|Cheon Young-hwan's experiment on making black porcelain moon jar in collaboration with artificial intelligence is on view at "Random Diversity" exhibition at Wooran Art Scape 1 in Seongsu-dong, Seoul. Courtesy of Wooran Foundation|
Cheon experiments on capturing color of emotions
By Kwon Mee-yoo
Moon jars, or Korean white porcelain spherical jars with a resemblance to the glistening full moon, are known to represent traditional virtues such as modesty and meditative beauty through their pure white color and simplicity. If an artificial intelligence (AI) decides the shape of the moon jar based on what it has learned and a robot-arm 3D printer physically produces it, can the moon jar still have that spiritual quality?
Cheon Young-hwan, a researcher and artist who explores the possibility of the cooperation between human and AI, reveals the process and results of his project of making a moon jar with colors "extracted from human emotions" using AI and robotic 3D printing at the "Random Diversity" exhibition at Wooran Art Scape 1 in Seongsu-dong, Seoul.
"Since we are not an art museum that permanently displays our collection, we offer a new way of exploring artwork in the collection in the Wooran Yisang program," the program's producer Kim Min-jeong said.
This time, the foundation explores the possibility of collaboration between art and science by supporting Cheon to branch out on ideas from ceramist Kim Sy-young's black moon jar.
Cheon comes from an unusual background as an artist. In fact, he does not label himself as such.
"I haven't decided my stance yet. Previously, an occupation defined a person, but times have changed and it is difficult to determine what a person is based on one's job," Cheon said.
Cheon studied at the College of Liberal Arts and Convergence Science at the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST) and worked at a foundation under the National Assembly Research Service.
"I studied civic engagement in the Fourth Industrial Revolution era at the National Assembly Research Service and looked at many social and political issues. As I researched scientifically and worked in a public office, I felt the gap among the different perspectives of technology. I thought it would be better to send a message via an artistic vehicle," Cheon said.
Currently, Cheon is a member of the new media art group, Discrete, which consists of an AI computer, two humans and three robots.
"When AI is applied to the art scene, AI is often objectified or used as a tool ― AI writing music or painting a portrait like a person would. I wanted to work in symbiosis with AI, communicating with AI to find colors and make moon jars," Cheon said.
|Cheon Young-hwan uses a VR headset with brainwave sensors to find the color associated to an emotion at "Random Diversity" exhibition at Wooran Art Scape 1 in Seongsu-dong, Seoul. Courtesy of Wooran Foundation|
Cheon held his first solo exhibition "This is a Moon Jar, in a 99.17005896568298% Probability" at Factory2 in Seoul last year.
"I took the inspiration from Kim Whan-ki's moon jar paintings I saw when I was young. Back then, white porcelain was an everyday object. I remember they were buried in my grandmother's yard. I was fascinated that such a mundane object could be an artwork," Cheon said.
In this exhibition, Cheon materialized white porcelain moon jars through Generative Adversarial Network (GAN) and 3D printing technology. The AI analyzes big data on a moon jar and decides the ultimate shape ― a 3D printer produces the jar based on the data.
GAN is also known for creating "Edmond de Belamy," the first AI-generated artwork to be auctioned at Christie's and fetched $432,500 in 2018, exceeding expectations.
"The previous project was to produce infinitely different moon jars. In the past, potters tried to make moon jars in the same shape, but the result always differed as the firing process in a kiln is out of the potter's hands," Cheon explained. "The products were standardized after the Industrial Revolution, but in the era of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, I think AI could play the role of unintended environment in the kiln."
Though Cheon has held an exhibition of AI-generated white porcelain moon jars, black porcelain was something completely new for him.
"The glaze used for black porcelain changes colors in high temperature. I could see so many colors in different lights, angles and direction. Kim Whan-ki once wrote that the white colors are all different and likewise, I could find a full array of colors in black," Cheon said. "The world is often divided into white and black, but in fact there are so many colors between them."
The researcher-artist thought of the ways to fill the gap between white and black.
"How could I fill up the diverse colors? Then I came up with the idea of people's emotions, which are full of diversity," he said.
|Cheon Young-hwan blends colors associated to an emotion at "Random Diversity" exhibition at Wooran Art Scape 1 in Seongsu-dong, Seoul. Courtesy of Wooran Foundation|
Cheon attempted to reset the concept of color and visitors can experience how their emotion is represented in color at the exhibition.
"When we think of colors, we associate with images such as passionate and hot for red and cool and calm for blue. However, this is a notion devised by the human since color in scientific definition is just a different wavelength of visible light. I tried to appreciate the definition of color and categorization of human language in a different way," Cheon explained.
Cheon used "arousal balancing" to analyze emotions through brainwaves and the movement of the eyeballs, and emotion AI to colorize the emotions. To find the color of an emotion, Cheon employs a VR headset to provide a transparently immersive experience.
"Our eyes can accept way more information than we think. We had to block out peripheral vision to accurately measure which brainwave responds to which color. So we installed nine sensors to measure brain wave in the VR headset," he said.
"Scientifically, a person never emits the same brainwave frequency throughout their life. This is a way of capturing a moment of the memory in color," Cheon said. "The color does not come out as you intend. When you think of a warm hug of your mom and expects it to relate to red color, but it might be a totally different color. It is interesting that people try to read something into the color."
Cheon named this color extracted from emotion as "Emotion Vaccine" as a way of consoling people amid the COVID-10 pandemic.
"It provides an opportunity to keep your memory in the form of color and recognizing the diversity in yourself," he said.
The "Emotion Vaccine" experience is available through reservation. For more information, visit www.wooranfdn.org.
|Colors extracted from visitors' emotions are on display at "Random Diversity" exhibition at Wooran Art Scape 1 in Seongsu-dong, Seoul. Courtesy of Wooran Foundation|