<p>The inspiration and metamorphosis behind the Korean artist’s incredibly reactive installation.</p>
Minha Yang‘s Meditation makes you feel like you’re underwater, floating in a rippled red pond. No, that’s not quite it. Maybe more like skipping stones on a quiet lake at dusk as you sit contemplating your existence. Whatever image the interactive installation conjures for you, there are few things in this technology-driven world that provide a space for introspection so simply and succinctly.
The artwork itself—made up of three red, reactive projections—spans an entire wall, drawing audiences in with its pliable waves, which conform to patrons’ arms and bodies, accompanied by soothing sounds. Infrared cameras and sensors are embedded in the speakers, capturing the the viewers’ movements though high-speed, multi-channel video encounters that translate the motion into fluid, entrancing visuals. The installation comes to life through three rushes of ripples projected up close in front of your face, and the installation never responds the same—it relies on and changes for each person.
We caught up with Yang last October in New York (his first time in the US), where he discussed the rippling work as a “religious tool”—red is a color widely associated with religion in Korea—and the importance of its exhibition in an urban environment, as it provides space for contemplation and reflection amidst the chaos and noise of city life.
Having slightly tweaked its mechanics since New York, we spoke again with Yang, who explained more about the artwork’s significance in the video above and discussed its inner metamorphosis below.
The Creators Project: Based on your experience at the New York event, you made a few alterations to Mediation for the San Francisco event. Can you explain what changes you made and why?
Minha Yang: Meditation for San Francisco didn't change very much in terms of imagery, but rather the hardware and software were considerably changed. Infrared LEDs and infrared cameras were attached at the front of every speaker so that a total of three cameras were being used. At the New York event, I used three projectors and applied edge-blending technology so the boundaries of each image were smooth. Also by using three cameras in real time, I also developed computer vision in order to make motion vector fields. The reason I made these changes is very simple. At the New York event, I saw everyone flapping their arms in front of their own speaker.
Minha Yang’s concept sketch
As an embodiment of a new "fabricated religion," Meditation offers its viewers a possibility for an alternative spirituality through the use of technology. What sort of role do you think technology plays in religion today? Would you consider technology in itself to be a religious outlet?
The intention of my work differs on the majority with the interpretation of the viewer. Not only for Meditation, but that happens with most of my works. Meditation was not made with the intention of amplifying spirituality through the use of technology. By mixing the symbols of today's religions, it is a work that questions whether such a fabricated religion could actually be recognized as a religion. Of course, there is no disappointment when my intention conflicts with the interpretation of the viewer. From whatever side, I really enjoy those sort of misunderstandings.
And I think technology has already become a religious outlet. All the media around us demonstrates this to be true.