Kieun Kim Expands Our Minds With Physical Computing, Wearable Technology, and More
Article written by Isaiah Lawrence on July 21, 2021
New York/Baltimore-based, professional new media artist and visual designer, Kieun Kim, has an innovative gift that you will rarely see in your lifetime. Of high caliber, her remarkable work displays interactive art, soft circuits, physical computing, and wearable technology. I am aware that what you just read probably sounds like a character from a science fiction novel that would leave your mind beyond belief, but Kieun is one-of-a-kind. Her diverse body of work is like the state of verisimilitude (with mediums ranging from acrylic, charcoal, gesso, etc.) showcases superb self-portraits, emotional expressions, and the human connection. Currently fluent in 2 languages (English and Korean),her fantabulous, diverse media was featured in events and exhibitions (as well as ‘The New York Times’ and ‘The Washington Post’).
At the “Ministry of Science and Technology,” Kieun won the grand prize for “Digital Ceramics and Patterns” at the “Korea Software Awards” (2004, Gyeonggi-do, South Korea). Kieun’s decorated portfolio shows us that she can create her own short films, like the “Best Video Art + Experimental Video Art/Revealuxion: My Journey of Evolution” at the “Los Angeles CineFest” (2019, Los Angeles, CA) and “Five Continents International Film Festival” (FICOCC2016), (2019, Puerto la Cruz, Venezuela). Also, she the optimistic belief that her art is expressed in everything she touches and her work is experimented and presented in various forms of multimedia installation. “Revealuxion,” her representative project, was invited to exhibit at “World Maker Faire” (2016, NY, USA), “Governors Island Art Fair (2016, NY, USA),” “Space In Art New York Gallery (2016, NY, USA),” “School 33 Art Center (2018, MD, USA),” and “Art Rooms Fair Roma” (2019, Roma, Italy).
The sight of her jaw-dropping displays may leave a multitude of viewers wondering about if she will create the next technological breakthrough. Perhaps, she is before her time (where many people do not fully understand her flair for creativity). Being not only a professional artist, she is a trendsetter, possibly predicting the future with her designs (where humans may one day wear fashionable technology). It does not take much to expect the process of wearing technology in the future (like vivid and lucid dreams), but to actually create technology to wear and make it look fashionable, is another level of talent.
In 2000, Kieun received her Bachelor of Fine Arts in Art Education at “Kyung Hee University” in Seoul, South Korea. She received her Master of Fine Arts degree in Design and Technology at “Parsons School of Design,” in 2015.
Some of her honors are being a featured artist for “Talk To Me” at “Adafruit Wearable Wednesday” (2014, NY, New York), being a featured maker for “The Finger Drums” at “Instructables” (2014, San Rafael), and winning the 2014 “Papercraft Contest” for “Brainwave-Controlled Paper Garment” at “Instructables” (2015, San Rafael, CA).
Her selected exhibitions are “Artrooms Fair Roma, Roma, Italy 2019”, “Superfine! Art Fair, New York City 2019”, “School 33 Art Center (BOPA), Baltimore, MD 2018”, “9th Annual Governors Island Art Fair 2016”, and more.
Revealuxion: Reveal + Lux
Reveal myself through the intensity of illumination & body movements.
STEP I: Performance wearing a garment
STEP II: Multimedia video installation
STEP III: Video installation
STEP IV: Performance with Multimedia video installation
Revealuxion [ Statement Version-I ]
Revealuxion is a version of new media art composed of the shapes and mechanisms inspired by cocoons and marionettes. The video symbolizes a dynamic hole presenting a struggled butterfly in the chrysalis. She integrates all her experimental documentary videos into the kaleidoscope effects. She views herself as a young butterfly, through the reflection of chrysalis as a representation of her alter ego, she expresses suffering and patience that is embedded in her artwork.
The title came from a combination of Reveal and Lux. She combined them to reveal herself through the intensity of illumination and body movements. Initially, Revealuxion was an experimental garment for performance, which used LED lights connected to brainwaves called Mindflex as a mental representation and finger movements as a physical representation. She designed organic shapes by fragile satin ice acrylic materials like her concept concentrating on the self-portrait, self-esteem, aesthetic emotions, and human connection. A butterfly naturally struggles for its independence and a marionette is controlled by human fingers. However, in the performance, she voluntarily positioned herself in a chrysalis and used her fingers to control her own movements coming out of the small hole.
