Meditation 101 with Heemin Chung and 6-8
Meditation 101 with Heemin Chung and 6-8
Now on view at MUSEUMHEAD until Sept. 9.
Narrative design by Heemin Chung
VR design by 6-8
Project organized by SOL STUDIO
Ahead of Heemin Chung’s solo exhibition at MUSEUMHEAD, SOL Studio brought together the artist and multimedia artists’ collective 6-8 to collaborate on a new work. 6-8 ’s visualization of Chung’s artistic practices, <Meditation 101> is an immersive meditative guide through the exhibition halls, digitally transformed into a familiar yet otherworldly echo of the physical gallery.
<Meditation 101> is a narrative VR originally produced for viewing on VR devices. The video and script have been altered to better fit an online viewing environment.
Subtitles are available in English and Korean.
For an optimal viewing expirience on mobile devices, the use of the Youtube app is recommended.
Heemin Chung’s works often begin as digital figments, 3D rendered models of ‘real’ objects configured as pixelated simulacra on a digital screen. They are then painstakingly recreated onto canvas through a mixture of traditional painting techniques and modern tools like spray paint. The resulting works are amalgams of the digital image and physical substance, wavering between the two states of being. One can clearly discern their computerized roots, the figures and objects possessing an unmistakably digital geometry found in even the most sophisticated 3D renderings. And yet the paintings exude a visceral physicality, the textures resembling flesh, or the membrane of some yet-undiscovered fauna.
Chung’s latest exhibition is titled <Seoulites>, in an ode to the concrete-laden landscapes and peoples of Seoul, her home. Perhaps more than any other megalopolis, Seoul is striking in its numerous inconsistencies. Centuries-old pagodas stand beneath glisteningly vain skyscrapers, while its populace continue to practice archaic superstitions with a ruthlessly modern pragmatism. A city caught in an unending loop of destruction and renewal, at a whirlwind pace as if comically fast-forwarded.
Just as Seoul is a chaotic cacophony of urbanity, <Seoulites> is filled to the brim with seemingly clashing elements and forms. The subject and medium of Chung’s works are stretched to their limits, in both scope and expression. An exquisitely visceral painting of lilac-hued flowers hangs next to a futuristic, yet wholly fabricated electric scooter lying nonchalantly abandoned on the ground. A mesmerizing triptych adorns the main wall, depicting a dizzying bouquet of flowers in a harsh chrome-metal finish. A self-portrait, or rather a still life, shows the three copies of the artist crumpled down and lifeless, like an online avatar shut down while the user is away from the keyboard. Standing next to this lifeless work is a mock gravestone, engraved on a clear fiberglass motorcycle windshield, ubiquitous on the streets of Seoul. And outside the halls, in the moat-like pond in front of the museum, a sentence is written in pixelated metal sheets: “We Decide to be Synchronized”.
The clashing nature of Seoul and Heemin Chung’s <Seoulites> may seem a senseless commotion to an outsider. But to those that call the city home, a startling order can be discerned amidst the chaos. Conflicting irrationalities and the heterogeneous, almost anachronistic pace of the city can at times overwhelm and engulf the individual. And yet these stimuli can also give rise to a symptomatic, personal ritual in the form of meditation: introspection leading to moments of clarity, and even appreciation for the myriad sensations and forms offered by the city. In their synchronization is a beauty to be relished.
<Meditation 101> is Chung’s iteration of such a moment of calm in an otherwise deafening commotion. A guided meditation, the work flips Chung’s conventional practices on its head, recreating the physical space of the gallery into a strange digital reverberation. Its viewer is pulled into a wholly unexpected introspective sojourn, taking place within the invisible yet infinitely expanding physicality of virtual reality.
The journey begins by wearing a set of VR goggles. Once they are placed over the eyes, the surrounding space dissolves into darkness, to be broken down to its most basic elements and rebuilt in front of the eyes. As the space disintegrates, the eyes remain open, to be met by empty space. Devoid of even shadows or corners to signal a sense of location, all that can be perceived is a jarring void.
And then appear the most basic elements that make up space - a collection of single points as white orbs, each representing a positional dot that together make up the 3D rendered composition of the area. Like countless shining stars sprayed across an otherwise empty space, their materialization brings a welcome sense of ‘somethingness’ to fill up the vacuum. The viewer is prompted to point at, throw and touch these orbs, exerting the physical body via motion into the process.
At such efforts, these points are in turn conjoined to form lines, walls, and eventually the mass of the building itself. The resulting construct is a strange, meticulously rendered digital facsimile of the gallery. We are brought from the void, to space, and finally down to the ground.
And yet aside for the inner layout of its walls and pillars, what appears is anything but identical to the ‘reality’ outside the VR goggles. While the building is an exercise in angular, straight compositions in concrete, its digital echo is an organic biomass, its soft curvatures gently pulsating as if to a heartbeat. The experience is akin to that of being swallowed whole by a giant whale, its innards enveloping the viewer in a strange, warm embrace.
The scenery enveloping the outer façade has been transformed as well. A shallow pond and the surrounding buildings are morphed into a vast lake, stretching out endlessly towards a wide open horizon. It is as if the building has been given life through a curious alchemical process, and lifted to another plane of existence on the cusp of overlapping with our own.
As the familiar shapes of the gallery’s walls register in the viewer’s mind, they are finally back in known territory, returned to the exact coordinates from which the journey began - and yet the surroundings are no longer hard and lifeless. First broken down into nothingness, their actions, guided throughout by the voice overhead, have transformed the space they’re in into a living, breathing entity, enveloped in light and embracing. They are now free to wander about the space as they wish, identical but entirely transformed in their eyes alone.
Once the goggles are removed after the 10-minute journey, the participant is back in the fluorescent-lit room from which they came. And yet imprinted on the back of their retinae is a ghostly veil, a remnant of another mode of perception that the determined can surely reach again, the next time unguided.
6-8 is a newly-formed collective of four multimedia artists based in Seoul - Kohui, Hyunseo Cho, Yunsu Joung and Jeoji. Each specialized within a unique spectrum of media art and installation, 6-8 works across a broad range of mediums and expressions, by utilizing generative programming, VR, video art and more to create immersive experiences both digital and physical.