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User Preferences: A Tech Q&A With Soomi Park

User Preferences: A Tech Q&A With Soomi Park

Each week we chat about the tools of the trade with one outstanding creative to find out exactly how they do what they do. The questions are always the same, the answers, not so much. This week: Soomi Park.

The Creators Project: Who are you and what do you do?
Soomi Park: I’m Soomi Park, a media artist based in Seoul, South Korea. Although I do diverse art works from drawing, painting, graffiti to performance and design, I mainly do media art installations. My work is about making different types of interactive installations using technologies like wearable computing devices.

Most of my projects start from inspiration for a new form of ‘emotional design.’ The concept of ‘emotional design’ deals with emotions that are beneath the surface, harder to see. My work focuses on emotions and desires investigated and discovered from deep insights and through interactions of people coping with social issues and situations. I express these playful, fascinating stories and objects. For instance, one of my past works was motivated by how nowadays people get plastic surgery too easily and without careful consideration.

What hardware do you use?
I like to use a variety of sensors. It is no exaggeration to say sensors are essential elements for interaction media projects when considering the interaction between the person and the project itself.

I use Arduino pretty often as hardware for interactions interlocked with sensors. Still, I don’t consider Arduino to be the main hardware for my media art. For instance, some of my more well-known projects, like LED Eyelash or Digital Veil, were developed with very simple technologies, like a tilt sensor, battery and LEDs. As for LED Eyelash, I obtained a patent for the model rights. The patent covers the on/off function that senses the wearer’s movements as well as the attachment design of the LEDs to the eyes.

What software do you use?
As I mentioned before, I generally use Arduino for my projects. It is very useful for a person like me who wants to do media art but is not that skillful in computer programming. Sometimes, I use Max/MSP. I usually use it with Jitter, which is quite useful for controlling sound and video simultaneously. In addition, my fundamentals include 3D Maya and Realviz Stitch.

If money were no object, how would you change your current setup?
If I had unlimited funds to further develop LED Eyelash, I would invest more attention to the eyelash part made with LEDs. First, maybe using flexible LEDs for more comfortable wear. Furthermore, it would be awesome if I could change the sensor and battery into a combined micro device so there wouldn’t be a subsidiary attachment.

What fantasy piece of technology would you like to see invented?
Out of all the things my imagination could hope for, my top would be a time machine. Moving back and forth from past, present to future like in Back to the Future. But, I would definitely prefer the one-second time machine like in Michel Gondry’s Science of Sleep. Just by going back by one second or forward, my life could be entirely changed.

Is there a piece of technology that changed your life or inspired you?
It only makes sense to say LEDs since LED Eyelash was my first foray into the media art field. It was the first piece of media art I had produced during my first year at grad school. Before then, I didn’t know anything about technology really, even LEDs. But once I started developing my idea for LED Eyelash, I realized how beautiful LEDs are—like tiny glittering diamonds capable of producing diverse expressions. My life has changed since LED Eyelash, opening doors to the media art field.

What’s your favorite relic piece of technology from your childhood?
I remember when I was little, my mom used to listen to music with an LP player from time to time. She had a large collection of LPs from classical music to old Korean pop. I actually made an art piece, Analog Turns, as a nostalgic nod to that LP player. In that same project, I also used a slide projector. I remember loving the clicking sound of slides going back and forth. It is very meaningful to use those analog devices in my work because they both carry the emotional sounds, visuals and interactions.