[Curator’s Statement] Reconstructing Fragmented Sequences to Ask Questions

Scene #1. Prologue

I didn’t expect it to be easy and didn’t think I’d send in an article in time for the deadline. After all, the deadline was two days away, and I couldn’t delay any longer, so I stepped into my empty office on a Sunday morning and turned on my computer. But I’ve been staring at a mouse cursor that is begging for words for two hours now, unable to do anything.

I couldn’t waste another day. I calmed my mind and opened the folder containing the materials I had received from Bang & Lee, including emails, documents, text messages, and video files of their artwork. I started with a vague expectation that I might find a clue that would make me start writing by reviewing conversations with the artist, materials, and previous exhibitions, but to no avail. As I look at the artworks and read the descriptions, I find myself drawn into notions and thoughts about other things ⎯ Artificial Intelligence, autonomous driving, cranial nerves, neurons, someday in the future, cyborgs, androids, robots, and whether we can impose ethics on them, and so on.

I endeavored to keep my thoughts from getting sidetracked several times. But somehow, this situation is not unfamiliar. When I first decided to write about their artwork, I experienced a similar state for quite a while. I needed to discuss their artwork, but I couldn’t stop thinking about the questions they asked and the topic, and then I struggled to start writing.

Bang & Lee’s artwork is always like that: it starts from a language of art but expands as a story infinitely into a vast narrative surrounding humanity: technology, politics, society, ethics, and more. Their artwork is not meant for ‘seeing’ only; it continually persuades our thoughts, demanding ‘reading.’

As this is the case, to write this article, I have to go back to ‘reading.’

Scene #2. Postponed Completion

I found and reread the article[1] I had written about Bang & Lee’s artworks with a vague hope that it might give me a clue to write about their new artwork. It started like this “Some misconceptions ⎯ their artwork is difficult and unkind.” I smirked. There were so many things I needed to know to understand their artwork: a critical look at the rapidly changing state of modern technological society, various literary references ranging from fairy tales to TV dramas, poetry, novels, and movies, and more, which is why their artwork had been criticized as abstruse, unkind, and esoteric. However, looking at it from a slightly different perspective, it might be the natural outcome to comprehend and understand thorough artwork produced through investing considerable time on studying, thinking, and organizing by artists, challenging to grasp the meanings of their artwork at first glance. Then, could it not be possible to demonstrate our sincerity in appreciating artwork by investing time, seeking references, and patiently reading explanations?

Personally, I enjoy more challenging artwork that offers opportunities to delve into, not the kinds of artwork that are easy to read. Maybe it’s because I always find Bang & Lee’s artwork attractive, and I am always interested in their new artwork even though I complain it is difficult.

This article starts with a misconception of their artwork, explaining each, and concluding with the artists’ attitude. If in today’s society, art, especially ‘media art’, does not refer to using flashy cutting-edge technologies but rather to observing the changing world with a keen eye and asking questions, then Bang & Lee are regarded as the artists/media artists who excel at posing such questions.

Artworks such as Revision History X, Friendship is Universal, Elephant in the Living Room, and Lost in Translation have effectively posed relevant questions about the essential parts of the changing (technological) society of their time. However, what makes Bang & Lee special is not only being good at asking questions but looking for new ways to express the topics and interests they are focusing on. They represent and distinguish in a different format but connect in an overarching thematic context, implying their narrative structure themselves.

Transparent Study, in particular, exemplifies Bang & Lee’s artistic practice of inventorying various objects within a single theme and transforming them into a process of assemble-disassemble-reassemble. The research project on a single work called Transparent Study, #Transparent Study[2] archives a list of 25 objects constituting Transparent Study. This project constructs a website containing the exhibition history of the work, conceptual diagrams, idea sketches, and a diverse bibliography used to create the work. This not only allows for an in-depth exploration of the components of the work but also demonstrates how the work can variably be interpreted with each exhibition. This is precisely why Bang & Lee’s work needs to be understood as changeable ‘projects’ rather than individual pieces. Their work, which encompasses interactive media art, kinetic lights, sensor-based musical instruments, and, more recently, AI-driven generative programs, is distinctly different from other media artists’ work in that it resembles a kind of ‘fractal’ structure that can be deconstructed, reconstructed, and expanded according to site and context.