To extend journey of imagination, she installed exhibitions of a video projector with white threads and wooden mannequin hands. Audiences would feel empathy, sympathy, and healing moment through my solitary journey.
Revealuxion [ Statement Version-II ]
Revealuxion is a version of video installation using the shapes and mechanisms inspired by cocoons and marionettes. She views herself as a young butterfly, through the reflection of chrysalis as a representation of her alter ego; She expresses suffering and patience that is embedded in her artwork.
Initially, Revealuxion was a personal, artistic form for performance, which used brainwaves, LED lights, and finger movements. The title came from a combination of two words: Reveal and Lux. She combined them because she wanted to reveal herself through the intensity of illumination. She sets up a Mindflex, six LED Strips as a mental representation and finger motions as a physical representation.
She designed architectural shapes using acrylic materials. The reason why she chose pieces of acrylic sheets is that the materials are very fragile like her concept and when she tested out these ones, they remind her of an icicle and looked sharp and easy to break out. At the same time, they looked pure and clear in the dark.
To extend her journey of imagination in a space, she installed a video projector with wooden hands and white threads instead of the LED strips and brainwaves. The video represents a dynamic hole, which means it shows a struggled butterfly in the chrysalis. She integrated all her documentary videos into the kaleidoscope effects. Audiences would harmonize with herself, motivated, peaceful journey.
Talking to the audience who came to her performances and exhibitions, she found that they were quite serious and deeply empathetic through her artworks. Moreover, within the huge installation, she felt that harmony and peace coexisted in the way the audience interacted freely, taking pictures, and smiling with someone.
You incorporate technology into your art, code the pieces to where they function the way you prefer, and sometimes, wear them. Besides going to an art event, have you ever worn your artwork in public? Are there any misconceptions about your artwork? What do you want people to know about your artwork?
As an artist, I am always concerned with the statement “Be yourself.” I fear we can lose our ontological integrity and can be controlled by other people, technology and alter egos. I always wonder: How could I really represent my true self through my physical form and in performances involving a second body?
I would say that I exist and that I am here. And if I extend from myself, it is like seeing pictures of an alter ego through a mirror. By expressing an intimate part of myself in this way, I am able to feel a huge amount of empathy and sympathy for my own self. Throughout this process, I experience moments of healing.
I put on my interactive garments and produced two performances in the crowd in 2015, and I interacted with people through the lights and movements. I felt like a clown because the jazz band played some pleasant music and the lights on the stage were very bright and luxurious. So, my LEDs did not have great effects and people said I looked like a jellyfish or a giant Octopus. However, I kept doing my best to perform with audiences. Finally, I had a great time.
I strongly recognized a healing point through my performance when I made a connection with audiences in Parsons Gala in 2015 and Designing Multiplicity: Performance & Screening in 2015.
The important lesson that I have learned was that I am capable of expressing myself through art mediums that I choose.
Revealuxion / Photo by Daniel Mastretta 2015
Revealuxion: Be You Be Free / Photo by H. J. Na Art All Night 2019 Korean Cultural Center, Embassy of South Korea, Washington D.C.
Recent performance was in the Korean Cultural Center DC in 2019. I performed in my installation artwork and audiences. Audiences could interact with me in the large size of installation represented by chrysalis.
If you are often called an artistic genius, I am not surprised, because you created “Brainwave-Controlled Paper Garment,” an experimental, wearable piece, which uses thermochromic pigment, soft circuits, and Arduino connected to vital signs, brainwaves. Originally, you wanted to create a Pulse sensor to the project, but decided to test out a Neurosky of the meditation Journal that can be concentrated on yourself. Honestly, you are incredibly talented. Was there ever a time when you regretted showing others how you create your work? Have you ever wanted to keep the step-by-step creation process of your art a secret?
Physical computing program called Arduino connected with Pulse sensor, NeuroSky, and Mindflex were sometimes inaccurate and processed unstable, especially the live activities such as active performance and dancing due to battery power and circuit contact failure.
There were many trials and errors in the process, but I think communicating with the audience about all the processes and results are one of the concepts of my work such as our unexpected life.
