Krista Kim is revolutionizing how art and technology interact. The Toronto-based artist’s vivid works—expressed with algorithms and LED light as opposed to a brush and paint—are rooted in a deep knowledge of Web 2.0’s adverse impact on society. Dubbed Techism, Kim’s movement aims to use this “digital disruption” for the betterment of humanity. With an emphasis on collaboration between creatives and the tech industry, and fostering genuine connections in the Information Age, Techism is a manifestation of Kim’s confidence, aplomb, and optimism.
Kim credits her father—a martial artist and acupuncturist who emigrated from Seoul, South Korea to a small town outside of Toronto in the early ’70s—with instilling these qualities in her. “I was the only non-white child in my school aside from my younger sisters, so I experienced a lot of bullying,” she recalls. “The children were a little cruel at times, but my father was serene no matter what happened. He was the eye of the storm.”
After studying political science at the University of Toronto, Kim relocated to Seoul in 2001 where she worked as a culture reporter for The Korean Herald. “I was interviewing actors, producers, directors, and singers. I really enjoyed it,” she says. “But I also felt unfulfilled because I eventually put myself in the artists’ shoes and realized that I wanted to express myself in a similar way.”
Upon moving to Singapore in 2010 with her then-husband and two children, Kim took a leap of faith and enrolled in the Masters of Fine Arts program at LaSalle College of the Arts. “I was going through anxiety, depression, and the breakdown of my marriage at the same time,” she reveals. This cathartic time of discovery led her to Transcendental Meditation practice. While this metamorphosis allowed Kim to restore peace and nurture the artist within, the world around her was now glued to smartphones, living at the behest of technology.
From her Toronto studio, Kim spoke with COOLS about human evolution in the Digital Age, the need for interdisciplinary collaboration, and how art can change the future of technology.
What prompted you to establish the Techism movement?
“I was trying to understand how one experiences digital communication through the medium of light. The digital medium is light. I studied Marshall Mcluhan in Toronto as a political science major. He coined the phrase ‘the medium is the message.’ He understood that the medium through with information is disseminated in society not only affects the individual but culture at-large. It affects the physiological processing and the interactions of human beings. He was basically addressing the advent of the electronic age.
“While I was working on my thesis at Lasalle, I realized that we’re going through another transformation in the Information Age—the digital disruption. I began feeling the effects of digital disruption. Once everyone had a smartphone in their hand, the game changed. Everyone became addicted to their devices on a whole new level. I began to wonder who controls and collects all of this? It felt like a real opportunity for certain companies and power structures to easily prey on people like never before in human history.”
After witnessing technology diminish human interactions, why make it your medium? Is your intention to make it a conduit for human emotion as opposed to the controller of it?
“That’s exactly it. I realized that people were blindly relinquishing their autonomy to these digital devices and their behavioral systems, the apps. It’s a culture of passively swiping, liking, and clicking. Young people are more comfortable texting each other than being face-to-face or having a phone conversation. Human interactions have been diminished by engineering and design. As an artist, I understand design and how it affects human beings. Techism comes from that. It calls for people to be aware that we are the creators.
“I feel that because artists pick up on what’s going on in a distinct way, it’s our duty to bring people together and forewarn the possibilities of where technology can go without the human element. We have the power to a new vision to the world.”
And your vision is about blurring the lines between tech and art?
“Some say that technology and art are unrelated, but for me, they’re not. Digital technology is a beautiful opportunity for us to connect in ways never before possible, but it’s all about design. How was the technology designed and for what purpose?
“Techism is about engaging with the latest technology and expressing what it means to be human through it. The problem I find when I go to art fairs is that the art world is deeply entrenched in painting and sculpture because it’s market-oriented. And that’s fine. But we need all expressions of art. We also need individuals who are tapped into where art is going and where our society is going. It really is a philosophical matter.”
The Techism Manifesto asserts is that with every technological invention comes a new way to express what is beautiful, and, subsequently, it results in the evolution of humanity. Tell me more about that.
“This is why I was prompted to write the manifesto. I felt that there was a creative vacuum. That vacuum is a result of the speed of the disruption. It’s faster than ever before. It’s so vast and so fast that it’s difficult for people to even understand what’s happening, and it’s all happening beyond our reach.
“It is the engineers and the capitalists who are pushing this new technological wave. Very few artists and philosophers are participating. There’s one TV show called Black Mirror that addresses the digital disruption. That’s why my movement is exists. We need artists to open eyes and help people understand the gravity of the situation. Where there is beauty, there is peace.”
Where does the serenity in your work some from?
“Meditation is the foundation of my art. I was just beginning to practice Transcendental Meditation when I began to create. My intuition told me to work digitally with light. I followed my intuition and that’s when I began to create incredible pieces.
“When I created the first genesis piece of this entire body of work, I felt solace. I thought, ‘If it’s healing for me, then must be healing for others.’ I want to create a space of meditativeness for the viewer in the digital form. I believe that meditation will save humanity. I believe that the more meditators are during the digital disruption and going forward, the better off our civilization will be.”
Ultimately, Techism feels like a call to share information. How do you see this interaction evolving as we move forward?
“The binary systems that have separates us since the Industrial Revolution are no longer working. They are falling away and people are now engaging in a new non-binary existence, from sexuality and gender identity to style and education. We’re global. We no longer have to conform to one binary code. As a result, bringing many different viewpoints into one project is now considered the most ideal scenario, whether it’s in business or education.
“I work in gradients. The gradient represents this shift from from the binary to the non-binary, where you have a beautiful vista of color. You don’t know where it starts, you don’t know where it ends. There is no separation. It’s a blending. It’s a coexistence. It’s beautiful because you have to accept all the colors together as one. That’s the future.”
Who are some of the creatives in fashion that are inspiring you right now?
“My recent collaboration with Lanvin that was truly inspiring. Olivier Lapidus, who is a follower of the Techism movement, inspires me because he’s always been at the vanguard of technology and developing haute couture. He was completely ostracized in the ’90s for integrating technology into couture. He’s starting his own brand, which I’m very excited about.
“I also respect how Virgil Abloh has been able to tap into this zeitgeist. He understands how to blend different worlds. He’s truly a disruption designer.”
How do you disconnect and take care of yourself? Do you have any beloved beauty products or rituals?
“During the wintertime I am dependent on the Kiehl’s Hydro-Plumping Re-Texturizing serum. I also use this incredible Christian Dior moisturizer that my sister introduced me to. It really hydrates my skin in the winter. In terms of pampering, I definitely do Reiki session once a month to balance my energy.