In this context, Bang & Lee’s works are “projects [that] will complete while postponing their completion.” They are always ongoing projects that never conclude, and their works are always in progress. In Bang & Lee’s artist theory, I wrote that they are artists practising ‘being an artist’ because they are constantly creating works in progress. These artists who are not afraid to meet people from different fields and are interested in the essence of the world, not the shell of the changing world, so they are doing something new every time they meet, are also the artists I met practicing ‘becoming an artist’ back then.

Then, suddenly, everything became clear. When I set out to organize my unfinished progress-oriented projects, it was no wonder I wasn’t writing any words. The ‘ongoing’ artist, attempting to ‘become an artist’, had to be the start.

Their (new) story (to me) began with a running rental car.

Scene #3. The Running Rental Car and ‘Two Lights’

The place where I encountered an AI Prophet (oracle) that told Bang & Lee’s new story was Eyeshine.[3] As if someone had anticipated my arrival, I found an empty chair (in a gallery) and listened to the AI Agent’s story. There must have been an accident. The story began with the “two lights like beads of gold”, which the Prophet saw, and with the white-tailed deer thought to be extinct. The system (the AI Prophet) driving autonomously malfunctioned due to the sudden appearance of the white-tailed deer, causing an accident. While the story occasionally throws in some unfamiliar technical terms that I hadn’t heard before, comprehending the flow of the story wasn’t difficult. On the contrary, I was continuously questioning which stance I should take as a spectator regarding the AI Prophet’s dilemma, intricately intertwined with the ethical issues surrounding autonomous driving.

Autonomous driving is undoubtedly an advanced technology that intertwines the progress of AI and mobility technology, promoting changes in our daily lives. The driverless cars we grew up watching in science fiction movies have already become a reality and are undergoing pilot testing in several cities. The “trolley dilemma”, a thought experiment proposed by Philippa Foot and systematically analyzed by Judith Jarvis Thomson and later by Peter Unger and Frances Kamm, highlighted the ethical dilemma that cannot easily be ignored as AI or autonomous driving technologies are implemented. The thought experiment raises questions about whether it’s morally justifiable to sacrifice a few for the greater good of the majority, concerns that become more pronounced with these technologies.

A trolley car is hurtling toward five laborers working on a railroad track. If you are next to a rail switch lever that can change the trolley’s direction to the right, causing only one laborer working on the right railroad track to die, what would be the morally justifiable choice?

It is hard to unequivocally assert that the lives of five individuals are necessarily more important than one life. It’s also a challenge to justify killing one for the sake of five. Let’s change the scenario in the context of autonomous vehicles. If, by proceeding straight, the autonomous cars would hit a person, then in this case, one pedestrian would die, whereas alternatively, the driver or occupant of the autonomous car would themself be put in a risky situation. In such a case, how should the autonomous vehicle’s program be designed to make a decision? Would it be free from the “trolley dilemma?”

While the conversations between the AI Prophet and the AI Agent in Eyeshine don’t directly address or answer this dilemma, the audience becomes aware they cannot be free from these dilemmas.

From a technical perspective, Eyeshine is a two-channel video of around 10 minutes, created using 3D modeling and animation techniques. While it tells the story of a car accident, this can only be inferred through a dialog between a middle-aged male AI Prophet and a voice-only AI Agent. There aren’t any spectacular effects or scenes in the video. Aside from the anecdote that aligning dialog and lip movements in Korean proved challenging with current software, this video, created using Unreal Engine and Maya, doesn’t showcase any spectacular scenes. This video unfolds through a calm conversation between two entities, which could have been dull, yet it intriguingly manages to captivate and maintain focus. As I later heard, while preparing for this video, Bang & Lee met and chatted with Dr. Jongkil Park, an expert in neuromorphic engineering, a field known for designing semiconductors that simulate the structure and functions of the human brain. Their conversations, which crossed various topics from neuromorphic engineering and next-generation semiconductor technology to AI, from ChatGPT to creators’ concerns, and from artificial life to ethical issues in science and technology, would have naturally merged into the conversation between the AI Prophet and the AI Agent in Eyeshine, potentially leading audiences to be drawn into their conversations.

