Designing Sound Sculpture
“Assembled Fantasy,” June 11 - 29, 2008, Weibang Gallery

Hea-hyun Cheon

Media artist Byoung-ho Kim designs a fantasy. He regards it not only as a desire of a human being but something under the control of one. He is convinced there is a fantasy in every creature by all means, so constantly coordinates, adapts, and arranges it as a desire. Therefore, the more intense a desire grows, the more sophisticated a fantasy becomes, and eventually arouses such a nuance of a commodity as a ‘ready-made.’ A work of Byoung-ho Kim is not the representation of a desire but the result of it.

Such his viewpoint, as a human being desires but controls as well, is definitely applied to the process of handling media. Media has influence on a way of thinking beyond mere an instrument in the digital era. It is natural that our thought is subject to be variable according to a computer programming. Byoung-ho Kim, however, asserts that media is only an instrument of a human being, so it should be under the control of one. From this instrumental point of view, it is inevitable that an image through the media is originated from a material. <Assembling for Eternity 1>(2008) and <Assembling for Eternity 2>(2008), consisted of stainless steel wrapped up in urethane rubber, then heated and exposed as it is, are the works that abstract an immaterial notion from a lump of material in the organic form. They imply his way of work absolutely based on the materiality. Considering that the principal property of an image on media screen is the immateriality, it is easy to analogize why he rarely devotes himself to a screen work. As for him, the materiality is just the source of media.

Byoung-ho Kim’s point of view may seem to be somewhat conservative particularly in the digital era. However, it is necessary to take notice that Byoung-ho Kim obtains the immateriality by immersing himself in the materiality and ultimately makes them coexist with each other, as minimal art could provoke the immateriality, such as time, space, and light, through digging into the materiality. A sound in <Silent Pollen - sowing>(2007) and <Silent Pollen - gathering>(2007) needs to be appreciated in this aspect. These two similar but quite different works, as an extension of a series of ‘Flowers,’ are a metaphor for the circulating system of plant life fertilized by pollen, especially through an arbitrary sound. There are dozens of aluminum tubes polished into the pollen tube by a lathe work, and also dozens of micro speakers within the mouth of each tube as if symbolizing pollen. A wiring board and DTMF generator, inside of a round steel plate propping pollen tube, induce an arbitrary, atypical sound. Here the sounds are generated from each opposite objet at the same time, but the association of apperception between the auditory sense and the visual one is indeed different. The one <sowing> sounds disperse and the other <gathering> sounds convergent as if they symbolize the union between the stamen and pistil, and so it is associated with fertilization on the whole.

In this way, a sound completely assists a work of Byoung-ho Kim to be precisely classified into a media work, even though his work attaches to the materiality and formativity of an objet. A visual vocabulary occupies space and lasts with time, but on the other hand an auditory one does not occupy space, or remain with time. It exists merely at the very moment producing itself, and is certain to disappear in no time after all. Byoung-ho Kim’s work obtains the immateriality through such an auditory vocabulary, that is, a sound. A sound is, at least up to now, more positive to reflect a property of media art than any other element in his work, and <Assembled Fantasy>(2008) accentuates it deliberately. In relation to the construction of this objet work, there is a round body over 60kg with a built-in a lump of lead over 23kg to keep its entire balance. And a form of long tube consists of a three-stage structure, such as a speaker, a power amplifier, and oscillator and multi mode filter module, and it operates according to the computer processing. It is possible to create various sounds according to the amplitude modulation by tuning the front of three parts(multi mode filter module) converting a sound and the back of three parts(oscillator) producing a sound by each stage. Also a speaker of 3inch is designed to produce low, middle, and high-pitched sound extensively. This work seems to be far more interactive than his other work particularly in that it requires a spectator’s immediate performance of a sound.

Byoung-ho Kim emphasizes that communication is the essence of media art. The interaction of his work, however, is practically neither so much easy to be involved in, nor in need of a spectator’s positive attitude, because he pursues, in his phrase, “a reasonable communication.” Media is violent in itself, so the impact of it can be coercive even by very weak force to it. The avant-garde including futurism, for example, considered all kinds of noise like a mechanical noise as a true modern music corresponding to a technological innovation in the age of modernism, and eagerly induced the enjoyment of them. As a result, it broadened the horizons of modern music, but on the other hand, had such an ill influence on a human being as it forced a constrained auditory sense. This exactly coincides with a respect that Byoung-ho Kim attaches not only to the formativity of an objet but to a tuning of a sound. A series of <Silent Pollen ? sowing & gathering>, as stated above, is extremely moderate in sound effects so as not to be perceived easily unless a spectator approaches very closely. And <Assembled Fantasy> is also designed a director, that is, a spectator to tune up and down fairly, even though it can produce a roaring sound so as to astonish a hearer. The effect of auditory sense is far more intensive because it stimulates a spectator immediately, while the visual sense maintains a certain distance from one.

It is often experienced that considerable concentration and efforts are necessary for an interactive communication as a virtue of media art. The more high interactive a work is, the more it is apt to be caught in a dilemma of manipulation, just as a system to stimulate an immediate interaction controls a voluntary, spontaneous communication by contraries. Norbert Boltz, as a radical theorist of media, criticizes the outlook that the passive media might be substituted with the active one, and regards it only as an ideal illusion. And he asserts that a successful communication depends obviously on a media training from now on. At this point Byoung-ho Kim, paradoxically, prefers a reasonable communication to an immediate and vigorous one. And he tries to get a spontaneous and moderate feedback, which filters a concealed constraint. The formativity of an objet, which he adheres to, is a device for a little slow spectator in an immediate interaction of the immateriality like a sound. He regards media as an instrument, and therefore to create a new visual vocabulary is as good as to develop an instrument. It is worth paying attention to how a reasonable communication in a work of Byoung-ho Kim makes progress hereafter.

July, 2008
Hea-hyun Cheon

BYOUNGHO KIM  All rights reserved.