global arena while also contributing to the diversification and development of Korea’s arts and culture. Over the course of five years, a total of ten creator collectives will be selected (two each year) to partake in this new project. Aside from its growing partnership with MMCA, Hyundai Motor Company also sponsors exhibition programs and initiatives at LACMA and Tate Modern. The Company has been demonstrating its innovative and unique brand philosophy that encourages experimental art through its firm partnerships with these leading global art institutions.

    LACMA Art + Technology Lab 2019 Grant Recipients Announced
    Kara Walker [Photo courtesy: Ari Marcopoulos]
      Hyundai Motor Company and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) currently work together under their 10-year partnership named The Hyundai Project. Hyundai Motor Company has been supporting LACMA’s Art + Technology Lab, which works with artists to explore the convergence of art and technology. LACMA set the 2019 Art + Technology Lab program in motion by announcing the five grant recipients, who will transform innovative technology and daring ideas into art. Ebru Kurbak, Rashaad Newsome, Eun Young Park, Sarah Rosalena Brady, and Tom Sachs will each receive an amount up to $50,000 in a grant to actualize their project with advice from science, technology, and engineering experts. Projects at Art + Technology Lab delve into topics such as the human reason and perception, the history of technological advancement, the relationship between humans and arts, and other issues surrounding culture and society of our times.

      Ebru Kurbak’s Reinventing the Spindle explores the potentials of traditional textile technology in microgravity environments. The subject of her interest is the fiber spindle, which was invented before the wheel. Therefore, it can be said that fiber spindle is the precursor to all modern rotating devices. The textile industry emerged with the invention of the spindle and thread, and the industry continues to expand with new breakthroughs. For instance, China, a textile powerhouse, announced the news of the first cotton seed sprouting on the surface of the moon in January 2019, albeit short lived, as it died the next day. Nevertheless, Kurbak seeks to find new ramifications of human exploration using this ancient invention in space environment.

      Rashaad Newsome introduces Being, a humanoid robot and artist that can liberate the human mind from limitations. Newsome will be developing an AI system for the humanoid robot in collaboration with the MIT Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory and Hanson Robotics. Furthermore, he will build Being’s faceplate with woodwork masters of the Democratic Republic of Congo and Tech Works Studio in Los Angeles. The process of creating this humanoid robot will focus on overturning and rethinking the existing social norms. Being’s mask is inspired female Pho dance masks of the Chokwe peoples, which are traditionally worn and made by men to honor women. The dance mask gives the robot a whimsical identity that could be seen at a queer ball or in voguing. Newsome’s project substantiates new ideas of gender and race in today’s world where artists and scholars constantly bring new thoughts to equality, race, gender, and identity.

      Eun Young Park’s Radical Soft Robots delves into the artistic possibilities of “soft robotics” by using soft materials including silicone, vinyl, fabric, and paper. Soft robotics engineering mimics the flexible movements of an organism. This very feature unleashes a world of possibilities using various technologies in wearable appliances. Park’s project will focus on both the technological and emotional aspects of soft robotics. Radical Soft Robots will be a participatory project in part, inviting the public to put forth ideas on wearable furniture, lighting, appliances and architecture. The project will also engage the audience with a series of programs that studies compression, expansion, flexion and extension of a robot and the influence it will have on humanity and the way we live in the future.

      Sarah Rosalena Brady incorporates the American theorist Donna Haraway’s work on “string figures” into her project Exit Points. The project seeks to find a connection between the process of weaving and social formation by exploring the “spirit line” in weaving design. The spirit line is a small strand of yarn of contrasting color that flows from the inner design element to the outer edge of the woven object. The line that represents the path for the weaver’s artistic spirit to leave the textile is a unique and the sole trace left on the object by the weaver. As a symbol, the spirit line raises questions to confined human reasoning and social construct. Brady joins this idea of spirit line with the concepts of boundaries and anti-patterns in Exit Point. Her project will utilize machine learning to repeat the looming process of creating spirit lines over and again. Through this process and work, Brady will present new roles for art and technology as tools for epistemological findings.

      Tom Sachs will create a highly immersive experience for the public through his project Virtual Reality Module. In this artificial 3D environment, each audience member will be able to go on their own trip by sitting in the 3D module chair designed by the artist. The project is based on extensive research on the spectrum of the human experience and a vast set of sensory data. Proven technology such as the massage chair, television, headphones, fan, and air conditioner are synchronized via computers to replicate a realistic environment. For instance, the Virtual Reality Module creates fog and warm fan wind in sync to an image of a rain forest shown on the module’s screen. Visitors will be able to simultaneously experience comfort and excitement while they go on a ride in spaces unfamiliar to them. The integration of analog technologies and automated algorithms provides a new, first-hand experience to visitors in a world in which the VR experience has become a norm.

      Hyundai Motor Company and LACMA are pleased to present new value through transformative technology and arts through these innovative projects. As the leader of the automotive industry that can be described as the culmination of art and technology, Hyundai Motor Company will continue to collaborate with industry leaders such as Google, Accenture, SpaceX, and Snap Inc. to support LACMA’s Art + Technology Lab.

