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Exhibition brings lost potential of games into senses

Kim Seong-hyeon’s “Manifold” (NCSoft)
Kim Seong-hyeon’s “Manifold” (NCSoft)

“Game & Art: Auguries of Fantasy” -- on show at Daejeon Museum of Art Creative Center through Sept. 5 -- peeps into an altered world of “fantasy reality” forged through the synthesis of video games and art.

The exhibition, sponsored and participated by NCSoft, one of the top three game developers in South Korea, examines how video games can become playgrounds of images and sounds conceived through imaginations.

Walking into the exhibit, viewers are greeted by Kim Seong-hyeon’s “Manifold,” a cube, comprised of 50,000 images of popular games such as Super Mario and Tetris and lighting up a wall.

Manifold is a bold attempt by Kim, a computer graphics major, to visualize “lost spaces” in games into a 512-dimensional hyperspace.

When artificial intelligence studies images to mimic their styles, the AI interprets them in two dimensions, losing the sense of three-dimensional depth that humans perceive.

In front of Manifold, a laser sensor captures the movements of hands and fingers in real-time and generates a unique 3D cube on the wall. The images are arranged like loaves of bread to express their depth.

“When I look at Manifold, I feel the same beauty I feel from well-designed code,” said Kim, who currently studies at KAIST Visual Media Lab.

If Manifold evokes the unfamiliar ambiguity and divine respect one feels from looking at a piece of art, true genius comes from Kim Tae-wan’s “Shining in the Gap.” 

Kim Tae-wan’s “Shining in the gap” displayed on the left wall
Kim Tae-wan’s “Shining in the gap” displayed on the left wall

Inside a dimly lit room, two walls on the side serve as a giant canvass where data collected from body movements is expressed in real-time in the motif of “healing.” When a spectator moves past the left wall, confetti explodes, creating an image of a figure walking.

The wall on the right looks like a giant circuit board, and when a person moves, grains of light flow along the circuits.

But what really makes “Shining in the Gap” so special is the way how the work combines the visual stimuli with smell.

At the front wall, four tables are arranged side by side. A funnel-shaped container made of stainless steel is placed upside down on each of those tables. The perfume bottles contain different scents.

The perfume bottle on the far left contains a single scent and symbolizes “I.” The next bottle represents “You,” as it mixes its own scent with the I scent. The next one brings together its scent with the I and You scents to form “We” scent. The last bottle harmonizes its scent with I, You and We scents to become “They.” 

Kim Tae-wan’s “Shining in the gap” displayed on the left wall
Kim Tae-wan’s “Shining in the gap” displayed on the left wall

“Motion graphics and scents, which are based on ‘healing’ also add multi-modal synesthesia to visitors, suggesting the possibility of various interpretations of ‘relationship with other,’” a Daejeon Art Center official said.

Meanwhile, game company NCSoft made its debut at the art exhibition with its “NC Play,” projects that embody the company’s philosophy of “Push, Play.”

At the entrance of the gallery, “NC (ART) PLAY” guides audience into a 1.7-meter by 1.7-meter mirrored room where the data, worldviews, visual arts and sounds of NCSoft games are visually displayed on a wall. The endlessly stretching generative art imagery provides the feeling of entering a virtual space.

“The NC PLAY exhibit is an attempt to push the boundaries of online games and expand the ways in which fun and inspiration can be shared through them,” a company official said.

Walking out the corridor, visitors can also enjoy three other exhibits including NC (TOON) PLAY, NC (FICTION) PLAY and NC(TYPE) PLAY. Particularly, NC (FICTION) PLAY offers dystopian short stories by seven authors on the theme of “pleasure,” giving the audience something to chew on. 

NCSoft’s “NC {ART} PLAY”
NCSoft’s “NC {ART} PLAY”

“Game & Art: Auguries of Fantasy” runs at the Daejeon Museum of Art’s Creative Center located near Jungangno Station on Daejeon Metro Line. Admission is free.

By Kim Byung-wook (