NC ART PROJECT #2 “Mixing Reality-Virtual/Human-Technology Into Media Art – Artist Minha Yang”
People who amplify joy by connecting their creativity with NC’s content
The NC ART PROJECT is an experimental art platform that aims to explore the cultural environment in games and discover the creativity that lies within it. The first part of this project involves the works of Minha Yang, a media artist who reinterprets the creation and coexistence of multi-dimensional worlds using a poetic narrative in his work, entitled MIXED DIMENSION.
Please read the following interview to learn a little bit more about him and his impressive work.
Believing in the Artistic Values of Technology
As technology advances, the boundaries of media art are gradually expanding. How are you currently defining 'media art'? Also, please introduce what kind of work you are doing.
Media art is a genre that combines a variety of media and art, such as photographs, videos, computers, and physical computing. I mainly work on computational and generative media. I usually make software programs and videos expressing visual images using computer calculations, which are used to make sculptures. I also teach students at a university.
Media art does not separate virtual and real. When a sculpture is expressed visually, the general audience does not try to discern whether it is virtual or real. I am fascinated by this idea in particular. I love how media art is almost free of limits in using expressions.
The latest technology environment represented by AI has a lot of influence on art. Technology not only becomes the subject of an interesting exhibition, but it also becomes a tool to express the artist’s world of work in a richer way. You also project the changing technological environment into the work. What does technology mean to you?
It was while attending college that I came to believe that technology can have artistic value. I didn’t think that technology could be turned into themes. I came to understand that technology can be a tool for making sculpture. So I wrote and compiled the codes as if I was drawing and making a craft work.
I majored in design as an undergraduate but learned coding by self-study. As now, I can use about 10 programming languages. I’ve studied almost the entire curriculum taught in the engineering college by myself. I felt empowered, and the feelings and senses I had at the time are still effective.
What do you teach at the university?
I teach a type of computer programming called creative coding. In fact, I teach different courses each semester because what I want to teach and what students want to learn changes every time. Coding is known as the realm of programmers, but, since 15 years ago, groups of designers and artists who wrote code to create images or create sculptures have been involved. The epitome of it is MIT’s Media Lab and there's a lab at Google, too.
I taught Unity and Processing last year, and plan to teach Unity again this year. Unity is a tool for making games, but you can also make exhibits and artwork. This optimized tool is very easy to use.
Art Created by 180 Million Pieces of Data
MIXED DIMENSION involves worldviews from game. What made you want to focus on the worldviews?
I would say I focused more on the game development, the behavior of the player, and the culture of development rather than the grand word of world view. If you take a closer, NC THE WORLD is about the history of NC. THE ORIGIN introduces the culture and history of developers, EVOLUTION deals with the complementary relationship between game and players, and COEXISTENCE shows the encounter between the virtual and real. MIXED DIMENSION deals with all the surroundings of games such as cultural relations, history, and the roles of the game.
Prior to MIXED DIMENSION, you have been using coevolution* as your primary concept. Is there a specific reason for applying coevolution as the primary concept for this project?
Coevolution is a concept that many artists are interested in. In particular, if we are aware of the impact of technology and tools on human evolution, we have no choice but to pay attention. The formats and structural designs of game changes organically. It feels like the game evolves according to the player’s behavior, and player evolves accordingly. Eventually, I felt that the game was continuously developing as a result of complementary evolution.
* Coevolution: A theoretical concept in the philosophy of science wherein human beings and tools (machines) coevolve by influencing one another.
Please kindly explain the concepts of "Mandelbulb" and "Menger sponge" in THE ORIGIN to those who are unfamiliar with it.
If you look into the history of game development, you can find a unique subculture called demoscene. Demoscene is a subculture of developers wherein game engines and visual effects are created using an extremely small executable file. Demoscene developers have been active for several decades now. Nowadays, they embody real-time path tracing or ray marching using WebGL on websites like "Shadertoy." I'm sure real-time expressions and 3D animation effects of graphic engines would have seen slower development without this subculture. Developers use fractal models such as "Mandelbulb" and "Menger sponge" to show off their skills and I naturally used these materials in this project.
How did you implement your project? Did you use any special techniques?
In this work, I used the big data of NC’s users in 2019 and real-time videos using fluid mechanics. There are also works that using the fractal video or motion captures.
To talk about NC THE WORLD with a little more detail, I utilized connection data of users who were active on 36 game servers in 2019 and growth indicators of NC’s game users. I used about 180 million pieces of data. This number does not represent the entire data set. The actual volume of data would be about 10 times larger. I remember having a hard time because of the sheer volume of data. Computers were not capable of handling this data smoothly and even when I fix a small thing, all the data moves, so it took a long time. If I thought, "This shouldn’t be flowing in this direction," I turned it off and rewrote the code. This adjustment was repeated thousands of times. Since each frame is influenced by data values, I only used C++ and GLSL languages.
MIXED DIMENSION is divided into four parts, and each part starts from the NC’s lobby and returns to the lobby. What is the significance of this approach?
It has a sequence from reality to virtual and back to reality. I thought it was the best way to express the ambiguity between the virtual and reality that the game faces.
What do you want to say to the audience who will be seeing your work?
When creating artwork, artists, developers, designs, and planners are often looking at different ideals. Of course, this is not a matter of occupation, but it may be a difference in tastes or ways of thinking among individuals. However, what is important is that there may be different understandings of people with different perspectives when looking at an object. I hope you enjoy watching the video with a comfortable mind, such as “This is one of the many ways to understand game culture.”
Curiosity for a New World Makes Another Derivative of Media Art
What themes are you paying attention to these days?
Not just because I’m interviewing with NC, I'm very interested in the game. I am trying to find out about the behavior of gamers, formats of game, and structures of game. The recent development of graphic engines is one of the reasons I got interested in the game. Expression methods that were limited in the past are being implemented in real time and at a very face pace. I think such structures, formats, and expression methods can lead to another derivative of media art.
As I worked on this project, I looked at a lot of data in the game and though about the game more deeply. I did not know that there were so many players and so many connections. In fact, I knew it, but it was a completely different feeling to face with data. There was a desire to study the structure and method of the game.
What other hobbies or areas that give you inspiration?
I am very interested in kinetic media. It is quite fun to design circuits, simulate structures, and make prototypes while sketching. Perhaps I seem to be having more fun because I am studying a field that I do not know well.
My typical hobby is drawing. It would be nice if I had more time to spare so I could paint even for an hour a day. I sometimes get inspiration from reading a book or taking a walk, because sketching is also very important to getting inspired. I tend to take my own time and make sketches and materializes ideas.
What is your next goal, or do you still have any dream?
I like to create and display my work. I’m not quite sure whether it was my dream or not, but I love it. As I pursed things that were interesting and happy, I came across a variety of experiences and I ended up being who I am today. My very childhood dream was to work as a special effects expert at Industrial Light & Magic Studio (ILM) and a cartoonist. It seems impossible to complete that dream, but if there is anything, I expect from myself, I hope that I can continue making choices for happiness in the future.
What are the things you enjoy the most?
Drawing, coffee, cookies, movies, motorcycle, carpentry, soldering, and sometimes creative coding. It’s really fun.
* The opinions expressed in this article are those of the interviewee and do not reflect the official position of any of NCSOFT.