    Tavares Strachan’s Project ENOCH Launched into Space
    From left, Jane Jin Kaisen, siren eun young jung, Hyunjin Kim, Hwayeon Nam
    [Photo courtesy: Art Council Korea]
      Tavares Strachan’s project ENOCH made its grand debut on December 3, 2018, when it was launched into space. Realized through LACMA Art + Technology Lab, a part of The Hyundai Project, ENOCH focused on the development and launch of a 3U satellite. Through this satellite launching project, Strachan cast light upon the forgotten story of Robert Henry Lawrence Jr., the first ever African American astronaut selected for a national space program in the United States. The artist also brought together hidden histories of humanity, Ancient Egyptian traditions, religion and faith, as well as the history of exploration.

      Tavares Strachan’s past projects have been centered around challenging limits of life and art. Born in Nassau, the capital of the Bahamas, Strachan studied fine arts at the College of the Bahamas. He then moved to the United States in 2000 to pursue advanced degrees at the Rhode Island School of Design and Yale University, where he established the foundation for his interdisciplinary art projects. From there on, the artist expanded his scope of thinking and creations as he continuously navigated himself between the realms of design and minimalist practices, conceptual art and advanced technology, as well as public art and participatory art projects. In his repeated discovery and experience of the greater world, Strachan experiments modes of art that are not only visually inspiring but also intellectually intriguing and emotionally stimulating. Strachan’s interest in astronomical science, deep sea exploration, and extreme climates, which are all themes visited in his projects, sparked his performative narratives that facilitate discourse on cultural movement, human ambition, and limitations. Through these performative narratives, Strachan ultimately seeks to present art that is unbound to conventions—or a form of art that actively fulfills or serves a function. In the effort to pursue broader and more diverse ideas, Strachan has recently extended his interest to arts, sciences, nature, religion, and other humanities disciplines. He reveals points of intersection between different thoughts through collaborations with research institutions and organizations from these disciplines.

      Tavares Strachan’s recent project ENOCH can be considered a culmination of such collaborative experiment. As mentioned earlier, the story of Robert Henry Lawrence Jr. is brought to light in ENOCH. Lawrence, a physical chemist and a U.S. Air Force pilot, was named the first ever African American astronaut for a national space program in 1967. Unfortunately, he was killed in a supersonic jet crash on December 8 of the same year while training a pilot on a landing technique to be used on space shuttles. Lawrence was not only a talented pilot but also the developer of the “flare” technique, critical to space shuttle landing; yet it was only in 2017, half-century after his death, that NASA recognized his accomplishment.

      Strachan decided to take the fallen astronaut’s spirit to space. For this endeavor, the artist constructed a 24-carat gold canopic urn, part of an Ancient Egyptian funerary tradition that included mummifying the body of the deceased leader, in hopes that his or her influence will not wane in the afterworld. The mummification process often involved the removal of the liver, stomach, lungs, and intestines, which were preserved separately in special, sacred urns. Canopic urns often had lids resembling the head of the deceased and the containers were sometimes inscribed with writings. The form and design of Ancient Egyptian urns changed over the centuries, with figures of animals or patron gods appearing in certain periods. For ENOCH, Tavares Strachan created a canopic urn resembling the bust of Lawrence. The golden urn is clearly inspired by the Ancient Egyptian tradition, yet the artist does not follow the ancient tradition of preserving the deceased’s organs. Rather, the urn exists as a symbolic artifact that commemorates and houses the spirit of Lawrence. In fact, Strachan’s urn underwent a ritual at a Shinto Shrine in Fukuoka, Japan, which recognized it as a sacred container carrying the spirit of Lawrence.

      The title of the project ENOCH takes after the name of the biblical figure who is said to have been spared from the experience of mortal death. In December 2018, Strachan’s satellite ENOCH took off for space—or the afterworld in which death does not exist—with Robert Henry Lawrence Jr.’s spirit onboard, and it will orbit the Earth for seven years. The artist revealed before the launch that he will install beacons on the roof of school buildings around the world that will light up every time the satellite passes over them. The beacons will highlight the importance of his project once again and present his intent on continuing his research on vast universe alongside education programs.

      LACMA Art + Technology Lab-sponsored project ENOCH is the latest contemporary artwork inspired by Ancient Egyptian canopic jars. Symbolically, it is a commemorative sculpture honoring the spirit of a talented astronaut whose career failed to bloom and a project that demonstrates the value convergence, which has been repeatedly attempted between art and science. LACMA’s director Michael Govan explained that ENOCH is a prime example of a project that conveys LACMA Art + Technology Lab’s mission to boost and expand creative thinking through collaboration between talented artists and tech companies. He also stated that launching an artwork into space is both an incredible result of the LACMA program and homage to the pioneers of art and technology who paved the way to today’s scientifically and technologically sophisticated world. As the major sponsor of LACMA Art + Technology Lab that encourages interdisciplinary dialogues and fusion of cutting-edge technologies and art, Hyundai Motor Company will continue to propel programs supporting artists who seek and test novel forms of art.