We’ve seen nodes and networks used in many logical, sometimes strange and even beautiful ways, to accomplish a wide array of tasks. However, what you will see as the results from Soyun Park’s students for their assignment “The Beauty of Nodes” is something we guarantee you have not seen before!
Originally from South Korea and now based in The Hague, Netherlands, Soyun Park is an artist, designer, educator and founder of the innovative studio, RGBdog.
As an educator, Soyun recognizes the potential peril in learning any type of tool, where the tool might overshadow the creative work. In her classes, technology is introduced to students as a tool for fostering critical thinking and poetic expression. Understanding what it means to use the tools is part of an open discourse.
Soyun has shaped her course, ‘Designing Programs,’ at Design Art Technology Department at ArtEZ University to enable students to consciously regain user agency by scrutinizing designed software.This involves paying attention to the intricacies of how these tools are crafted to shape the user's experience. Thus, Soyun challenges her students to create works using software in ways not initially intended, with TouchDesigner serving as the first tool.
The results of this assignment manifest as differently from one another as can be imagined, taking the form of playful narratives, a visual clock, a species of nodes, an upcycling video and even... a bananabread recipe! Enjoy this diverse showcase of creativity and we hope you will think of nodes and their uses a little differently henceforth.
__Soyun's assignment description for The Beauty of Nodes
Derivative: Can you tell us a bit about yourself, the things that inspire you and spark/sustain your interest?
Soyun Park: Hi! My name is Soyun, an interdisciplinary artist, designer, educator, and founder of the creative studio RGBdog. I’m from South Korea and based in The Hague, The Netherlands.
My work often revolves around curiosity towards the relationships between technology and the world. It includes politics, phenomena, society, humans, and further.
Derivative: Your studies started with print media, then interactive digital media and then graphic design - can you speak a bit about this trajectory? I'm also wondering outside of this "formal" education what influences your thinking and work.
Soyun Park: Growing up in South Korea in a working-class family, the norm that I had to follow among all the other teenagers was studying the national curriculum for 12 hours a day until I got accepted to a university in Seoul. As I was interested in drawing, I was happy that I got accepted to the fine arts (specifically printmaking) department while I didn’t know anything about it.
After the study, I generally had no idea what I wanted to do with the knowledge. So I decided to travel leaving everything behind. Living in Australia for 3 years doing farm and factory work with my poor English, I developed my personality and relationships with others. At the end of my living there, I took a short course on interactive digital media and was lucky to get a small job as a graphic designer.
While working in a large university as a small cog who didn’t have much room to provoke creativity, I started to question what design means. I wanted to develop critical thinking.
Studying Graphic Design at the Royal Academy of Art in The Hague shaped my professional path more clearly. I got to experiment with and research a variety of technologies and subjects and meet an amazing international community with passion. By producing a lot of processes without fear, I got to run projects that were larger than myself.
Although this formal education gave me opportunities to develop my practice, what influenced me the most was life experiences from different social groups. They provoke my curiosity towards politics, phenomena, and societies often revealed in my work.
Derivative: How did you encounter TouchDesigner and how has it benefited your practice?
Soyun Park: I wanted to create a visual show for the parties that my musician/DJ friends were making. I learned how to work with Processing before but I wanted more intuitive control for my video assets. Then, I got to know TouchDesigner through my peers.
What I liked about TouchDesigner is that a person like me without a programmer’s background could create a complicated logic visually to achieve the desired setup, running in real-time. While you make a sketch with visual nodes, you also understand how this can be written in different programming languages.
For me, it’s fascinating to learn TouchDesigner as a concept and systematic thinking tool.
When I plan a live show where automation has to happen (although I never make it so complicated to the point that I can’t handle it myself), I know that I can dig for some resources that make it possible in TouchDesigner. The accessibility and helpful community are empowering. And it opens up possibilities for the work to evolve.
Derivative: You started RGBdog during pandemic as a “a community-based studio for bonding technology”, can you describe your incentive and initiatives the studio has taken on to date including the fantastic Volumetric Interviews?
Soyun Park: RGBdog started off as an audio-visual production studio where we made social events introducing creative technology. The first event we made was BedroomLiveOut, in which we danced to generated and coded audio-visuals made with TouchDesigner, MAXMSP, and Hydra created by Fingacode, Jacob Sachs-Mishalanie, LaeLume, Berk Özdemir, Char Stiles, Krumme Visuals, Currency, and myself. It’s a crazy lineup if I think about it now- a pandemic miracle, I would say.
After a couple of events and social projects, I got an urge to introduce creatives who are building beautiful communities with meaningful use of technology. I wanted to simply show how fun and intimate technology can be, in the flood of economy-centred tech products. That’s how Volumetric Interviews was born.
Technically, Volumetric Interviews are pushing the genre of a documentary by intersecting traditional film and volumetric data from Microsoft Kinect.
We believe that the future of memory-saving is in volumes rather than 2D information, considering human history's yearning to capture our moments with technological developments.
For this project and further, I’ve been closely working with Leo Scarin, the creative technologist, artist, and educator who’s also my friend and a big part of RGBdog. He has been developing TouchDesigner and Blender solutions for playful and engaging expressions to be used in the film.
The current slogan ‘a community-based studio for bonding technology’ came into effect then. Since this project, we've been researching ways to facilitate get-togethers and encourage communities with a common element, technology.
