It is impossible to have direct experiences in the position of others. The position a whale as a non-human being is even an unimaginable area. The project <Big Dreams> by Min-young Kim and Jae-hoon Choi offers the experience of becoming a whale indirectly using a VR device. An animal rights activist So-young Park talks about the destructive nature of human society in the eyes of whales.
White keys on the piano, camera films, grease on women’s corset, and a street light… All this was a whale. In the 19th century, people made piano keys with the bones of whales and camera films with gelatin from a whale skin. The hardened whale beard became a corset, and a street light that fueled the whale oil lit up above the head. At times, the sick people dug into the body of the dead whale and got some hot steam staying inside of it. Whales laid the bottom of our civilization. We ate and wore whales, washed our bodies with whales, stepped on them, and blossomed artistic spirits.
Today, whales are at the apex of environmental pollution. Whales swallow pieces of plastic that dominated the Earth and small fish that have accumulated a lot of toxicity in their bodies. Disposable items such as cups, straws, and masks that we throw away everyday cross over from the lands to the sea and take the future away from whales that have swam vigorously. This wonderful creature faithfully accumulates and builds up as many contaminants as a large body. Abandoned fishing lines and unidentified fishing wastes wind around the whale’s body. The whale slowly dies because of its bounded body with wastes. Whales are huge victims of the sea. The sea that brings whales to death is a grave.
The tomb is also on land. Even at this moment, numerous whales are trapped in narrow aquariums waiting for death. Whales that swim dozens of miles a day have nothing to do but simply circle the same spot in a tight glass tube. They cannot even lie down or rest because people visit to take photos, tap the glass, and feel joy. More than 100 species of whales that lived all over the Earth have become extinct and only a few species are left. It is us who keep them in prison and make them disappear.
Dark and deep underwater. Every time I move, the water wraps around me. Air bubbles rise, and I can feel heavy vibrations. There are sounds somewhere. The sounds of low howls, buzzing, snapping, thumping. Not far away, whales are making their presence using their voices. Visitors open their ears and grope around, like whales that recognize the environment and their friends with reverberations.
This is a wriggle towards becoming the whale. It is an effort to see the world in the ways of whales by assigning us to the place of whales. It is an attempt to narrow the distance between humans and non-human beings. Through interactive media art, artists Min-young Kim and Jae-hoon Choi suggest that visitors ‘become and see’ whales, so they can look back at how humans and non-human beings are connected.
The visitor’s sight varies from time to time depending on external auditory stimulation. It embodies the ecology of whales that distinguish their companions by sounds and seek prey. At the same time, it is a metaphor for how human activity turns non-human areas into ‘different spaces’. As mentioned above, humans are destroying non-human habitats throughout all the areas with no doubts.
We know that to become a whale is inevitably to fail. Perhaps we will never know how to become this animal. We can never comprehend the heart-pounding feeling of swimming in the deep sea, and the overwhelming feeling of exploring thousands of meters below. Similarly, we can only guess why hundreds of whales are being pushed into the shore and choose to die. When it comes to whales, we are just outsiders.
However, we can also start from here. To know, we are willing to push the limits. <Big Dreams> seems to say that the first step is to be aware of its impossibility.
 『The World in the Whale』Rebecca Giggs, Bada Books
Min-young Kim, Jae-hoon Choi (New Media Artists)
Min-young Kim and Jae-hoon Choi are exploring the possibilities of media art to create audiovisual interactions and environments of synesthetic experience to rethink social issues in diverse perspectives. This work provides an opportunity to look beyond humanism and to look at the world and environmental issues from a different perspective by implementing an auditory space where people can experience the sensory system of whales.
So-young Park (Animal rights activist, Journalist)
Park graduated from the Department of Korean Language and Literature at Korea University and has been working as a journalist for 10 years. In 2016, Park met her first cat, Tora, and later, she adopted Seoksu, Shoko, Mori, and Suri, whom she met on the road. She is operating more than 10 feeding stations for stray cats with her sibling. Park hopes all animals to be safe and free and believes that the day will come soon.