Another interesting aspect of Eyeshine is that while listening to the conversation between the AI Prophet and the AI Agent, images came to mind from other short videos by Bang & Lee that I had seen previously. It gave me a sense that I wasn’t merely watching a single video work but felt as if I were within a longer movie. For example, while the AI Prophet is driving in his car, images emerged of the desert landscape and warehouse scenes from the 2022 3D animated video The Prairie Giant.[4] Similarly, at the point of the accident, thoughts of a roughly 30-second clip from The Grain Elevator[5] arose, creating an impression of embarking on a long journey with the AI Prophet in his car.

This composition and feeling of a striking resemblance to the various objects/items that constitute the Transparent Study were reconfigured according to the context. While watching a single video work, the previous video works are naturally recalled and recontextualized, which at first glance seems to indicate that Bang & Lee’s work has changed, but also demonstrates that their distinctive artistic creation method and communication style persistently remain intact through this innovative recontextualization with the audience.

Scene #4. Spiking Neural Network[6]

Bang & Lee state in their artist note, “We hope the exhibition will resonate with questions beyond simply appreciating the artworks and discovering their hidden intentions or values. We look forward to the engaged participation of awakened audiences that will lead to critical behavior.” What should an exhibition look like, and how should the artworks communicate to elicit critical action?

In an interview, Dr. Jongkil Park, the leading expert in neuromorphic engineering in South Korea, explained neuromorphic engineering and gave us a glimpse of the answers to these questions: “When our brain receives visual information, it doesn’t transmit image data to the brain like a camera taking continuous snapshots. Instead, it detects a change in spatiotemporal information at a certain point. When such changes are detected, visual cells reveal spikes, transmitting visual information in the brain through spike neurons for processing and cognition. The same principles apply to other sensory information. The human brain efficiently processes sparse information through high-dimensional cognitive and judgmental abilities. Neuromorphic engineering aims to simulate this form of computation closely, and neuromorphic semiconductor design is the field that seeks to implement it in hardware.”[7]

As I read their interview, I found that Bang & Lee’s works are similar to that of the Spiking Neural Networks method, where information is transmitted not as continuous spatiotemporal data but through spike signals. Its resemblance is evident in works like Transparent Study and their focusing on 3D animation. While these videos range from as short as 30 seconds to around 20 minutes, each work is akin to a fragment of a long narrative puzzle. However, these fragments don’t converge toward an obvious story or plot. It’s not a puzzle with an existing fixed answer. The meaning occurs when these fragments collide and create a ‘spike.’ Meaning itself is fluid. It’s not fixed; it can vary depending on the fragments’ intersection. Here, ‘fragments’ don’t just refer to finished video works. Moments of entering an exhibition space, encountering poems, paintings, videos, even the put objects, and of course, the audiences, all can be part of these fragments… The spikes generated by these fragments, influenced by the background and environment of each audience, can take unexpected paths, just like our brains do.

Approaching an exhibition in this manner requires a shift from traditional exhibition practices. The process of selecting works and constructing an exhibition narrative might need to become more theatrical. If we consider each work as meaningful data or a fragment, the significance of ‘empty space’ in an exhibition becomes more prominent to need space to converge and create spikes.

Scene #5. The Hearing

In Eyeshine, the AI Agent tells the AI Prophet that a hearing will convene soon. Then, in The Prophet in the Darkness, the AI Prophet’s hearing is conducted. If we consider the plot only, The Prophet in the Darkness, is in continuity with Eyeshine. For this reason, we decided to exhibit Eyeshine alongside this exhibition. However, it doesn’t mean you can’t understand it without seeing Eyeshine. They are both independent works while being interconnected, just as with many of Bang & Lee’s works, which can be appreciated separately or together.

