Week one in Seoul

Harshit Agarwal
2016-08-05 10:32
Week one in Seoul

The first week at Seoul has been nothing short of an extraordinary medley of experiences. Before I begin to document details of how life panned out in my first week here, let me begin by giving a brief context.

Why am I here?
I met with the Director of Art Center Nabi (ACN) and YoungKak Cho (who is also part of ACN) at the Media Lab at MIT, while I was still a masters student there. We talked about art and AI during our meeting, which led me to Seoul, spending a month here as Artist in Residence at the ACN, working at the intersection of art and AI.

As I arrived here, I was warmly welcomed by SoYoung, who would become my much needed bridge to getting used to Korean life. SoYoung brought me to the Hanok (traditional Korean House), which was to be my home for the month! The Hanok is beautiful, with traditional Korean architecture and way of life (Pic 1). SoYoung also helped me with getting a Sim card and just walking me around the neighborhood. The hanok is very close to the Gyeongbokgung Palace, which was the main royal palace of the Joseon dynasty (the longest dynasty of Korea?). The following day, I strolled around the palace area, and did some basic grocery shopping. Without knowing, cold buckwheat needles became my fallback option for food if I didn't find any other vegetarian dish. Given that its quite hot in Seoul right now, I had no complaints with my noodles coming in a dipping of ice! The next day, I went to the main exhibition area of ANC, at the SK building (also close to the Hanok). I met with Dooeun there, who is curating an AI + art exhibition in November. We talked about ideas I had in mind and discussed some of the possible outcomes and timelines. YoungKak, SoYoung, YouMin and myself then headed to YongSan- the electronics market of Seoul. That place was just bind blowing! It was a hacker/DIY enthusiast’s heaven, with tiniest of components like switches of all kinds, Arduinos, capacitors etc. just lying around in thousands. There were shops with higher end stuff like GPUs, camera lenses etc. as well. I was trying to look for a good GPU (if someone super cheap was available). The rates were standard, so I decided not to buy a dedicated GPU, but to fall back to AWS if needed. We then headed to the Tazak Madan (the working lab). As YoungKak explained- Tazak Madan literally translates to the ground where harvesting is done, and thus the name for the lab space, where actual building work gets done. The Tazak is a really nice place as well- its basically a huge bungalow that's been converted to a lab space. They have a really nice library, an underground workshop area boasting with the latest fabrication machines (Formalabs printer, laser cutter, electronics workbench etc.), a cool kitchen area, and great working space. They installed an HTC setup too that day (all the cool tech stuff in one place)! My work for this residency is mostly going to be software based, so wont be using too much of the fun gadgets, but might make something just for fun.

I had great conversations over dinner and ice-cream with Dooeun and her daughter that day, discussing life in Korea, India and the US.

The next day I met Mischa Daams, the co artist-in-residence for the next month and housemate for my time at the hanok. Mischa is an artist from Holland and works with feedback systems between a camera and a screen, a notion I found very poetic. On Friday, after spending the day at the Tazak, Mischa and I decided to head to the Dongdaemun night market. That was one among the many fun and quirky places of Seoul, a market which runs through the night. There was also a mall with an advertisement for Van Gogh exhibition (too bad that wasn't open all night- will have to go back to check out what that is)!

I spent the weekend doing some touristy stuff- went to the Palace museum close to home. Spent a good 3 hours there- understanding details about the Joesun dynasty. Then spent some time walking around the palace (Pic 2). The next day was spent at Insadong- another crazy fun neighborhood of Seoul, filled with little galleries and traditional craft items.

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  • 2016-08-05 10:34

    제 이름은 하싯입니다. 먼저 제가 어떻게 한국에 오게 된 건지 알려드릴게요. 제가 MIT 학생이었을 당시에, 저는 아트센터 나비의 관장님 그리고 조영각 연구원을 만났습니다. 우리는 AI 와 예술에 대한 이야기를 나누었고, 그 결과 저는 서울에 오게 되었죠. 처음 한국에 도착했을 때 최소영 인턴이 저를 환영해주었습니다. 약 한 달가량 서울에 머물게 될 예정인데, 제가 서울 생활에 잘 적응하도록 도와줄 거라고 했습니다. 첫날 저는 소영과 함께 제가 한 달 동안 머물게 될 ‘한옥’을 둘러봤습니다. 한국의 전통 건축 양식과 생활상이 묻어있는 한옥은 너무나도 아름다웠어요. 또한 한옥과 굉장히 가깝게 위치한 경복궁을 둘러봤는데, 경복궁은 정말 아름답더군요.

    한국은 정말 너무 더워요. 냉면을 먹었는데, 왜 면에 얼음을 넣어서 차갑게 먹는지 충분히 납득되더라고요. 아트센터 나비에서는 최두은 실장님을 만나고 향후 제가 만들어갈 작품에 대해 이야기를 나눈 후에 영각, 소영 그리고 유미와 함께 용산 전자상가에 갔어요. 용산 전자 상가는 해커와 DIY 작업을 하는 작가들에게는 마치 천국과도 같은 곳입니다. 다양한 종류의 GPU와 카메라 렌즈 등 다양한 것들이 있었는데 내가 찾는 GPU가 없어서 아쉬웠습니다.

    타작은 제가 작업하게 될 공간인데요. 굉장히 멋있는 빌딩입니다. 타작이라는 이름은 농부가 곡식을 수확한다는 의미에서 비롯되어서, 작업을 하는 공간에서 무언가를 새롭게 만들어낸다는 의도를 가지고 지어진 이름이라고 해요. 정말 멋있지 않나요? 타작 안에는 도서관도 있고, 3D프린터, Laster cutter, electronics workbench 등등 다양한 도구들이 가득합니다. 아쉽게도 제가 할 작업은 software를 기반으로 해서 이 도구들을 사용하지 않지만, 이 도구들로 작업하게 된다면 정말 즐겁겠죠?

    두은과 저녁을 먹으면서 나눈 한국, 인도 그리고 미국에 관한 대화는 굉장히 즐거웠습니다.
    다음 날에는 같이 레지던시 프로그램을 하게 된 네덜란드 작가 미샤를 만났습니다. 주로, 카메라와 스크린을 가지고 작업을 한다고 합니다. 그리고 주말에는 한국에 대해 좀 더 알아보기 위해서 경복궁에 가서 한국 역사를 공부하면서 조선에 대해 공부하고, 인사동에 가서 조그마한 갤러리들과 수제 아이템들을 구경했습니다.