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Meet Chusu Kim

Today we’d like to introduce you to Chusu Kim.

Chusu, let’s start with your story. We’d love to hear how you got started and how the journey has been so far.
I am currently staying in Korea because CalArts has been closed due to the coronavirus pandemic. I will introduce my work at CalArts and my previous artwork that I did in South Korea.

What I am currently interested in is design for exhibitions, performances, installation art, and videos and animations. I have been participating in the MFA scene design program at California Institute of the Arts and working in the Santa Clarita area since fall 2019. In addition to studying scene design for plays and operas, I have been working on side projects with some of my friends who are musicians, and animators. The projects include designing an interactive sound combined installation called “The Sixth Space”, and another sound installation with the title “D note”. I also have been taking some amazing animation classes at CalArts to expand my design skills in video and animation. I am looking forward to meeting my great friends and collaborators again and go back to the projects.

I majored in visual communication in undergraduate at Kookmin University in Korea. I have experienced various areas of design and art including graphic design, drawing, painting, and motion graphics and video design. Among them, I was always interested in hand-made work, animations and films, and spatial design. Also, one of my dreams was to become a production designer. This made me move forward to find a way to experience more on spacial design.

After I graduated from my college, I worked at several companies as a designer. The most important time in my career was when I worked at two national museums. I worked at the Children’s Museum of the National Museum of Korea in 2014 and the National Museum of Korean Contemporary History in 2016. I worked on exhibition design, planning exhibitions, and educational programs for children as an intern. I made several illustrations for exhibitions and education programs and designed my own educational program. Since the museums are one of the most important governmental organizations, I was proud of myself to be the one of the people who were enhancing the cultural experience of the public and helping the audience to better learn Korean history. While I worked at the museums, I could see that a lot of technologies such as projection mapping and interactive media were used for exhibition design to help the audience more engaged in the history and art. Also, I had a lot of chance to visit other museums and see a lot of contemporary interactive installations of amazing artists and studio. I also wanted to try more diverse and experimental design. I created a lot of installations and graphic design as a freelance designer after I finished my working at the museums. Finally, I came to CalArts. I will keep talk to more about my career as a freelance designer in the later section of the interview.

Has it been a smooth road?
I would say that my struggles were the process of exploration to find out what I wanted and dealing with the problems that I met during the time.

I always loved drawing when since I was a child. My dream changed a lot of times from painter to fashion designer, interior designer and production designer. I decided to choose to join the graphic design program in my undergraduate because I did not know what I exactly wanted and many said that I would be able to do anything when I studied graphic design. That idea was not good in the end. The editorial design for printed matter or digital media such as posters and books was most focused on my major. However, I found myself more interested in hand-making artwork, animations, videos and films. I was so confused and was almost burnt out because I just tried to fit myself into my major even though I had not passion on it. However, from my 3rd year, I decided to explore new things related to video and films. I took some of classes to learn live-action films, cinematic scenario, motion graphics in the film and theater schools. In addition to that, I participated as an art director for a short film since I was interested in production design. The exploration was so valuable and helped me to find out which ones were more interesting to me, but I still could not say what I really wanted to do.

After I graduated, I worked at an advertising company because I wanted to experience set design for TV commercials based on my interest in the production design. However, I could not find my passion in the advertising industry itself. After that, I applied for a set designer position in a big entertainment company, but I did not make it. Though it was a just common job interview failures, I was so sad because it was my first time and spent a lot of time and effort to make it. That made me think about the need to study the spatial design in academia, not just in the field. This idea popped up again on my mind when I applied and failed at some exhibition designer positions at other museums after I finished working at National Museum of Korea and the National Museum of Modern and Contemporary History. I needed to learn proper design skills and knowledges for spatial design. Also, I could see at some point, many of museums just repeated similar design because it was a governmental organization. I wanted something new and creative, not just for exhibition design.

