Reina Mun

2023 Harold and Arlene Schnitzer Prize in the Visual Arts
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Plexiglass, brass, water, custom electronics, sensors, aluminium, steel, 3D prints, motor, 2022. Supported by a grant from the Art, Culture, and Technology Program (ACT).

SilenceTop is an interactive microarchitecture that reinterprets the traditional Korean low-table Soban. This project explores the theme of silence in social and non-social settings, redefining the meaning of solitude and the pauses during social interactions.

Silence can be a language of love or the peaceful ambiance that permeates a space. SilenceTop highlights the non-linguistic cues for interaction and reframes the landscape of domestic spaces. It focuses on silence to construct a new form of interactivity between objects, space, and humans.

SilenceTop was developed through investigating sensor technologies, conditional interactivity, and design with proxemics.

It has four modes. Social mode is active when two or more people sit around the object. When silence persists for a certain amount of time in social mode, it intervenes by plucking the kalimba consisting of low-pitch semitone tines. The tones may be appealing or annoying depending on the people, but the only way to stop listening to the semitones is to open a conversation again. The aggressiveness and speed of the semitones increase with each repetition of social silence per sitting.

Lone mode is active when a single person is in the vicinity or nobody is in the same space. SilenceTop regards silence as a need to last and appreciate. In lone mode, SilenceTop generates mist that permeates the room over time, creating an atmospheric and relaxed ambiance. The dampness on the surface acts as a time indicator of how long the silence has lasted.

The IR and analog sound sensors are calibrated to recognize the conversation at 75- 78dB, the level of sound detected when a person is soft speaking 35-40 cm away from the object. The IR sensors are adjusted such that the presence is sensed at a distance of 35cm away from the object in all three sides of SilenceTop.

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Reina Mun’s SilenceTop lower perspective. Courtesy of the artist.

Reina Mun’s SilenceTop, Exploded Axo. Courtesy of the artist.

Reina Mun’s SilenceTop, Lone Silence Mode. Courtesy of the artist.

Reina Mun’s SilenceTop. Legs: aluminium, tapped acrylics, brass fittings, 3D prints. Courtesy of the artist.

Chaotic Timer

Neodymium, custom electronics, motors, LCD, plexiglass, acrylic, 3D Prints, and encoder, 2021. Supported by a grant from the Art, Culture, and Technology Program (ACT).

Chaotic Timer is an interactive and algorithmic timer driven by the user’s stress level. It subverts the conventional way of using a timer and the associated ideas of perfectionism and staying occupied.

The device consists of four oscillating modules that alter the countdown by manifesting chaotic symmetry by transitioning from chaotic dynamics to synchronized sine-wave motions over time. The neodymium beads that roll inside each swinging module act as a pendulum bob in periodic motion. It swings back and forth and is constantly on the verge of falling off the edge of the concave plate but never does, inducing anxiety and pressure in the watcher—a reflection of people’s feelings towards their daily duties. As the person watches the four modules, the kinetic motion becomes more synchronized over time. The countdown speed also depends on the stress level of the user—the higher the stress level, the slower it counts down, giving the person a long time to break out of their daily routine by watching the modules come into synchronization.

The four modules begin with random jiggling motions attributed to Perlin noises and slowly adjust themselves into a synchronized wave motion as the timer approaches its end.

Ultimately, the timer manifests a coexistence of chaotic disorder and orderly pattern. This piece connects stress with the elements of precision and productivity of a timer, challenging the traditional perceptions of timing and daily routine. The timer created subverts the mechanism of a conventional timer through stress. Its goal is to break out of one’s daily rhythmic flow, obsessed with perfectionism, daily tasks, and agendas.

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Reina Mun’s Chaotic Timer. Courtesy of the artist.

Reina Mun’s Chaotic Timer. Courtesy of the artist.

Reina Mun’s Chaotic Timer at Dutch Design Week 2022. Courtesy of the artist.

Reina Mun’s Chaotic Timer. Courtesy of the artist.

Reina Mun’s Chaotic Timer. Courtesy of the artist.

Reina Mun’s Chaotic Timer. Courtesy of the artist.

Reina Mun’s Chaotic Timer. Courtesy of the artist.

Creatures of the Current

TouchDesigner, 2022. Seoul, South Korea. In collaboration with Inferstudio.

Seoul is among the most digitally sensed cities in the world, with realtime IOT sensors capturing and publishing public data on environmental and urban phenomena. Polluted dust drifting in the air currents above and around Seoul has been the source of growing geopolitical, health, and environmental concerns over the past decade.

Every hour, Seoul reports levels of sulfur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide, carbon monoxide, ozone, PM10, and PM2.5 particulates from monitoring stations in each of the city’s 25 districts. However, encountering this data as tables of numerical values can be difficult to relate to.

In the field of ecology, researchers turn to indicator species: lifeforms whose presence and behavior evidence specific environmental conditions. Massive algae blooms emerge in waters with high levels of nitrogen and phosphate. In Britain, black soot in the air from excessive coal burning prompted the Peppered Moth to evolve darker wing pigmentation. Such phenomena are compelling events in the natural world that prompt us to look more closely at our environmental impacts.

Commissioned by F-Data-V & IVAAIU City in Seoul to produce an original artwork for their contribution to the Zer01ne 2022 exhibition, Creatures of the Current imagines a digital indicator species that responds to changes in air quality across Seoul’s 25 districts. Each district is represented by one creature of this species; whose form and behavior is driven by real time air quality sensor data. The installation acts as a virtual window connecting us to these creatures. Every hour, we spend 2 minutes and 24 seconds with each one, cycling through all districts. Just as we learn to read the subtleties of shifting expressions across faces and to associate autumnal colors with changing seasons, over time we might come to associate the creatures’ patterns and forms with different atmospheric conditions. One day, digital creatures such as these might allow us to form enduring emotional bonds with aspects of our world that are undeniably real but otherwise difficult to perceive.

Reina Mun’s Creatures of the Current. Courtesy of the artist.

Reina Mun’s Creatures of the Current. Courtesy of the artist.

About the Artist

Reina Mun is an interdisciplinary artist, designer, and maker. She focuses on various physical mediums between architecture and objects, encompassing microarchitecture, speculative devices, and functional art. By placing queries in objecthood and fostering influential interactivity, Mun seeks to imbue her works with empathetic and intimate qualities.

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Christopher Joshua Benton looks directly into the camera with arms crossed, while standing in front of an artwork with spokes of lines radiating from the left side of the frame.