11.22-12.4. 12-6pm.
BOAN1942 / Boan Stay 4F
33 Hyoja-ro, Jongno-gu, Seoul, South Korea


Exhibition Essay

Caring. Moving. Observing, garden for all 

Sungah Serena Choo

Find a place, let it rain. Plant the seeds you prepared. Let two to three weeks pass. In one morning, the land’s surface will be taken over by green and gray sprouts. Find the alleys between those islands, and repeat the process. 

As humanity developed cities, the role and functions of gardens changed along. Gardens opened up possibilities in urban spaces with aesthetic vistas and they served public good as communal cultural spaces. Various types and structures of gardens brought together collective spaces for commoning, joy, and contemplation. At some point, a society with a self-sufficient economy, labor power, and dwelling found gardens as alternative solutions to their urban issues. Nowadays, gardens are not only places of physical gathering, they intervene in the fabric of everyday life, and contribute to our lives in less visible ways. Gilles Clément, a gardener who was born in 1943, focuses on the creation of space with the movements and shapes of plants. The concept of ‘island’ and ‘alley’ applies to the land in question, as the land’s form and structure, and finding the ‘moving garden’ that naturally inhabits the spaces. This approach is similar to the garden.local’s agenda. Here, the idea of gardening implies dedication to better our everyday spaces and collective ideals. Taeyoon Choi continues to think about the human and natural relationship, with technical and computational systems in symbiosis. This connects to the idea of care within the network of community members.

The exhibition garden.local is a virtual garden populated with digital mushroom, moss, lichen, their decentralized and symbiotic networks. The term localhost is how computers identify and call themselves in the networks. This idea of localhost is the starting point of the garden.local. The digital garden is designed to be inclusive of new possibilities, a fertile ground for further growth. The term ‘garden’ and ‘local’ encompass physical and virtual experiences in a spatial manner. Taeyoon approaches computer code with a spatial perspective. The gardens are made up of independent spatial modules. This design does not limit the ideas of localhost as data storage. It is a poetic space of networks and an actual garden in a sculptural form.

In 2021, Taeyoon Choi presented Interweaving Poetic Code, an exhibition on the microhistorical craft of coding. In this new exhibition garden.local, he sculpts with code to create abstract representations of mushrooms, lichen, and moss. The garden.local is a metaphorical space for contemplation. Included in the exhibition, The Fall is an animation displayed on a tablet PC. In 2021, Taeyoon Choi exhibited an earlier version of garden.local at the Art Center White Block, including large-scale wall drawings. The same characters are made into an animation, where the viewers follow characters falling down to the center of the earth, facing the fundamental technological infrastructures. Passing the trash, rare earth minerals, as the viewers go down to the center of the earth, they get closer to the binary system. In the end, the garden exists as the protagonist of the narrative, along with the social infrastructure, and concrete rules of control.  Taeyoon Choi establishes the viewer as an individual object in connection with nature and network space. Like gardening with great care, the visitors can connect through organic networks toward coexistence and autonomy.

The room in Boan Stay is a cozy living space. Here, thirty laptops and actual, living moss are set up like small islands. The laptops are arranged in grids, like how the Internet connects the servers, and moss and other characters mix around across the screens. “We can use code for poetic expression” as the artist said. The virtual garden in the exhibition is cultivated along with the ever growing physical garden. The three types of organism that Taeyoon Choi chooses, becomes animated and abstracted into aesthetic forms. He worked with a team of engineers and designers to create green and orange themed garden.local, a website served on a Raspberry Pi computer. Viewers are invited to use their smartphones to access the garden and observe their creatures grow. Viewers can select one of the three types of creatures, which freely move around the thirty laptops and evolve over time. The creatures are not fixed in one place, they move and evolve in digital space, This fluid approach to gardening is like Donna J. Haraway’s concept of ‘Becoming-with’ which is not strictly fixated on a certain species, the potential of being open to change, and willing to accept the unpredictable Other. Here, agents and subjects activate the garden. The garden for ‘all’ includes humans and technological systems, living and nonliving things, agents and subjects that care, move, and observe the garden.  

Taeyoon Choi creates fertilizers(code) for living and nonliving beings to coexist on decentralized networks, and takes on tendering the various species to freely find their settlement in a sustainable garden. The software generated animation and video based on his drawings, centers the garden’s spatial elements. The act of gardening includes bodily gestures, spatial arrangements and commitment towards its maintenance. The gardens are not only cared for by the humans, but the creatures in the gardens coexist with the audience participation. Here, the garden’s arrangement is based on abstract painterly images, in an elementary form that has the center and the periphery. The garden.local finds energy in the garden, and moving of the earth with various species. Taeyoon Choi manages the movement of the species and performs a type of a minimalist gardener. In this poetic space, my space becomes your space, and our space becomes available for the collective gaze. 

Taeyoon Choi and CollaboratorsTaeyoon Choi: Gardner
Sungah Serena Choo: Curator
Jaemin Shin: Project Manager
So Sun Park: Web Developer/Product Manager
Seunghun Jang: Server Engineer
Yunseo Go: Interactive Web/Motion
Cezar Mocan: Web developer
Beomjum Kim: Visual/Spatial design
Donghoon Yi: Hardware/Firmware Designer/Developer
Youri Suh: Hardware Installation Assistant
Sooyoun Ga: Video
Y2k92: musicThis work was published with the support of “2022 ARKO Art & Tech”