The Technological art of Soomi Park

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Designer Soomi Park has been gaining international recognition for her creative and technological multimedia pieces of work which offer commentary on society. The London based artist is currently studying for a MA in Design Interactions at the Royal College of Art. Her piece the LED Eyelash gained interest from nation press around the world, with the Daily Mail heralding it as a sign of technology progressing,

Park’s work examines how we see ourselves and how we see society. Curious to find out more about her work, we spoke to Soomi about what inspires her and her processes.

Mimi: Could you tell us a bit about yourself and how you become an artist?

Soomi: I am a designer and an artist based in London, currently studying for an MA in Design Interactions at the Royal College of Art. My earlier works focused on media art, but I am now also exploring other areas of design since joining the MA course. The course focuses on the social, cultural and ethical consequences of emerging technologies using design as the medium, and to explore those consequences and ask probing questions.

I became fascinated by how technology can be used for artistic purposes when I took the “Interaction Design” class at International Design School for Advance Studies (IDAS) in my previous graduate school in Seoul. Until then, I was oblivious to the fact that design products can be interactive if designers incorporate technology into their work. I studied visual communication design and multimedia design in college, such as graphic, animation and motion pictures. I have always loved that visual design involves storytelling and communication; however, I felt that something was missing for me as I interned at an advertising agency after college. That experience gave me an opportunity to learn about the importance of image-making and promoting myself through visual means. I learned the process of commercial visual design and meeting the needs of your clients. Conversely, I also learned that commercial visual design sometimes restricts the designers’ own communicative needs and creativity, which is fine for many designers in the industry, but not for me.

When I was introduced to the potential advantage of using technology as means of art, I felt thrilled. It was a real breakthrough for me. Technology not only helps artists expand their ways of creation, but also creates opportunities to interact with their audience. In and of itself, technology art facilitates two-way communication: as an artist I tell my story, and the audience can proactively respond to my story by telling their own stories.

Mimi: Your work seems to explore the relationship between humanity and technology; could you tell us more about that?

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Soomi: Most of the people who live with technology as a companion to their lives believe that its development will lead to a more bright and comfortable future. It may be my personal generalization, however I think because of this belief, there are new social issues. For instance, plastic surgery has become a method for fulfilling self-confidence, but for some people it becomes an obsession. Indeed, technology can be a fascination for those who want a better life; however people are not really looking at the surrounding issues. I think this is why I am interested in adding social issues to the technological evolution scenario. Imagining new scenarios with my observation on those issues is my motivation.

My works are often playful even though the underlying issues are quite serious. This is so that when the audience does encounter this situation, they will react in a more relaxed manner.

This attitude towards life definitely plays an important role in my work, and I spent a considerable amount of time thinking about how to blend humour and fun in the final product. The purpose is to help people reflect on the presented issue without incorporating any judgment or criticism about it.

Mimi: You classify yourself as a multimedia artist and designer rather than just an artist, do you think there is a distinction between being an artist and a digital artist?

Soomi: It is hard to say there is a distinction between an artist and a digital artist. For me, digital technology is not only just a medium by which I can realize my ideas but the inspiration and subject matter of my art. My work does not simply consider technology as an easy addition to our lives but by illustrating the ways peoples’ lives have changed I can thereby give a speculative scenario of the future to the audience.

Mimi: Your LED eyelashes have generated a lot of interest, you mentioned that it was a comment on the issue of plastic surgery especially in the Asian community with the wish for bigger eyes. What did you want to say with this project?

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Soomi: I like addressing social issues through my work. I think it is because dealing with social issues via artistic processes intrinsically meets my drive to communicate with others. LED eyelash is a good example of that; it was created because it is relevant to everyday aesthetics – what is considered beautiful by social standards – and what people do to look good. While people have always used cosmetics, you can now go as far as surgically cutting and sewing your face to look pretty. I thought, “Hey, why not wear art on your face? Isn’t art for beauty, after all?”
I believe that the LED eyelash project gathered interest because it speaks to people’s underlying drive toward aesthetics. People communicate back to me by showing their interests and enthusiasm in my work. Ultimately, addressing social issues channels interactive communication into my work, which, in turn, serves my purpose for being an artist and designer who explore the ideas through technology.

Mimi: Where does your inspiration for your projects come from and how do you create your work?

