Is the genre division between art and film still valid? Nowadays, audiences enjoy any interesting video work, whether it be in a museum or a theatre. They are not bound by the classification used by professional video artists or filmmakers, nor by the spatial characteristics of white cubes or black boxes. “FILM_Text and Image," an MMCA film and video program that is presented at the National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art’s Seoul venue, recently introduced the cinematic works of Theresa Hak Kyung Cha, Susan Sontag, etc. The 9th annual exhibition of the Buk-Seoul Museum of Art (SeMA), “Title Match” invited Im Heung-soon and Omer Fast, both of whom are working as video artists and film directors. 2022 Jeonju International Film Festival also featured a special section “Borderless Storyteller”, showcasing works by eight artists including Kim Heecheon and Moojin Brothers, which was published as a book by the same title.
The ARTRO is featuring the “Video Works Occupy Exhibition Spaces” series of articles. This series features a written piece titled “Reading between the Mirror and the Screen”, by Kim Mijung, who curated “Media Punk: Belief, Hope & Love” in 2019 at the ARKO Art Center, followed by introductions of four artists (or collectives): Kim Woong Yong, Ryu Hansol, Park Sunho and 업체eobchae. We hope this feature article will serve as an opportunity to reflect upon the video images that cross these genres and spaces today.
업체eobchae is an audio-visual production collective, consisting of Kim Nahee, Oh Cheon-seok, and Hwang Hwi. 업체eobchae’s solo show has been presented at the Doosan Art Center (2022, Seoul), Museumhead (2022, Seoul), Nam June Paik Art Center (2019, Seoul), Space 413 (2017, Seoul), and I-gong Media Theater (2017, Seoul). 업체eobchae is the winner of the Doosan Yonkang Artist Award in 2021, and participated in various group shows and projects including Frieze Film (2022, Seoul), ARKO Art Center (2022, Seoul), HITE collection (2020, Seoul), Sehwa Museum (2020, Seoul), Ilmin Museum of Art (2020, Seoul), Buk-Seoul Museum of Art (2018, Seoul) and Platform-L (2018, Seoul).
Can you introduce yourselves? Your alias 업체eobchae is quite unique.
업체eobchae is an artist collective composed of programmer Kim Nahee, sound and video media producer Hwang Hwi, and in-house project manager Oh Cheon-seok. The name 업체eobchae is a combination of ‘eob’, meaning work, while ‘chae’ denotes the working body. We launched this with the entrepreneurial ambition to later develop into production.
To briefly introduce each role: Kim Nahee suggests using new technology derived from the market as a medium or discourse. Kim is mainly in charge of research and implementation of technical elements and overall web development and draws blueprints for exhibition installations. Hwang Hwi produces sound and video within the eobchae company. Hwi sets the direction for the production, distributes, and collects the sources, and finally edits them. Lastly Oh Cheon-seok is in charge of research, script writing, communication inside and outside the collective, as well as various paperwork.
So, in your collective members are working both separately and together: Hwang Hwi is presenting sound works and Kim Nahee is working on the nahee.app project. I wonder what the similarities and differences are in the way you work when you process the project together versus individually.
Hwang Hwi: I am also a musician named HWI. I am mainly interested in creating audibly pleasing sounds by dividing and transforming my voice with a DAW (Digital Audio Workstation) and vocal effector. It’s generally same process when I work as HWI or when I work making a soundtrack for 업체eobchae. I use only the tools of a computer and my voice. HWI’s music is more straight-forward, while the sounds made for 업체eobchae serve to drive the narrative setting. However, I released an album titled The Decider’s Chamber, by collecting the sound works for 업체eobchae. Thus, I definitely think there are points where two roles overlap.
Kim Nahee: When presenting individual works as an artist, I usually work on web-based projects focused on my interest in human sexuality and my affinity for technology. I would name nahee.app and_ Daddy Residency_ as my representative projects: _nahee.app _is my virtual self, and is a program with sexual desire. It is a project that speculatively describes and shares sexual experiences with algorithms and network protocols in a near-future technological environment.
Daddy Residency is an attempt to start a new family based on my body and family plan in the real world. In this project, I announced the plans to have a baby by sperm donation in a few years, and to raise the baby within an artist’s residency with selected ‘daddies’. Hence, I am publicizing the parent selection open call in various ways. I spliced this framework into the production of 업체eobchae, to derive several possible worlds.
To quote curator Kim Mijung, 업체eobchae’s work in general appears to ‘critique the speed in which we propel ourselves toward the future and its expectations’. What are the criteria for selecting the materials or subjects of your work?
