In the world of digital art, where creativity meets technology, Haran Kim stands out for her unique blend of touchable crafts and otherworldly holograms and kinetic arts. With a background shaped by studies at Carnegie Mellon University and a rich experience in experimental animation and mixed reality, Haran brings 25 years of diverse artistic exploration to the table.

Starting with a deep love for hands-on crafts like clay sculptures and textiles, Haran gradually ventured into animation and mixed-media design. Her eight-year journey into experimental animation installations showcases a dedication to pushing the boundaries of what art can be.

Haran’s expertise spans digital art, 3D modeling, and immersive experience design, with a focus on merging the physical with the digital. The interview offers an intimate look into her fascination with combining tactile arts like e-textiles and soft sculptures with the mesmerizing world of holograms and kinetic arts. It’s a conversation about blending tangible textures with digital illusions, painting a future where the physical and virtual unite to create experiences that deeply resonate.

The discussion doesn’t just see Haran as an artist but as a visionary shaping the sensory side of art. The interview peels back the layers of her creative process, uncovering the inspirations fueling her innovations and her thoughts on how touch and digital can dance together in art.

Haran’s journey is more than a creative exploration; it’s a commitment to mixing traditional and cutting-edge technologies. Whether you’re an art enthusiast or just curious about the fusion of touch and technology, read on to discover Haran Kim’s unique artistic perspective and the future she envisions at the crossroads of touch and digital marvels.

It’s great to have you here, Haran. We’re excited to dive right into your story. Tell us, was there a pivotal moment or experience that sparked your interest in blending tactile arts like e-textiles with ethereal forms like holograms?

My fascination with merging tactile art and ethereal holograms traces back to my gradual immersion in the intersection of art and technology. While there isn’t a specific defining moment, my journey has been shaped by a deep-rooted passion for crafting handmade sculptures and objects. I relish working with materials like clay, ceramics, knitting, and sewing, employing them in installations and book art. This hands-on practice has cultivated an appreciation for the tangible and visceral aspects of tactile senses, prompting me to explore diverse textures, materials, and physical forms. 

As I delved into animation, my interest grew, leading me to mixed-media experience design to bring 3D animation to life. Exploring new technologies, the allure of digital media, particularly holography and interactive experiences, captivated me. I saw the potential in merging tactile art with holographic forms to create immersive experiences beyond conventional boundaries.

This realization sparked a fervent curiosity to intertwine these seemingly disparate worlds, enhancing artistic expression. One intriguing fusion emerged from combining e-textiles with holograms—a marriage of physical texture with digital illusion, blending the tactile with the visual. The idea of uniting the tangible qualities of textiles with the mesmerizing intangibility of holographic projections spurred my imagination, motivating me to delve deeper into this intersection.

While taking an e-textile course at Carnegie Mellon University, I ventured into programming various interactions using Arduino, expanding my skills and knowledge in this innovative realm. My artistic focus centers on resurrecting unconscious memories by invoking moments that trigger my senses—touch, sound, sight, taste, and smell—creating a theatrical experience of the five senses. This strengthened my resolve to incorporate elements that engage the audience’s senses into my work. 

Attending the 2019 SIGGRAPH conference was a watershed moment. The exhibition showcasing groundbreaking research, including 4D movies, holographic works, and soft 3D printing, profoundly inspired me. It influenced my research style, invigorated my pursuit of new technologies, and reaffirmed my commitment to exploring unconventional connections in art. My ongoing exploration is driven by a desire to craft multi-sensory art that transcends boundaries, aiming to evoke a unique emotional response from the audience.

How do you perceive the contrasting natures of tactile mediums and digital forms like holograms in art? What unique aspects do they each bring to the table?

Tactile mediums engage the sense of touch, establishing a direct physical connection between the artwork and the viewer. The texture, weight, and materiality of the art contribute to a multi-sensory encounter, fostering a deeper, more visceral connection. Artists leverage physical materials in distinctive ways, creating depth, dimension, and a tangible presence that can evoke emotions and sensations. 

On the contrary, digital forms like holograms provide an ethereal and immersive experience. They surpass physical limitations, allowing artists to explore boundless possibilities in terms of scale, interactivity, and dynamism. Holographic art harnesses light, movement, and virtual spaces, offering viewers an interactive and visually captivating engagement. This medium merges digital technology with artistic expression, serving as a gateway to push the boundaries between reality and imagination.

