Cloud Pink wows the Hutt

An interactive art installation from South Korea that gave gallery goers the sensation of touching clouds was exhibited at Expressions Whirinaki Gallery in Upper Hutt early this year. We talk with curator Leanne Wickham about the artists, the exhibition, and the reactions to the work of the local community. Expressions Whirinaki Gallery was supported to bring the exhibition to New Zealand through the Foundation's Arts Project Fund.
A woman touching the Cloud Pink installation

Cloud Pink allows people to childhood dreams of touching and manipulating clouds

Can you describe the exhibition Cloud Pink?

Cloud Pink was an interactive installation by Seoul-based creative Everyware (Hyunwoo Bang and Yunsil Heo) that allowed the public to live out childhood dreams of touching and manipulating clouds. The immersive piece invites visitors to poke and prod the sky from below, thereby causing a visual reaction in the projected simulation of wafting pink clouds.

Why did you want to bring Cloud Pink to the Hutt Valley?

Could Pink was a whole new concept that I hadn’t seen before which combined technological mapping with art. For the Hutt Valley, it was a new media art experience that they hadn’t seen anything like before. It was a great way to show a new art from showing something so real to a broad community audience.

How did you find out about Cloud Pink?

I discovered the artists as part of planned research trip to Hong Kong Art Basel (which never went ahead due to Covid19). We were researching artists to visit and to see and Everyware came up. I had also seen their work on a few websites showing new art forms such as My Modern Met.

Why do you think it is important for New Zealand audiences to be able to view a contemporary Asian art?

Having access to new experience and new arts forms form around the world not only encourages people to think outside their every day norm, but also see what is happening in creative spaces around the world.

In this instance, art is interactive and moving, and takes people away from the more classical view of Asia art from… such as silk painting and calligraphy. Particularly as a suburban art gallery, offering world-focussed opportunities and new experiences is also really important for international understanding and relationships.

Does Korea have a vibrant/active contemporary art scene that you know of?

I’m by no means an expert in Asia art or in fact Korea, but I do know that Korea is one of the most rapidly modernised and changing countries in the world, and its contemporary art world is heavily influenced by popular culture and social issues.   

How do you think New Zealand audiences think of Asian arts generally?

Really well, although the interactive nature of the work was affected by Covivd19 (ie touching a communal surface became un-popular despite us offering gloves and disinfecting regularly.)

Feedback from opening night was great. Many people commented that they did know that South Korea was involved in these kinds of art forms. Hyunwoo has a Ph.D. in Aerospace Engineering and after reading the bio and information many people who saw the work commented on the shift into art installation and the merging of those worlds.

What impact did Cloud Pink have on audiences?

 It definitely altered the local view of Asian arts into a more broadened understanding of contemporary work. Students just loved it, as part of our education programme, some of the comments from teachers were: “Today our kids had the option, for the first time, to explore digital art and create their own artwork,” and “The children got to see what touching a cloud may be like!”

A child creating patterns in the Cloud Pink installation

School students who visited the exhibition were particularly wowed

What was it like working alongside the artists to install the exhibition?

Hynwoo and Yunsil worked very differently than any other artist we had worked with regarding installation. They were very self-contained and self-managed the whole installation. Their working style was very concise, calm and private; reserved…but polite.

We had a team of people to help but they were keen to quietly do their work, with help from their extended family who had come with them to Aotearoa as part of a family trip.

What was their impression of New Zealand and the art scene here?

We were able to have a few conversations (language was problematic) about New Zealand and South Korea. They were fascinated with our Maori carved Pou “Te Manawa; in the foyer and were very much intrigued with the Maori objects and taonga at Te Papa when they visited.

They were very grateful to be able to visit and enjoyed their stay, but I think they were worried about Covid19 (this was just as the outbreak had occurred in Asia). It was just lovey to spend some time with them.

Do you have any upcoming plans to work with artists from Asia?

We are currently working on a collaboration with a group based in Japan called Team Lab for our highlight programme in May 2021. This is part of our commitment to showing interactive work from Asia.

The group refers to themselves as “Ultra-technologists,” and consists of artists, programmers, engineers, CG animators, mathematicians and architects.

We are presenting their work ‘Flowers and People – Gold’; an interactive work that takes up the theme of the seasons, which is often reflected in Japanese art and important in Japanese culture.

TeamLab in particular has a keen awareness of the importance of pre-modern Japanese art and culture and the importance of keeping it relevant in the contemporary world.

Expressions Whirinaki Gallery was supprted to bring the exhibition to New Zealand through the Foundation's Arts Project Fund.