Science and Art Meet at Artience 2017: Interview with Dr. Kim Ki-Woong

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Friday, October 13th, 2017
Kim ki woong

Nowadays in Korean society, students, parents and teachers alike would believe that the Arts and Sciences are two completely different disciplines. The distinction is readily made in Korea, and many students work towards the latter. However, art and science have a great deal in common, and people in the past – Leonardo Da Vinci is the most famous – have been amazing artists and scientists at the same time. In fact, both science and art require a great deal of creativity. Today, many scientists and artists are trying to unite these two seemingly different disciplines.

Artience – an event held in Daejeon, South Korea, now on its 7th year since starting in 2010 – featured several galleries and exhibitions where artists and scientists came together to create work that included many elements of science. It is a product of collaboration between the Daejeon Culture and Arts Foundation and the Korea Research Institute of Standards and Science (KRISS). Some scientists had specific reasons for joining the event, while others were simply intrigued by the idea. Both groups of people, however, have both an artistic side and a scientific side.

Dr. Kim Ki-Woong is a scientist at KRISS whose work involves research on ultra-low field brain MRI, but he is also an artist. Dr. Kim talks about his exhibit, featured in Artience 2017. His theme focused on how a trans-dimensional alien would have evolved on a planet that was identical to earth except for dinosaurs not having gone extinct. His paintings involved this theme and some featured aliens using particular technology, such as the technologically advanced glasses in his piece Second Harmonic Crystal Glasses.

Interview with Dr. Kim Ki-Woong

Q: Do you believe in aliens? Or are you just using the idea of aliens to create your artwork?

A: For an actual “alien” with a personality to be able to exist, many coincidences – including temperature and geography – have to converge. Therefore, the possibility of an actual “alien” existing is very, very slim.


Q: In the painting Second Harmonic Crystal Glasses, what does the image inside the alien figure symbolize? Is this what the alien is seeing or is it what it’s imagining?

A: In order for the alien to control the night (in which the dinosaurs are sleeping), the alien evolved so it could see infrared light. Therefore, it can see normally even in the day when it wears the glasses that it invented, which can change ultraviolet and “visible” light into infrared light.

Q: Do such glasses – glasses that can change infrared light into visible light – exist? (The second harmonic glasses)

A: Of course, such glasses don’t exist in our world. You can change infrared light into visible light. However, we have not yet discovered a way to change visible light into infrared light.

Q: What motivated you to begin discussions with artists and join Artience?

A: I started around in 2013. I was asked to join when the Daejeon Culture and Arts Foundation and Korea Research Institute of Standards and Science decided to do a collaboration, and they thought that the brain-related sciences and visual arts were similar. It seemed interesting, and I’ve been doing it ever since.


Q: This year’s theme for Artience focused on aliens – what made you and the other artists decide on this theme?

A: The artists had been focusing on time, space and evolution, and they wanted to try out the concept of aliens. When they were looking for scientists who wanted to try out this topic, I took it because it seemed interesting.


Q: Ancient art and science went together in many ways for thousands of years, and many people– such as Leonardo da Vinci – were both. What are your opinions on this in Korean society today?

A: Because both science and art involve using your brain to create something or to bring something in your head to life, it basically uses the same information. You’re basically expressing yourself through your brain. As a scientist, I am interested in creating different theories and the necessary equipment to test them and I believe art is the same thing. Artists can be helpful to scientists, while scientists can be helpful to artists as well.

Q: You are passionate in both science and the visual arts – how does your artistic side help you in your science? Has your research benefitted from your art?

A: When I think about “what technique should I use,” as a starting point, I see a significant amount of common ground between the two. In essence, there is virtually no difference in the thought process of what methods to use, and in testing and researching.

Q: Has your research been the inspiration for your artwork?

A: Yes. In relation to the cognitive sciences, the question of how an “intelligent alien” would evolve on a planet that is similar to earth – yet without dinosaurs having gone extinct – motivated me a lot.

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