Each medium offers distinct attributes: tactile mediums excel in establishing a tangible, intimate connection with the artwork, while digital forms like holograms present a dynamic and boundary-pushing experience. The choice between these mediums often hinges on the artist’s intent and the emotional or sensory response they seek to evoke in their audience.

My artistic focus revolves around crafting a theatrical experience that stimulates all five senses—touch, hearing, sight, taste, and smell—to revive latent memories. I endeavor to integrate sensory elements into my work, primarily leveraging projection mapping to stimulate sight and sound. Recognizing the potential to elevate the audience’s experience further, I aim to incorporate elements that evoke the sense of touch. This realization has led me to explore immersive experience design. I am actively researching ways to enrich the audience’s encounter by incorporating elements related to smell and taste, aiming to create a comprehensive sensory journey through my artistic endeavors.

I envision my immersive experiences providing a unique and impactful gaming experience for people. I hope they will encounter emotions they’ve never felt before and be transported back to moments of nostalgia through experiencing my immersive works.

Can you share a project where merging the tangible with the digital posed significant challenges, and how you navigated them?

My working style is heavily influenced by my background in printmaking, leading me to approach my process layer by layer. The physical objects or spaces serve as my base layers, followed by the creation of a 3D model, and then the addition of 3D textures, all seamlessly integrated using software and applications of my choice.

When conceptualizing a project rooted in my personal work or facing challenges related to themes or slower progress, I adopt an approach of inquiry. I ask probing questions and seek solutions to navigate these aspects. However, when confronted with technical hurdles like software intricacies or programming complexities, I understand the importance of seeking feedback and guidance from experts. Collaborating with experts allows for effective problem-solving in these technical domains, ensuring a smoother workflow and resolution of issues. 

One project that posed intriguing challenges involved creating an interactive installation merging tactile elements with immersive experience projections. The goal was to design an immersive experience where viewers could physically interact with textile-based components while experiencing holographic visuals.

Challenge 1: Integrating physical and digital elements seamlessly

Combining tactile elements, such as textile sculptures or fabric-based surfaces, with holographic projections required a seamless integration. Ensuring that the physical components didn’t obstruct or interfere with the outcomes provided by the projection mapping method while still allowing for a coherent and engaging experience was a key challenge.

Solution:

I experimented extensively with the placement and construction of the tactile elements. This involved using translucent fabrics and materials that allowed video projections to shine through without distortion. Additionally, careful calibration of projection angles and lighting was crucial to ensure that the holograms appeared vividly amidst the tactile components.

Challenge 2: Syncing interaction with moving image projection

Creating a synchronized interaction between the tactile elements and the holographic visuals posed another challenge. We aimed for a responsive experience where the audience’s interaction with the physical elements triggered corresponding changes in the holographic projections.

Solution:

To achieve this, we employed sensors embedded within the tactile components. These sensors detected touch, pressure, or proximity, sending signals to the system controlling the holographic display. Through programming and custom software, we synchronized these interactions, allowing the tactile inputs to influence the holographic visuals in real-time.

Challenge 3: User experience and calibration

Ensuring a smooth and intuitive user experience while maintaining the accuracy of the interactions presented a challenge. Calibration issues could disrupt the immersive nature of the installation.

Solution:

I conducted rigorous user testing and calibration sessions. This involved refining the sensitivity of the sensors, adjusting the response time of the holographic visuals to match user interactions, and providing clear instructions to guide viewers on how to engage with the installation effectively.

Navigating these challenges involved a multidisciplinary approach, combining expertise in art, technology, fabrication, and user experience design. It required iterative testing, technical adjustments, and creative problem-solving to achieve a harmonious convergence of the tactile and digital elements, resulting in an immersive and engaging art installation.

How does your work, which combines touch and sight, aim to create a more immersive or profound connection for the audience?

I acknowledge that once my storytelling-based work is presented to an audience, it transcends being solely my creation. It becomes a canvas for each individual to embark on their unique journey, drawing from their emotions, experiences, and memories. I derive immense satisfaction from witnessing their reinterpretation and personal reimagining of the narrative, shaped by their distinct perspectives.

My creative focus revolves around melding tactile sensations with visual elements to immerse the audience more profoundly in the experience. By amalgamating these senses, my aim is to forge a deeper connection between the audience and the artwork.

