Kwon Hayoun is a South Korean artist that uses virtual reality software to recreate environments that are fictional but based upon a person’s recollection of what happened in the past, thus exploring the notion between fiction and reality, between memories of past and present and between computer animation and art. Can virtual reality environments, and by extension hyper-realistic computer games, be considered a work of art?
In the VR simulation ‘DMZ’ Hayoun recreates the DMZ (De-Mililtarized Zone) separating North and South Korea based on a verbal account from a South Korean soldier stationed there, using VR to allow a realistic depiction of what it might feel like to be there.
In the installation view Hayoun also recreates standard issue land mines, made of sand, placed all over the floor of the gallery, and as the intro is read, viewers realize the spacing of these ‘sand mines’ correlates to what is actually there in the DMZ, throughout the 4Km by 280Km area.
Viewers also realize that 489 years is the amount of time it would take to de-mine this DMZ, a strip of land 4 kilometers wide running across the width of the Korean peninsula that’s supposed to be de-militarized but is ironically the most armed area on the planet.
Hayoun makes it clear this is not a plain computer simulation but an artistic exercise when the camera dives below the ground plane, revealing what the underside of the ground might look like if the earth under the gravel path was hollow, an imagined scenario, where due to geo-politics, an area of her country is fenced off and rendered inaccessible and probably uninhabitable for the next 10 generations.
At the end of the simulation, Hayoun poses the question: what if instead of trying to de-mine the place, all the mines were set off at once?
Lack Of Evidence
Manque De Preuve/Lack Of Evidence (2011) recounts the story of a Nigerian boy who escaped murder and death from his own father who, believing he and his twin brother were embodied by some evil spirits, sought to kill them both. They managed to escape through a bedroom window, out the back yard, and eventually ended up in Europe, where immigration authorities didn’t believe his tale.
Moving through the dimly lit house slowly the simulation starts off close to reality but as the scene progresses more and more elements are revealed in ‘wire-frame mode’ (devoid of materiality) until he realizes the danger he’s in and jumps out the window to escape, by which time the scene is rendered in black and white and everything is in wire-frame to depict the fuzziness of memories and recollections of one-time events. The escape route incidently, is derived from the original hand made sketch that he made to describe the ordeal and is showing through underneath the path along which the camera traverses.
The lack of evidence means that the story resides between fiction and reality; for those who do not know him personally, one either believes him or not. But even if one believes him, for the educated rational minded, there is always the nagging feeling that ‘there’s no proof’ and therefore ‘he could be making it up’ but then the counter arguement ‘but why would he’. Thus the story would always oscillate be between fiction and reality, between truth and the not-so-true and it is against this backdrop that Hayoun presents this story, in black and white and in wire-frame mode, to leave a certain amount of vagueness in the depiction.