Here, the technology is an expanded definition. It can be anything from digital, TouchDesigner, web, and server building to body and physical knowledge such as fixing a bike. We believe that this common element we explore creatively teaches us ways to share solidarity.
Derivative: You have been lecturing in the Design Art Technology department at ArtEZ University of the Arts Arnhem as well as various secondary schools in The Hague since 2022. What led you to wanting to become an educator and what has your experience been so far? It would be interesting to know too what students are interested in and stimulated by at both university and secondary school levels and what your approach to teaching is.
Soyun Park: Process and conversation-driven teaching has been greatly rewarding for me. I believe art education is the core of a healthy society and, further, the planet we share with other beings. Art and culture are not facts, therefore there’s no correct answer to them.
So one element of art education I find very important is the process of recognizing an individual’s curiosity and learning ourselves in relation to others. This leads to care and respect for a community, forms opinions and unique thoughts, and creates a safe space for discussions. With this belief, I aim to introduce technology as a tool for critical mind and poetic expression in my classes.
Students from the departments of art, and educational institutions I often work with are interested in interactive, new, or old technologies. Artificial Intelligence is a hot topic for sure, and TouchDesigner is phenomenal for its expandable nature.
However, the danger of learning any type of tool is that the tool takes over the work. So when I introduce them, I try to bring discourses and concepts around them to explore what it means to use them.
Teaching secondary school students is full of surprises. Their daily engagement with technology trains them to intuitively work with the new media they encounter. When it comes to technology, they are fearless fast learners. With them, I also try to create discussions before teaching AI image creation, for example. I introduce what the current disputes are, and throw provocative questions that we can all think about and converse together before unconsciously using the tools.
Derivative: This last semester at ArtEZ you had a course called ‘Designing Programs’ in which you came up with a very novel/experimental approach to introducing the students to software and for their first assignment brought TouchDesigner and called it "The Beauty of Nodes’. Can you please tell us about your intentions and how you lead this course?
Soyun Park: I’m shaping the course Designing Programs at ArtEZ to practice gaining back user agency by consciously investigating designed software. This means, paying attention to the details of how they are designed to design the user's experience. So I challenged my students to make works out of software in a way they are not intended to be used for. I chose TouchDesigner as the first tool.
This is my short description of the assignment:
What’s important about this practice is taking control as an artist/designer who lives in an era of flooding technologies.
I didn’t only want to introduce TouchDesigner as a fascinating tool but also to provoke my students to form their own methodologies by hacking the intentions of the software.
Derivative: The works created by students where they literally used the nodes and design/structure of TouchDesigner to tell stories are remarkably unexpected and imaginative. Were you surprised by what they created and how do you think only giving them a cursory introduction to the software influenced what they came up with?
Soyun Park: I was also so surprised by all the cheeky results! There were students already familiar with TouchDesigner, but also the ones who hadn’t even touched it. To prevent making it too technical, I barely gave a workshop on TD (sorry for the students who might have thought they would ‘learn’ TouchDesigner). Rather, I introduced ways to look into what each part means, TOPs, CHOPs and such; the naming of operators and question why they are named like that; why there are program defaults like Feedback, Mapping tools, Point Clouds, how to investigate the structures of defaults and so on. We started by picking one node and writing down everything that popped up in our minds intuitively. See the esperiments of student Isaac van den Aker below.
It was very playful. I remember some of their first curiosities… One student said how nodes are connected and functioning looks like a supply factory chain (Mare), and one student played with many LFOs being displayed in the background with different rhythms.. (Isaac)
Then every week, I had conversations with each student digging into what inspired them from this limitation. As the assignment specifically asked them to include the ‘sketch’ with all the nodes in their work, it generated thoughts around systems, and topics outside the software, such as nature, living organisms, and critical views on technology. I was happy to witness that despite not going into detail about the technical aspects of TD, they managed to create original works strongly bound to their interest. Please enjoy their amazing works!
Species of Nodes - Isaac van den Aker
do you even speak gaussian? - Kaan Pişkin
The Visual Clock - Misha van Rooij
Upcycling Video - Goeun Lee
|\| () |) /-\ |_ by Sep van der Spiegel
The Digital Chrysalis - Niels Nicola
BananaBreadRecipe from TouchDesignerNodes- Mare de Boer
cybernetichomeostasis - Maroua gaddur
Who is Julia - Varvara Pekhota
Derivative: What did you take away from your experience as a lecturer this year and how do you see it influencing future courses and projects?
Soyun Park: During the first year of my long-term teaching, I found the importance of questioning and listening to students with curiosity as a tutor. It’s very rewarding to see my students growing their thoughts, and paying attention to things that were not touched upon before. The assignment The Beauty of Nodes was a good start and quite liked by them I believe, so I will run it again this semester. Iterating the assignment by focusing on some other technicalities of TouchDesigner could be done in the near future.
Derivative: What’s on your horizons now and next?
Soyun Park: TouchDesigner has been a great community introducing other DIY technologies to me. This means a lot, as I’m trying to get out of the subscription-based cooperate design tools in both medium and subject. How can we collectively and sustainably live in this transforming society? How do we reflect on our destructive habits of dealing with technology and shape a communal future? I'm interested in researching and materialising these questions artistically and educationally, in diverse forms of cinema, virtual/physical installations, and performances. Looking forward to sharing them in the near future.