Interview by Allan Gardner
binder-a is a Seoul-based collective of designers utilising cutting-edge techniques and technologies to produce innovations in an interactive installation. Pushing the boundaries of familiar styles, particularly projection mapping, they create an aesthetic experience for which it is challenging to find a comparison. Through a pointed, direct control of light and image, the group produces visual material verging on the uncanny.
In 2019’s Saltation Part II, Binder-a put together an installation challenging the viewer’s perception. As the work progresses, one is put in a position of enquiry – enquiry as to the nature of the material, the lights as they mimic cutting tools, producing something like a hologram of glistening debris. The projections resemble laser beams, pulsing and jolting. Yet, their weight remains malleable, switching from cutting tool to aesthetic accent through to diagrammatic structure in a short time.
The intensity of Rosetta (from the aforementioned Saltation Part II) is counteracted by the subtlety of works like Bandi (2018). In Bandi, firefly-like shapes and swirling lights begin to hover over verdant foliage, giving the space the atmosphere of a fairytale or something dreamlike. As opposed to the previously discussed works proving the power of the techniques employed by Binder-a, Bandi goes some way to showing the ability that their pointed use of technology has to alter a landscape.
binder-a’s technical mastery has not gone unnoticed in the commercial world. The group have been commissioned by the likes of Mercedes, Hyundai, Lexus and LG to produce work for ad campaigns and tradeshows. In these situations, Binder-a has produced whole environments aiming to showcase a futuristic vision of the space in which the commercial entity inhabits, employing total control of light to generate unique user experiences.
Moving forward, binder-a aims to increase their productivity with more projects in the upcoming twelve months. Having produced hardware which synchronises the myriad images, videos and sounds present in the group’s work, the process becomes less about the challenge of technology and more about the exploration of endless possibilities, most importantly, the production of new experiential environments.
binder-a is a collective of designers studying interactive visual installation based on new art and technique-intensive projection mapping. For those that are not familiar with the platform, who is behind binder-a? What are your background and interests?
We are binder-a, based in Seoul, Korea. Initially, we mainly performed audiovisual work through programming and VJ with musicians, but after we started working with 3D CG crews, we moved on to projection mapping. At that time, few teams in Korea could implement projection mapping.
It came naturally to us, and we were able to increase the size of the team over the first few years, producing the content, planning and design of Korean companies’ overseas events. This was possible by including the desired projection mapping and interactive media art.
We wanted to install lights in the style of our projection mapping, but during the project, we noticed this wasn’t how we hoped and produced the various kinds of video content needed for the event. In addition, clients did not allow us to display our creative capabilities as time passed. Finally, we got tired of it, stopped all the work, and had time to think about the problem.
Then we did minimal content creation for system operation and spent most of our time searching for something new that we could do well. That was the Saltation Part II and then Rosetta. There are now eight of us, and each of us is leading a different field of work. We are also working today to show a new audiovisual experience focused on magical space.
What are your main aims behind binder-a?
We are recreating a space using light and working with team members on fun and worthwhile projects.
Rosetta, one of your recent works, is a kinetic sculpture using laser and projections; Could you tell us the intellectual process behind the piece?
We’ve been mapping projects to different objects for a long time. Unfortunately, mapping was a technique that had significant limitations on expression, depending on the object being read out. Of course, it is possible to change style according to the artwork, but as we continued with Binder-a, we felt the limitations were internal. As a reaction, we developed techniques that allowed us to break from the confines of projected facades.
More three-dimensional, more spatial. A hologram is the only way to make a three-dimensional representation of space possible, but the real hologram is still a far-fetched story. So, why not use the laser? The primary light that expresses holograms. We tested how much the laser could communicate lines or faces in an empty space and how the mapping image represented on the laser light and the facade would interact and look like one. The result was very satisfying, and I first worked on audiovisuals such as arcade games. An exciting result came out, titled Saltation 1. From here, we went straight to creating a second, more advanced work. The scalability of the space was yet to be.
I visited a museum whilst on a business trip to Europe and became interested in their sculptural exhibits. They were wonderful works from hundreds and thousands of years ago. However, a new idea came to mind right away from the sculpture that was born out of the hands of countless craftsmen. They were carving the wall with a laser. The laser is the hand of the craftsman, and the scene made like that becomes the craftsman’s work. With this interaction, when a laser cuts a stone, the stone dust falls to the floor. The idea alone made our project mapping work step forward.
When we returned to Korea, the company tested and began manufacturing a conveyor device that moves lasers, images and stones. Finally, we announced our exhibition, named Rosetta, after the ancient Rosetta Stone found in Rosetta along the Nile River in Egypt.
What were the technical challenges for the development of this piece?
It was the synchronisation of the whole system. Laser, projection video, and kinetics object, these three elements run as one and remove stones from the floor during the test period and rehearsal.
What directions do you see taking binder-a into?
We are aiming to put more focus on the work of the group. Previously announcing new works once a year, we aim to publish two works this year. All are new expressions in the composition of space through light. It’s a piece of work that will show our direction.
What is your chief enemy of creativity?
Money, it’s necessary to make something.
You couldn’t live without…