We select a topic that overlaps with the common denominator of our personal interests as well as industry trends. If there’s something that we can sensuously amplify, such as a certain trend that approaches at a breakneck pace, everyone usually readily agrees to work on it. First, the three of us discuss the project direction at large, and Kim Nahee, who is keen on technology, suggests specific materials to be applied to the work. Except for some cases where it was not realizable, we usually worked in these ways. Although we individually have strong opinions, it is rather surprising that we rarely disagree and can be easily persuaded by each other.
According to an interview with Hwang Hwi, it was impressive that the process of 업체eobchae’s work begins with the script. I understand that there is a kind of storyline created prior to the work. I would like to hear how the narrative is developed and completed.
The narrative motif emerges at the point where the widest range of issues and innermost impulses meet. This is followed by researching the general operating principle of a particular technology, and using it as an agent to create a situation. It's based on technical principles, but we also feel quite content when it leads to an unexpected development.
If so, it can be assumed that the work is done in the order of completing the script, going through the sound work, and then proceeding with the video editing. Is there any particular reason for working this way?
It’s for purely technical reasons: since the VFX load is large, it is necessary to fix the length of the video to some extent. And we estimate the atmosphere by prioritizing relatively light sound. This is like a warm-up. However, when producing a live action video, it is sometimes reversed. The working flow is not always the same.
Can you elaborate on the process of making and the way of collaborating based on the 'eoracle' work, which was on display at Doosan Art Center recently?
Usually, we discuss the direction of the video first and, when the script is roughly finished, we start to recruit collaborators. We send the storyboard to these collaborators after establishing the full continuity. Our discussion operates in a sort of ping-pong style, focusing on how to implement what we aim to achieve. After receiving the final material, we start the editing process in earnest. Once we start estimating the duration of the work, we became more flexible in our own roles. From this point, Hwang Hwi has to concentrate on the production, so Kim Nahee and Oh Cheon-seok take charge of sporadic tasks like meetings. Kim Nahee explains that this is like playing ‘dodgeball’ that the other two jump back and forth so that Hwang Hwi doesn’t get hit by the ball.
In the case of the web, this process takes a different track than with the video. Since participation should be easier, we try to keep the screen as simple as possible. When an initial plan comes out based on user flow, Kim Nahee develops it, and everything goes through a rough QA (Quality Assurance) process.
In the past, video works have been ‘screened’ in so-called black box spaces represented by movie theaters or cathode-ray tubes. Now as various video works are displayed in the ‘white cube’, i.e., the gallery space, the boundaries between genres are blurring. Furthermore, the spread of mobile devices and the advent of the Internet era allow video images to be viewed anywhere and everywhere. I would like to hear about what you consider or contemplate the most when presenting video work in white cube spaces.
The videos 업체eobchae produces have been easily classified as video art, since they are commissioned by the museum. However, the members of 업체eobchae barely consider the genealogy or logic of video art except when their work is called so by those who actually make the art world function. It seems that the curators we have worked with so far were interested in the themes we dealt with, rather than looking at our output as an element of a set of art videos. We have been moving relatively autonomously apart from the spatial context of the museum.
What we consider the most is the budget, which is inversely proportional to autonomy. 업체eobchae's work is logical and well suited to this industry. However, art is not a very profitable industry, which means that the budget for each project is small. The scale of production doubles every year, and it is often difficult to secure a budget to support it.
Do you think there is ‘a form of speech only pertinent to video’, to, again, quote Curator Kim Mijung? We would like to hear your thoughts on this.
I think that video is the most suitable device to convince audiences of the speculative world-building methodology, especially when it is necessary to realize non-existence. The device devised by 업체eobchae is derived from reality, but in the end it will be nothing more than an absurd symbol. However, when the resolution becomes higher on the screen and speaker, it becomes more persuasive. When we try to achieve the classical consensus that the world exists as long as the screen flickers, no matter how absurd the setting, we must turn to videos again.
Is there any video artist (artist or team who works based on video images) in Korea whom you have particularly noticed recently? We would like to hear your recommendations.
Hwang Hwi and Oh Cheon-seok: Choi Iida www.instagram.com/iida_is_iida
Kim Nahee: Lee Sangmin www.instagram.com/ilovektlee
업체eobchae is an audio-visual production collective, consisting of Kim Nahee, Oh Cheon-seok, and Hwang Hwi. 업체eobchae’s solo show has been presented at the Doosan Art Center (2022, Seoul), Museumhead (2022, Seoul), Nam June Paik Art Center (2019, Seoul), Space413 (2017, Seoul), and I-gong Media Theater (2017, Seoul). 업체eobchae is the winner of the Doosan Yonkang Artist Award in 2021, and participated in various group shows and projects including Frieze Film (2022, Seoul), Arko Art Center (2022, Seoul), HITE collection (2020, Seoul), Sehwa Museum (2020, Seoul), Ilmin Museum of Art (2020, Seoul), Buk-Seoul Museum of Art (2018, Seoul) and Platform-L (2018, Seoul).