ZER01NE’s ‘Seoul LiDARs’ Explores a Physical World Created with Data from an Artistic Perspective


A project team “Seoul LiDARs” consisting of ZER01NE creators Yang Sookyun, Choi Jinoon, and Hyun Parke participated in the 2018 Ars Electronica Festival with their project, “Volumetric Data Collector”. Having diligently collected data even while traveling Seoul and Linz back and forth, the team told us their vivid impressions after just coming back from the international art festival.

Q. Please introduce the project team Seoul LiDARs to us.
A. Seoul LiDARs is a team of creators who focus on the non-universal usability of technologies universally applied in industries and demonstrate it through artistic experiments. We did a project where we shared an experience of taking a LiDAR sensor, which is used for object recognition during self-driving, as a sensory device extended from human body.

Q. We know it is hard to be selected as a participant artist of the Ars Electronica Festival since it is a world-renowned event. How come your team participated in the festival?
A. We participated in the workshop “POST-CITY LAB/Seoul”, planned by ZER01NE and Ars Electronica last June. At the time, we wore a LiDAR backpack we made in order to easily and precisely tell the international experts what kind of work we were doing and what thoughts we had, while continuously sharing perspectives with them during the workshop. After that, the Ars Electronica suggested us participating in the exhibition and afterwards sent us a notice through ZER01NE that our work was going to be displayed at “The Practice of Art & Science” part of the festival.

Q. You presented Volumetric Data Collector at the festival. What is it about?
A. Volumetric Data Collector is our first experiment of testing the possibility of exchange between human senses and LiDAR sensing technology of perceiving and placing objects as dots. We made a LiDAR sensor in a backpack form so that people can carry it around; we carried the sensor by ourselves and traveled around many places of Seoul not approachable by cars. Through this inefficient sensory device combined with human mobility, we conducted a simple task of recording our routes as accumulated data.

Q. We would like to know how your work is connected with “Error—the Art of Imperfection”, the subject of this year’s festival.
A. We see that errors occur in situations where the result, purpose, or direction is already set, and that an error is as another kind of possibility. Wouldn’t be humans carrying high-priced devices for industrial use a kind of error as itself? We removed the option of the universal application of a LiDAR and combined sensory function of a LiDAR and moving capability of humans. We also volunteered to conduct the experiment by ourselves and to have an experience of perceiving the world through the data created by machine algorithm. Through our project, we are asking a question about the way of defining a physical space with the senses aroused from the outside of human body and the effects (error) on human perception produced by such way.

Q. How did the exhibition go?
A. We filmed the process of collecting of data around Inwangsan Mountain, shops in alleys around Cheonggyecheon, and Gangnam Station while wearing a LiDAR backpack and presented it at POSTCITY (an exhibition space at the Ars Electronica festival). We showed the scenes of us wearing a backpack in Seoul collecting the data, the point cloud data obtained by the LiDAR backpack, and a 360-degree video of the place of recording the data. We connected LiDAR sensors to the exhibition space so that the viewers could see their movements real-time and also moved around the space by ourselves once a day wearing the LiDAR backpacks, to which we think a lot of people showed curiosity.

Q. What was most impressive to you at this year’s Ars Electronica Festival?
A. We think the festival clearly showed its intention to not just dwell in the area of art but also to integrate science, technology, and society. The level of interest from the public and people’s attitude of viewing the works were also very impressive. Media works often get damaged at exhibitions; the attitude of the viewers approaching the media works at the festival seemed quite distinguished.

Q. What would be your respective impressions of having participated in the Ars Electronica Festival?
A. Yang Sookyun: I had a great time participating as an artist in the Ars Electronica Festival, which I only had seen on the Internet or paper, and forming empathy with people at the art & technology area.

Hyun Parke: I was impressed by the works applied with technologies not only of art but also of other areas and, in particular, the ways of such works showing the connection between the works and people.

Choi Jinoon: I had a great opportunity to observe how many areas such as art, science, technology, society, and education are closely connected. It was especially good to share opinions with many viewers and think more deeply about how our project works and what kind of role it plays.