[ISEA2019] Introduction: Namhee Park — Preface to the Catalogue

Introductory Statement

At the 25th International Symposium on Electronic Art (below ISEA2019), you can see various works that employ artistic interpretations of technology that explore and experiment on the future with light. ‘Lux Aeterna: Eternal Light’ is the theme of ISEA2019. The theme was inspired by the name of the exhibition site at Gwangju, the ‘city of light’. Light is life, material, and spirit in itself as it is the very thing that allows the world to exist. In all fields of culture, art, science, philosophy, politics and society, ‘light’ is the Absolute (Plotinos, ??, the One) and the highest value. It is the name of a transcendental being that penetrates the human history, not merely an exclusive concept that is defined within a specific period, area, or culture. Many parts of the world are related to light, including the following: turning on lights in everyday life, the significance of the enlightenment as a metaphor for the awakening of human reason, ethical teachings that overcome injustice and corruption, the invention of the chiaroscuro in art and the invention of the camera, Albert Einstein’s quantum theory of light and Werner Karl Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle, the binary system that uses 0s and 1s and their digital properties, and the yin(?) and yang(?) of Eastern philosophy.

Based on this deep and broad discussion of light, the special event of ISEA will explore its 2019 theme in the city of Gwangju, South Korea. The spirit of ISEA, which began 30 years ago, has grown, illuminating a path in the arts and science, towards the new. This event, which does not have a fixed location but will travel in many cities around the world, can also be called a ‘Glocal Symposium on Electronic Art’ as it combines its topic of art and science along with the venue’s characteristics. As the ancient capital, starting from 1018, Gwangju has been the center of the economy in the southwestern part of South Korea and has also been known as the city of the arts, the city of education, the city of food (famous for its kimchi), and has recently been designated as a Media Arts Creative City by UNESCO. Above all, as a starting point for the 5.18 Democratization Movement in 1980, it is a historical city that carries the spirit of “democracy, human rights and peace,” which was pursued by 1980 Gwangju massacre victims. The Asia Culture Center (ACC), the main venue where the art of ISEA2019 will be presented, is a multicultural art center that opened in 2015 (in the area of the previous Gwangju provincial government and the sacred site of the 5.18 Democratization Movement). The site, a base for the spirit of Gwangju’s “democracy, human rights and peace,” memorializes the past and cultivates a life today toward the future. The “Forest of Light” — the theme of ACC designed by architect Kyu Sung Woo — is regarded as a center of the creative city for healing and coexistence through culture and art. In this “Forest of Life”, the “eternal light” from ISEA2019’s participants will be projected.

ISEA2019, under the theme “Eternal Light,” consists of a juried exhibition, a special exhibition, local engaged programs, and educational programs for children. The exhibition venues include 5 Multi-functional Exhibition Halls (MFEH) at the ACC, the media wall at the Asia Culture Center Plaza, and finally the multifunctional hall at ACC Children for the Kids Media Art Camp (“Delicious Lab”). The opening performance will be held at ACC Theater 1 and the closing ceremony will take place at the Gwangju Cultural Foundation Traditional Cultural Center. Furthermore, the 1200 submissions from 59 countries for the juried exhibition demonstrate much enthusiasm, while presenting a tough process for the juries to make their decisions. The juried exhibition will be presented at MFEH 2 and 5. These interesting works are selected according to their “ability to artistically express, as well as through technical experimentation, the theme of eternal light.” Some spaces of MFEH 5 will be dedicated to special exhibitions curated by Art Center Nabi, with support from the Korea Foundation for the Advancement of Science and Creativity. Meanwhile, four works from the juried exhibition — supported by ACC_R Creators in Lab — will be presented as a part of ACC’s ACT (the Arts and Creative Technology) Festival 2019 to celebrate ISEA2019. As a showcase of the ACT Festival, the MFEH 1 will present the WTC (Walking Through Cinema) project and the ISEA2019 special exhibition. At MFEH 3 and 4, programs and exhibitions of ACC’s ACT Festival (with the theme of “FoodHack”) will be on display, which will create a harmony in media art that resonates in Gwangju alongside ISEA2019. The period of ISEA2019 will be a brilliant time to interact with many people through art. In Gwangju, the city of light, ISEA2019 imagines the eternal light of mankind toward the future world with media’s meditative and alternative vision through creative experiments in art and technology in the electronic age. Now, in the moments of people, art, technology, the city and the future, the ISEA that is here and now will possess the intense memory of light.

  • Namhee Park, ISEA2019 Artistic Director