In 2017, I started preparing my portfolio for graduate school by creating a lot of installations. However, I could not just be happy because I was doing a big adventure and challenging myself. I had no financial support to study abroad. The only way that would allow me to do was to apply for the Fulbright scholarship program. Unfortunately, I could not make that year. I should have stopped and given up when I thought about my situation. Instead of giving in to it, I applied for the scene design program at CalArts that year to see if I was qualified to study spatial design. Finally, I was accepted. Nevertheless, my situation did not allow me to study abroad. I still could not find any financial resources and even my mother’s health had deteriorated. I had to give up everything. However, many of my friends and mentors gave a lot of advice and gave me a positive energy to try it one more time. Fortunately, I was able to postpone enrollment at the school and could be a Fulbright Scholar in the following year. After I got through all the things, I am now studying scene design at CalArts.

Now, I can say that I am interested in spatial design and it looks like my struggles all ended, but it is not. My struggle will continue. I still need to experience more diverse things within this area to find out what I can do and what I specifically want to achieve. Also, my program is a 3-year course but the Fulbright scholarship will support me for only two years. I wish I will be able to find a good way to finish my studies in the third year. I need to keep my exploration.

We’d love to hear more about your work and what you are currently focused on. What else should we know?
The special thing about my career is that I am pursuing multidisciplinary design and art and that I have been creating design and art crossing a lot of boundaries. Though my background is graphic design, I did not limited myself to two-dimensional art and design and explored diverse areas including videos and spatial design. Let me talk about my previous journey in Korea. In 2017, I made a studio under the name of Fall and Water Studio. I have been creating installations and illustrations and graphic designs as a freelance designer.

I would like to talk about the artwork and projects that I did for museums. In terms of installation work, I created 3-dimensional sculpture that was installed to emphasize the most important relics of a special exhibition hosted by the Museum of Silhak as a freelance designer. In the process, I learned how to manage time and be cooperate with a lot of different people as a freelance designer. In the process, I studied a 3D modeling tools that I had not experienced and had a great chances to listen to the opinions from new people who had the knowledge in architecture, video installation.

I also designed graphics for a few of educational programs including “MMCA Highlight” run by the National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, Korea. While I worked as an intern at the Children’s Museum at the National Museum of Korea, I made illustrations for some of activity books that the visitors could use when they were in the exhibitions, which still exist. Also, I drew illustrations that were applied to one of the part of the special exhibition and to the floor of the outdoor playground.

In addition to working on the commissioned projects, I have been creating my own artwork. I made installations that mostly showed my personal emotions and thoughts such as loneliness. The installations include “Zeze’s room’ and ‘Memories” collaborating with people who had knowledge in architecture and product design. I also did an illustration project. One of my memorable moments was participating in “The Seoul Illustration Fair vol.7” last July 2019, the biggest illustration festival in South Korea. I created eight different digital illustrations exhibited and sell them to the public. It was my first participation to a big event and it was so amazing to interact with the audience and my friends and get feedback from them.

I think it is only the beginning of my career. I will keep learning and meet many great people with their unique backgrounds and knowledge, and to collaborate with them and create more multidisciplinary work.

How do you think the industry will change over the next decade?
I want to talk about the future of the entertainment industry such as exhibitions, performances, events, and contemporary art that I am interested in. After the next five or ten years, there will be much various innovations and changes that I cannot imagine now. I believe that not only the combination of elements within the realm of art but also the connections and collaborations between all disciplines such as engineering, architecture, etc. will be more than ever.

Various technologies such as interactive media, 3D printing, VR, AR, and projection mapping are being quite widely used. Projects that apply projection mapping technology to the exterior walls of buildings, exhibitions, and parts of shows are commonplace. Also, this changes the audience’s experience. We can see a lot of events that let the audience use their mobiles to physically or remotely interact the space or the artwork. An example of amazing projects combined with technologies is created by Teamlab, in which lighting and images change when visitors touch the screen or installed objects from the exhibition hall. There is also a three-dimensional object created based on research on architecture and engineering technology, such as Olafur Eliasson studio, which I think amazing.

As you may see, the Covid-19 situations forced a lot of venues and artists to switch from offline to online platform to present their artwork to the public. Therefore, new research to deal with this situation and the audience will have totally different experience from what they do now. I want to make it possible for people from different fields to collaborate with creators in various fields who have too diverse background knowledge and skills to have a new cultural experience.

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Image Credit:
Chusu Kim

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