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[Design Forum] ‘Technology and art create synergy’

Technology and art, which seem to be from two different worlds, have been increasingly interconnected as the two fields merge to create unexpected innovations and push each other’s boundaries.

Two figures standing on the opposite side of the technology-art spectrum ― founder of Pixar Alvy Ray Smith and media artist Lee Lee-nam ― spoke about successful convergences of the two fields in the seventh session “The Collaboration of Pixel and Art” at the Herald Design Forum 2015 on Tuesday in Seoul. 

Alvy Ray Smith (Park Hyun-koo/The Korea Herald)
Alvy Ray Smith (Park Hyun-koo/The Korea Herald)

Smith, who has always loved both art and science, incorporated the two seemingly different practices of art and technology to create the world’s first computer-generated animation. He took the audience through the history of computer and computer graphic technology, in accordance with Moore’s Law that computers get better by 10 times every five years.

“Computers today are 10 billion times better than they were in 1965,” Smith noted.

Smith has spearheaded the creation of animated images since the 1960s. He created the first color pixels with the computer paint program SuperPaint he invented at Xerox Parc, which he joined in 1974.

“The year 1975, this is when we had the idea: Why don’t we become the first group that makes the world’s first computer-generated movie?” said Smith.

He made the first 3-D animation “Sunstone” in collaboration with an abstract expressionist painter in 1979, and the first short animated film in 1984. His experiments with computer graphic technology went on to create the first computer-animated feature film “Toy Story” in 1995.

The session was shared by Korean media artist Lee Lee-nam, who has been digitally transforming masterpieces of Western and Eastern art into an animated video art form.

“I come up with some random stuff and visualize it into media art, adding my imagination,” he said.

His first animated media art was a stop-motion animation in which he connected different photographs of a clay lump sculpted into head sculptures to make a continuous movement. 

Lee Lee-nam (Park Hyun-koo/The Korea Herald)
Lee Lee-nam (Park Hyun-koo/The Korea Herald)

“I was thrilled to see the moving images,” said Lee.

Lee, with a background in sculpture, started making animated work in 1997. He said his inspirations come from the creativity and innovative thinking of the late Nam June Paik, a pioneer of media art.

Lee’s unique mix of animation technology and Western and Eastern classic masterpiece has led him to work with corporates such as Samsung Electronics and even the hometown of Chinese President Xi Jinping for promotional images.

“Creativity is random access. I always make materials available around me so that they can inspire me,” said Lee.

Lee opened an art center named after him Wednesday in Damyang, South Jeolla Province. He is expected to hold solo exhibitions at the Korea Society in New York in November, along with more shows in Qatar, Beijing and France in 2016.

By Lee Woo-young (