“Enthusiastic” doesn’t begin to describe Korean-American multimedia explorer Laura Hyunjhee Kim, a Ph.D. candidate in intermedia, writing and performance at the University of Colorado Boulder who ferociously surfs cyberspace both as an onlooker and a participant. Kim is all about doing it yourself, inventing her own platforms and walking on the edge, but she’s also a willing collaborator in a web of open-ended disciplines. She thinks 1,000 miles a minute as she answers the Colorado Creatives questionnaire; catch her if you can.
Westword: What (or who) is your creative muse?
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Laura Hyunjhee Kim: From scrolling through stories shared on social media to muting my headphones and eavesdropping on conversations at busy coffee shops, I am inspired by people and mundane moments in life that make me aware of my position in the world.
Being a bicultural and bilingual person who finds difficulty in “reading between the lines” and beauty in (good/bad) puns and wordplay, I am conscious of nuanced expressions in language and how the displacement of context can shift the meaning of a single phrase.
Whenever I need a spark, I also resort to listening to the lyrics in wide-span genres of music, paying attention to dialogues in campy low-budget, found-footage-style films and scrolling through absurd offbeat Internet humor that nonsensically juxtaposes texts and images.
Which three people, dead or alive, would you like to invite to your next party, and why?
My answer will probably change if you ask me again, but right now, at this split second, this time of the day, this day of the week, and this moment in time, I would invite Neil deGrasse Tyson as the MC, Nam June Paik as the VJ, and Adrian Piper to dance with me.
Video courtesy of Laura Hyunjhee Kim
What’s the best thing about the local creative community in your field — and the worst?
As much as I spend ample time in front of the computer with my fingers clicking on a mouse and head-chasing after a fleeting stream of consciousness, I believe in face-to-face time. Thanks to those who welcomed me with open arms, my involvement in the local community has been growing, and I feel fortunate to have been able to meet many glowing individuals who share the same passion, thinking through hands-on making as I do.
As far as room for improvement, I hope to see more conscious efforts in fostering a creative community that not only ends with celebrating diversity, but is actually diverse.
How about globally?
Having relocated from place to place until recently and worked with creatives from around the world remotely, I feel quite tethered to my networked group of movers and shakers. I can only speak from my experience, but the global community I am frequently in touch with are rather more supportive of each other than in competition, and I think that brings out the best in what it offers.
On the other side, I sometimes get discouraged when I encounter creatives who take for granted electronic devices utilized in production and distribution channels for disseminating projects, expecting that everyone has open access to the Internet, equipment and content ubiquitously.
What do you think will be the next big thing in new media?
As a preteen in Korea, listening to the radio and falling asleep was a midnight treat for me, and most human-to-human relationships were seemingly wired through mysterious analog sentiments. Over the past few years, I have been pondering over the generation conceived on social media — which is how I have been framing those who have been networked and documented on social media since pre-birth. What types of works will this new wave of artists make, given their fluid identities as children of cyberspace? Perhaps the NBT in new media will somehow concern answering this open-ended next big question.
What's one art trend you want to see die this year?
I am probably not the best person to answer this question, as my radar for art trends or what I see as trending in the artosphere may be quite misleading! However, if I could scrub any recurring patterns in artworks displayed in museums, institutions or even lurking in my newsfeed, it would be those that exist for the sake of highlighting the glitz-and-glam technological tools and techniques without an ounce of criticality or even self-awareness.
What’s your best or favorite accomplishment as an artist?
As cliché as this may sound, I feel a certain amount of self-fulfillment when I take part in questioning the world around me, folding those questions by means of doing what I love doing and sharing, in any given opportunity, those inquiries with others as a means to propel discourse and show that others can do it, too.
As far as my “OMG YAZZZZZZZ — LOVE IT!” memorable moments go, I have two that come into mind. A blogger once dedicated an entire post to one of my online video diaries with the provocation — “Is it art?” Another time was when I gave an artist talk in a digital art class and heard feedback after my visit that one of the more disinterested students started taking interest in the subject and submitting weird-in-a-fascinating-way types of project assignments.
You’ve come this far in life. What’s still on your bucket list?
At some point in my remaining life, I would love to make music-driven video art with dancing humanoid robots, and/or even create a robot clone of myself to perform on my behalf.
Who is your favorite Colorado Creative?
The conceiver of bleak digital humanoid creatures called “Mouth Breathers” and ringleader of Denver-based music label Always Human Tapes, Ryan Wurst is my pick for 2018. If you want to feel uncomfortable in your own skin and woe existence as a digitally tethered being, I’d recommend checking out his website.
What's on your agenda in the coming year?
To share a couple of personal projects in the making, I will continue my tenure as the founding director of a rogue virtual organization, namely Synthetic Empathic Intelligent Companion Artefacts (SEICA) Human Interaction Labs. Alongside, as a self-identified "Blobologist," I am working toward finalizing a psyentific regarding the word “blob” and its cross-disciplinary and colloquial application. A “blobifesto” will be made public for “all curious blobists in the blobosphere and beyond.”
In collaboration with thinkers, tinkerers, and co-conspirators, here are a few projects that will be released at a local venue near you:
Human-computer interaction researcher Jen Liu and I are launching a publication that re-examines the visual and sociocultural history of the Golden Spike National Historic Site, the point where the Transcontinental Railroad was completed in 1869. The initiative was seeded by NEST Studio for the Arts and will be traveling locally and beyond.
Interdisciplinary artist libi rose striegl and I have been working together as a duo, Sharing Turtle, aiming to disrupt the technology-driven modern lifestyle and investigate human and computational behavior. One of our upcoming projects has been commissioned by the City of Boulder and will be on view at the Boulder Public Library in the upcoming Art of Data exhibition in 2019.
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Under the name MALK, intermedia artist Mark Amerika and I have been working on a collaborative metafiction titled “Digital Afterlife.” Soft-launched this summer through Harvest Works and the Streaming Museum at Governor’s Island in New York, the multi-faceted project will be delivered at an undisclosed location yet to be revealed.
Last but not least, above all things, I will probably continue posting absurd stories on social media similar to the recent Instagram tele-dancing series “Consume Like Everyone Is Watching.” And so stay tuned!
See digital work by Laura Hyunjhee Kim during the Supernova Digital Animation Festival in the Denver Theatre District as part of the festival’s Colorado Artist Spotlight, at 1:30 p.m. Saturday, September 22, at the Denver Performing Arts Complex, both on the 14th and Champa street LED screen and inside the Ellie Caulkins Opera House.