The 34th Beckers Art Award has been awarded to Malmö-based artist Youngjae Lih who creates art through reverse engineering among other techniques.
Congratulations on winning the award Youngjae! Please tell us about your artistry in general and what you create.
I have always liked the invention side of engineering which is very creative, and art simply allows me to be a bit of an inventor without having to offer a marketable product. I like to find patterns to make sense of this world and I feel that the combination of art and science offers infinite possibilities.
I often approach my work through a reverse engineering process. This involves dismantling objects to understand their very core and find new ‘value’, usually through the medium of technology. In this process I explore how individuals relate to the sophisticated systems that underpin our intellectual and political institutions and even to decipher nature.
How did you win the award?
Firstly, I was surprised that they found and contacted me. I was not fully aware of the Beckers award and I guess I’m not very good at advertising myself. But the jury visited my studio and I presented examples of my work.
One of them was the sound installation ‘Hiroshima 87.2Mhz Ground Zero 380m’, which I produced in Stockholm and presented in the Hiroshima Art Documentation. It uses pirate radio wave live-stream broadcasting circuits that I built myself and deals with the survivors of the bombing regardless of their nationality.
Another example was ‘Unseen’, which was made with a programmed wearable device in the form of glasses that I developed. The device takes photos when the wearer blinks, therefore showing the ‘unseen’. The photos were taken in Chengdu, China, as I walked through the city.
What does it mean for you and your work to be awarded the Beckers Art Award 2021?
I am honoured that my activities have been recognised and encouraged. The financial support allows me to produce new work, and it’s a great opportunity to be able to show my work at Färgfabriken. To date, my artworks have taken two to three years to produce as I enjoy working on completely new kinds of projects, so hopefully this award will allow me to work more quickly from concept to completion.
Where do you see your career going as an artist?
My current plan is to expand my capabilities to explore further multidisciplinary studies and continue to develop my work as much as possible. I am interested in technology in general and believe there are more possibilities to create art that combines different disciplines. I think this will allow us to expand art into areas that are not yet considered art. The digital and social distance age also has the potential to open another exciting dimension of art.
Youngjae Lih is originally from South Korea and graduated from the Malmö Art Academy with a Master of Fine Arts degree in 2016. He produces most of his work at his studio in Malmö, but also when he is travelling and participating in residency programmes.
Lih draws on his background as an electrical engineer at a large electronics company in South Korea, and extensive knowledge of advanced technology to distribute sound and images to consumers around the globe. Often through a multidisciplinary approach to art, Lih develops his own personal solutions, produces new technology and creates alternative expressions and communication. In order to enable the person taking part in the artwork to better understand what he does, he produces manuals formulated in images as a form of documentation for the artwork.
The Beckers Art Award jury explained why Lih won: “Through his deep personal understanding of the ways in which technology works, he creates forms of communication that elevate both the simple and the complex in the potential of technology to create works of art that produce poetic qualities and unique experiences. This is art that, in the meeting between technology and content, evokes philosophical questions about perception and understanding.”
The Beckers Art award was established in 1987 and has identified and supported many young talented artists on the brink of a breakthrough in their careers. The winner is awarded a grant of 200 000 SEK and a solo exhibition that has, since 2001, been arranged and held in collaboration with Färgfabriken.