Hyun Ju Kim

Artist Statement


"Thinking about the body is also thinking by means of the body"
- James Elkins, "Pictures of the Body",
Stanford University Press, Stanford, 1999, p. vii

What happens if the body is in virtual space or in an informational system? What is different from the traditionally painted flesh and a digitally rendered one? How do people perceive this new form of body representation? The artist has been fascinated by the immateriality and virtuality of digitally depicted imagery of the body in the contemporary image culture. Extremely photo realistic characters are not unusual nowadays in video games and animations. With highly sophisticated lighting and rendering, the characters are sometimes almost real. It is a false sense that we like to have for the sake of entertainment.

With a closer look at how 3D digital imagery is produced, one could tell the surface of the object makes things look realistic. In fact, beyond and beneath the skin of the virtual body is hollow space. The skin is the demarcation of our perception about existence and the non-existence - only the skin of the virtual body matters. The virtual skin is composed of mathematical components; vertices, edges and faces, as a famous 3D software claims. The interactive installation VirtualBody (2003) and a series of laser-engraved digital prints False Body (2007) explore the notion of digital flesh, disembodied in virtual space. With this installation, aspects of virtual representation: immateriality, vulnerability, and the vacancy inside the computer graphically- represented body are unfolded through the viewer's interaction.

At the first glance of the installation of Virtual Body, the viewer encounters the constantly moving real-time image of 3D modeled body projected on the wall. The separation between viewer's body and the virtual body disappears when viewers touch a patch of rubber skin which has a touch sensor underneath. This action of touching penetrates the border of digital skin of the virtual body and creates the illusion for viewers that they are moving inside the body. Once inside, the appearance of body changes into the abstract composition of several wire-framed layers of 3D model. There is no surface or border but only polygonal lines which is a basic modeling structure of 3D graphics. Thus the space inside the virtual body is vacant, unlike the human body that is filled with inner organs, bloods and nerves. The body has no sense of materiality.

Falsebody is a series of digital prints exploring the immaterial aesthetics of digital culture by engraving the image of the digitally-generated body from an odd perspective of a 3D virtual camera onto plexiglass, a tangible physical material. The digital body model was carefully crafted from 3D graphical software, then the wireframe images of the model were taken by a virtual camera from inside of the body, using an extreme wide-angle lens. The resulting vector images were taken to a laser-cutter for engraving onto plexiglass. The installation at Ayer Arts Gallery (Lowell, MA, 2007) includes nine pieces of laser-engraved plexiglass hung from a ceiling.

The immateriality and emptiness of the digital body are ironically juxtaposed with the tangible enactment of touching.

Hyun Ju Kim Bio

Assistant Professor, Art Department, University of Massachusetts Lowell. Hyun Ju Kim is a media artist and educator born in South Korea and working and living in Boston area. Her works have been exhibited throughout US and internationally, including such festivals: Sixth International Digital Art Exhibit and Colloquium(Cuba, 2004), Toronto Online Film Festival(Canada,2002), International Audio Visual Creation Festival of Navarre (Spain,2002), and Media[Less] Medium at the Boston Center for the Arts(Boston, 2002). Kim's work varies from 3D animation to video and installations. Her recent computer interactive installations and performance projects deal with posthumanic conditions in the techno-cultural society, exploring the notion of identities in such an environment with ubiquitous digital technologies.