Soomi: It’s hard to say precisely where my inspiration originates. Personally, my ideas tend to come from pretty much everywhere. I love watching a wide range of TV shows, films, documentaries and books. Sometimes I’ll get my inspiration from an advertisement flyer. Although I do love science fiction, I don’t think there is a strong personal preference for the subject over others.

Once I have an idea, I give myself a brief to answer, which I need to set my own scenario and strategy in response to it. Since I am doing speculative design for the future, I need to do a lot of research at the beginning, which is mostly based on technological and social issues. My working methods are not particularly limited to a certain medium; therefore I do some experiments with my sketches and ideas using diverse range of formats and materials. Sometimes I make prototypes or I can make a film. These processes normally lead me to create a concrete project, and that is how I work.

Mimi: Do you see yourself as a social commentator through your work?

Soomi: Actually, I have not thought of myself as a social commentator. However, since I have described myself as an artist and designer who addresses social issues in my work, I think I would answer ‘yes’ to this question. Although I do not think I am giving an actual solution to these social problems, I am showing the problems through my speculative design and hoping to create a dialogue around them. Some people may agree with my alternative scenarios and designs, but some may not. The most important aim in my work is that people reflect on the issues themselves via my projects. I guess that is why I could agree to see myself as a ‘social commentator’.

Mimi: What’s been your favourite project?

Soomi: This is a quite hard question to answer. I would like to answer by using this expression, ‘Every child is dear to his parents’. However, if I have to choose one, it is definitely the LED Eyelash. The first reason is that this project is most successfully connected to people. As a designer and an artist who is doing interactive design, it is important to interact with the public. The second reason is bit personal. For me, this project opened the door for me to be an individual artist and designer, not only through public recognition but also it defined the character of my work. I found my identity as a designer and artist through this project.

Mimi: What is your current project?

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Soomi: Currently, I am working on a project called ‘The Republic of Privacy’, for which I am creating a speculative scenario for a fictional nation where people can live their life with absolute privacy. Privacy invasion is not a new issue in our society anymore; rather it has increased through digital technology developments. Many people think that they do not have anything to hide, and privacy is not an issue in their lives. However, when they find that their information is being used by others, it becomes a different story. People become upset. I think this is the problem for me. I need more privacy. But I’m also a big user of social networks and security systems, which seem like a paradox. That is why I started this project – Privacy and security cannot coexist in a balanced way. If that could be achieved, that would be a perfect life. And we know that doesn’t exist, don’t we?

What I have also tried to illustrate in my recent sketch project, ‘Striving for 100% Privacy’ was to talk about current social issues through plausible narratives, thereby allowing people to re-think about their self-awareness.

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I did a lot of research on the political conspiracy behind this issue. It’s quite hard to prove why they are watching us and who is involved. We start to wonder about these issues. It may be a big system behind a facade that controls the public through threatening the authority of personal identity. It can get quite political. Through imagining a life in a 100% privacy-guaranteed world, I try to address my own answer to this issue. That is my next step.
We probably need to sacrifice or compromise ourselves little for it, but I would like to ask this question to the public: Isn’t it worth giving up something for your privacy?

Mimi: Are there any upcoming exhibitions in London where we can see you work?

Soomi: My graduation show is coming around in the end of June at Royal College of Art. I will present my current project, ‘The Republic of Privacy’ in the show.

Mimi: What is your advice to those who want to create multimedia and digital works like you?

Soomi: Be a doer, not just a thinker.

Mimi: Do you have any goals left to achieve?
I am hoping to set my studio space in London in the near future. Since many people have shown strong desire for me to put my works into production, I am planning to respond to this. For example, in the case of my LED Eyelash project, I was insistent to both myself and the public that this was not a commercial product but an art piece. However, I am trying to develop this project to be on the market as a design product. This may be a huge change in my work; however I want to challenge myself and to see how it will be perceived by actual customers. This is one goal I want to achieve in the near future.

My bigger goal is to be ‘Soomi Park’. One day, one of my friends asked me who I want to be in the future, if I have a choice to be. He gave me a few successful designers as choices. I was hesitating to choose, because all names were tempting to have. However, I was quite touched by his a very wise advice -“You do not have to be someone else; you should just be Soomi Park”. He was right; I should be myself in the future. To achieve this goal, I have to continue my work without losing my voice!

Soomi Park’s work is thought provoking and explores society through innovative technology. To find out more about her work check out her website:

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