Also, for the reason that there were people who helped me and supported me, I think even errors were sublimated into art works.
Are you an ambidextrous artist?
No, I mostly use the right hand. But, I can use both when I draw or paint. I can express my imagination more freely when I use both hands like dance movements.
What’s it about the ambient music and kaleidoscopic lights that you like so much?
I listen to different music depending on the situation and feeling.
When I work at night, I mainly listen to classic and jazz music. It makes me more peaceful and calm to create arts. I often insert a background sound using classical music.
Old-fashioned 80s pop sounds bring my old memory and feeling. The fast-paced rhythm and beats can bring out satisfying emotions and stimulation when expressing passionate drawings and paintings.
This video represents a dynamic hole, which means it shows a struggled butterfly in the chrysalis. I integrated all my documentary videos into the kaleidoscope effects.
At what point in your life did you think about incorporating computer engineering and coding into your artwork? When did you start creating?
I started learning and creating artworks with the physical computing and the soft circuit at Parsons in 2013.
At that time, I was just a newbie about coding in accessing the latest programs. I was able to learn a lot and grow by meeting other young geniuses (young generations).
I still miss working and studying with peers.
Are there any upcoming projects that you are working on and would like to share with us?
Revealuxion is still ongoing. I dream to dream everyday the act of getting out of the chrysalis on my own and flying vigorously. I will keep developing artworks, 2D, 3D, multi-media, and performance between the traditional and contemporary techniques.
Kim_Kieun_Revealuxion_01. Kieun Kim Solo Exhibition. Space in Arts, New York, NY. August 13, 2016. Photo by Kieun Kim.
Kim_Kieun_Revealuxion_03. Kieun Kim Solo Exhibition. Space in Arts, New York, NY. August 13, 2016. Photo by Kieun Kim.
What would you say is the defining moment in your career?
Like Billy Joel's song, The Way I Am, the emotions I feel now, my religion, my family, environment around me, situation, and memories inspired me a lot of defining moment in my career, pride, and self-esteem.
If you ever have creative blocks, what do you do?
Oddly enough, the creative block comes to me when my life is stable, worry-free and peaceful. Then, I just focus on my side job and spend regular (sometimes boring) time.
When you create, do you rely more on tacit knowledge (implicit knowledge), explicit knowledge, embedded knowledge, or embodied knowledge?
I rely on more tacit knowledge. It is precious and special because no one can imitate it, no one can replace it, and it is my own knowledge and experience. I am the special, I am the only one person in this world.
Kim_Kieun_Revealuxion_06. Korean Culture Center, New York, NY/Embassy of South Korea. May 21, 2019. Photo by Kieun Kim.
Kim_Kieun_Revealuxion_07. School 33 Project Space. School 33 Art Center. September 10, 2018. Photo by Kieun Kim.
With social media, you can share ideas, thoughts, and information through virtual networks. The opportunity to become an overnight success increased with social media. Do you think you would be more successful as an artist back when social media was not such a big deal?
I am living between the old and the new generation.
Social media with high speed and overflowing information is sometimes the key to success and fame, but I often think that it is a sense of loss in this era that things are forgotten and erased for a precious moment.
My life is becoming rapidly changeable by advanced technical society and is losing a sense of human feeling. Through my recent experience, I realized that we, as humans, naturally have percolated all parts of our accustomed surroundings. This process makes me afraid. As a result, I sense conflict and confusion between digital and physical worlds and I am sometimes eager to run away from an insane environment.
Notwithstanding, I propose that personal touch/sharing via art and technology with an aesthetic approach will impact people's lives positively.
I will keep trying to interact with audiences in public spaces. I will also challenge myself to provide more positive energy and a meaningful human connection as an artist. This is my ultimate goal and hope for the future.
If you would like to stay updated with Kieun Kim’s latest artwork, you can check out her social media accounts:
Portfolio Website I: http://kieunkim.com
Portfolio Website II-[Revealuxion]: http://www.revealuxion.com
Kim, Kieun. “Revealuxion.” . 2021.
Kim, Kieun. “Revealuxion.” . 2021.
Kim, Kieun. Instagram. “k.kieun.” 2021.
Vimeo. Kim, Kieun. “Kieun Kim. “2021.