I achieve this by integrating tactile elements into visual art or digital interfaces, enabling the simultaneous engagement of multiple senses. For instance, in interactive installations, I weave in touch-sensitive surfaces or textures that respond dynamically to the audience’s interactions. This fusion empowers viewers not only to see the art but also to physically interact with it, fostering a more comprehensive and immersive encounter.

Furthermore, I explore the ways in which tactile feedback enriches visual storytelling and digital experiences. By incorporating elements that invite touch, such as textured surfaces, sculptural components, or interactive interfaces, my goal is to evoke a more profound emotional response. This integration blurs the boundaries between observer and artwork, nurturing a sense of active participation and connection that extends beyond mere observation.

Ultimately, my aim is to craft an enduring and impactful encounter by bridging the sensory realms of sight and touch. I invite the audience to engage with the artwork on multiple sensory levels, fostering a lasting and meaningful connection that persists far beyond the initial encounter.

Are there any artists or movements that have particularly inspired your unique approach?

Philip Beesley serves as a pivotal figure whose fusion of architecture and digital media art has profoundly influenced my creative path. His groundbreaking work, notably the installation “AMATRIA” at Luddy Hall, Indiana University Bloomington in 2018, left an indelible impression on me. Spanning five floors, its intricate interplay of branches, sounds, and lights was a testament to Beesley’s mastery. Witnessing the subtle movements within this expansive creation, I felt as though I was observing the minute breaths of humanity within a vast cosmic expanse.

In addition, I draw inspiration from the innovative explorations of new media artists delving into experimental animation and narrative through mixed media. Their skillful integration of technology into art, especially in their decorative techniques, captivates me. Eva Hesse’s pioneering use of fabric and fiber in sculptures has also significantly influenced my tactile experiments with materials.

Rather than fixating on specific individuals, my fascination lies in immersive installations that employ light, space, and sensory elements to envelop the audience. These encounters have played a pivotal role in shaping my artistic approach, aiming to immerse viewers in multi-sensory experiences.

Movements such as interactive art, new media art, and the expansive digital art realm serve as profound inspirations. Witnessing how technology elevates artistic expression, I’ve dedicated myself to exploring the convergence of tactile and digital realms, seeking innovative ways to unify these seemingly distinct spheres.

Where do you see the future of art headed with the interplay of tangible materials and digital experiences?

In today’s digital landscape, a vast array of art forms is accessible through computers and smartphones, fostering widespread sharing and global connections among creators and audiences. The realm of content creation and social influencing thrives on platforms that magnify their impact in people’s everyday lives, ushering in new possibilities for artistic expression.

As an immersive experience designer, I’ve been deeply engrossed in researching software, applications, and platforms, exploring diverse avenues to enhance my work. The trajectory of art is on the brink of an intriguing evolution, where tangible materials converge with digital experiences, expanding the horizons of creative expression. This fusion is poised to usher in a wave of innovative artistic developments: 

  • Hybrid Creations: Artists are increasingly merging physical materials with digital technologies, blurring boundaries between traditional and digital art. This fusion could entail sculptures interwoven with interactive digital elements, paintings animated with digital features, or installations fusing tactile components with immersive digital experiences.
  • Enhanced Interactivity: Expect a surge in interactive artworks where viewers actively engage with pieces through touch, movement, or biofeedback. Advancements in sensors and haptic technologies will enable more sophisticated interactions, creating dynamic, responsive art encounters.
  • Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR): These technologies will continue revolutionizing the art world, enabling artists to craft entire digital worlds or overlay digital elements onto physical spaces. Viewers will immerse themselves in alternate realities blending tactile elements with digital enhancements.
  • Accessible Art: Digital mediums democratize access to art. Online platforms, virtual galleries, and digital exhibitions transcend geographical barriers, while technologies like 3D printing democratize the creation of tangible representations of digital art.
  • Artificial Intelligence (AI) Collaboration: Artists will explore collaborations with AI systems to generate and enhance artworks, creating pieces that fuse human creativity with computational power.
  • Environmental Consciousness: Artists will focus on sustainable practices, experimenting with eco-friendly materials and integrating technology responsibly into their creations. 