The Prophet in the Darkness delves into the creativity and expansiveness of art in the age of AI as well as questions about future predictions, ethical issues concerning AI, ableism, improved accessibility versions, neurodiversity embracing differences arising from brain neurology as a form of diversity, and various other topics. The exhibition’s compositions, reminiscent of a hearing room, prompt audiences to inquire into the ethical dilemmas of AI, the essence of technological advancements, and the ever-changing society ⎯ or to interrogate them…

However, this isn’t merely a tale about a distant future; it’s a narrative about the present. It’s questioning us of ‘now.’ So it’s not just the AI Prophet who is summoned to the hearing. The artists creating artworks are not free from this hearing, nor the curators who organize exhibitions, nor the audiences who visit them.


In creating this exhibition, Bang & Lee collaborated with an accessibility expert, Sooyeon Seo who specializes in Audio Description. They meticulously considered the entire exhibition plan, pondered over the audience’s path, and added audio descriptions to the video for the benefit of visually impaired individuals. Through these small yet thoughtful considerations, the artist transformed their attitude and questioned the structure of the art scene itself. Just like cognition occurs through spikes between neurons, this meticulous approach interconnects various areas and themes such as artwork and exhibition, art and science, technology and society, technology and ethics, and disability and non-disability.

The messages stemming from the collisions and connections of the details within the artwork, spanning diverse and distinct domains, offer an opportunity for the audience to comprehend and instigate change. How one perceives these messages and triggers change depends on the audience’s responsibility.

[1] Boseul Shin, [Bang & Lee] Harry, Practice Being an Artist, Brilliant Critic, 2018. https://brunch.co.kr/@nathalieshin/2 
[2] http://hashtagtransparentstudy.net/bang-lee/
[3] Bang & Lee × Jongkil Park, Eyeshine, 2023, 11 min 54 sec. 2-channel 3D animation, 4-channel sound, light stands, 3D printing earthenware, tea table, antique chair, carpet, mixed-media. Artwork from “Natural Replica” (Kim Hee Soo Art Center, 2023)
[4] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vekUs5edCH4
[5] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=txsSmQ0SbGQ
[6] Spiking Neural Networks (SNNs) are widely used in neuroscience research as a model for understanding how living nervous systems work. SNNs refer to neural networks that communicate through sequences of spikes, which represent neuron-to-neuron interactions, and are different from the semiconductors based on deep learning accelerators that have been the subject of much recent research.
[7] Shin Yun-oh, [AI Semiconductor Part 2] Dr. Jongkil Park, KIST: “Neuromorphic Semiconductors Excellent for Human Brain Simulation, Now We Need to Consider Commercialization”, elec4, 2020.04.06, https://www.elec4.co.kr/article/articleView.asp?idx=25399

Boseul Shin
Chief Curator, Total Museum of Contemporary Art
Boseul Shin holds a B.A. in Philosophy from Ewha Womans University and an M.A. in Aesthetics from Hongik University where she is currently completing a Ph.D. program. She began curating exhibitions in 1997 and established herself as a curator specializing in media art by working as the head of the exhibition team at Art Center Nabi (2000-2002) and the Media City Seoul team at the Seoul Museum of Art (2003-2005). Since 2007, she has been the chief curator of the Total Museum of Contemporary Art, where she has organized and managed various exhibitions and projects. Based on her comprehensive understanding of international art and extensive global network, she has organized solo exhibitions of world-renowned artists such as Dan Perjovschi, Daniel García Andújar, Antoni Muntadas, and Gary Hill, as well as various international exhibitions in collaboration with overseas organizations. The exhibition “Actually, the Dead are Not Dead”, the Korean edition of the Bergen Assembly 2019, was selected as an outstanding exhibition at the 2022 Museum of Art Day. Other ongoing projects include “Roadshow”, “Show Must Go On”, and “Le Tre Rane Restaurant”, which combine art, travel, and cuisine, as well as projects utilizing metaverse platforms such as ZEPETO, Spatial, and Minecraft since 2019. She is also practicing social contribution and ESG activities through the “Batik Story” project, which helps women in slum areas in Indonesia lay the foundation for self-reliance.