In essence, the future of art at this convergence will meld the physical and digital realms, offering immersive, participatory experiences for audiences. This synergy will empower artists with expanded tools, nurturing new forms of creativity and engagement, pushing the boundaries of artistic expression.

How have audiences responded to your innovative blend of mediums, and has their feedback shaped your artistic journey?

After my recent immersive experience design for Water x Performance at Brown Hall, New England Conservatory, Boston, on May 7, 2023, I had the pleasure of interacting with several audience members who expressed their delight in experiencing something refreshingly new through the visual and auditory elements I crafted. For me, the real journey of my work begins the moment it connects with an audience. I cherish the emergence of new stories spurred by their emotions, experiences, and memories. Their feedback holds immense value, guiding the evolution of my storytelling. Understanding what evoked their emotions fuels the direction of my creative narrative.

While direct audience feedback hasn’t been frequent in my experience, I keenly observe the trends and conversations within the creative sphere. I’ve noticed that audiences gravitate towards innovative amalgamations of different mediums, particularly when it introduces a fresh and captivating dimension. The reception, however, varies significantly based on the blend of mediums and the execution. 

Feedback is a cornerstone of the artistic journey. Artists glean insights from reviews, comments, and even indirect responses, using them to refine their craft. Positive reactions can ignite further exploration and experimentation, while constructive criticism serves as a compass for fine-tuning the resonance with audiences. 

The evolution of art thrives within the dialogue between creator and audience. Witnessing how my work impacts people often sparks inspiration, propelling me to delve deeper into specific mediums or pivot towards uncharted creative avenues. This dynamic interaction, in my observations, profoundly shapes an artist’s trajectory.

What advice would you give to budding artists keen to explore the boundary between tactile arts and the digital realm?

Never lose sight of your passions; cultivate a narrative that intertwines with your chosen field. Unearth the mediums that enable you to convey this story with depth and fascination. Devote yourself to practicing and immersing in the process, striving to bring the final creation as close as possible to your initial concept sketch. Embrace the idea that your work resides in the realm of mixed media, prompting you to explore and delve into various domains. Dedicate ample time to drawing and sketching, refining your skills, and honing your creative expression.

  • Embrace Versatility: Fearlessly experiment with a variety of mediums, techniques, and technologies. Blend traditional art materials with digital tools to discover their synergies. Explore a spectrum of software, hardware, and tactile elements to unlock their creative potentials.
  • Master Diverse Skills: Acquire proficiency in both traditional and digital art forms. Grasp the fundamentals of classic artistry—drawing, painting, sculpting—while delving into the intricacies of digital tools like graphic design software, 3D modeling, and interactive programming.
  • Seek Inspirational Fusion: Immerse yourself in artworks that seamlessly blend tactile elements and digital experiences. Attend exhibitions, scour online galleries, and analyze the works of artists who have successfully integrated these realms. Draw inspiration from their techniques and innovative approaches.
  • Explore Technological Frontiers: Dive into the realm of technology. Familiarize yourself with augmented reality, virtual reality, sensors, haptics, and other emerging tech relevant to art. Mastery of these tools will open new vistas for your creative expression.
  • Collaborate and Network Widely: Engage with artists, technologists, and creators from diverse fields. Collaborations can offer fresh perspectives and expertise that may inspire novel approaches to your art.
  • Iterate and Enhance: Don’t aim for perfection instantly. Continuously iterate and refine your ideas. Let your art evolve through experimentation, learning from both triumphs and setbacks.
  • Remain Curious and Adaptive: Stay abreast of new technologies and materials. The convergence of tactile and digital art is an ever-evolving frontier. Maintaining an open mind and adaptability to fresh ideas and advancements is essential.
  • Craft Compelling Narratives: Use your art to convey narratives or messages. Whether through tactile sculptures infused with digital elements or interactive installations, strive to create a cohesive and meaningful experience for your audience.

Remember, exploring the boundary between tactile arts and the digital realm is an exhilarating journey that demands patience, perseverance, and a willingness to challenge conventions. Allow your creativity to flourish by blending these worlds in ways that uniquely articulate your artistic vision.

In Haran Kim’s trailblazing journey, the tactile meets the digital, forging a path where art transcends boundaries. As touch and tech intertwine, a symphony of creativity unfolds. Embrace the fusion, ride the wave of innovation, and witness the renaissance of art.

The canvas awaits, and the future is tactile, digital, and boundless.

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