Oscar-nominated director and artist Erick Oh’s newest short animation film is illuminating the twilight hours of western Seoul as it is being screened for the first time against the towering walls of local art museum Space K Seoul in Mapo District.
With ambient music and pulsating abstract images that are at some points eerie and then spectacularly rhapsodic at others, Oh’s short film titled “Origin” keeps viewers engaged during its five-minute run as they try to make sense of what is happening and how to feel about it.
During a press conference for the film on Aug. 24, the 38-year-old Korean-American artist described “Origin” as a work that somewhat departs from a “typical animation film.” “It’s very abstract,” he said.
The project stemmed from Oh’s philosophical questions about humanity, like where it is headed and if it is improving. They are expressed abstractly, using virtual and augmented reality technology.
“Like the title ‘Origin,’ I wanted to depict a full cycle of life to death and everything in the middle,” said Oh. “The images in the film can be interpreted as micro as a single cell or an individual’s life to as macro as humanity, all living things or the universe.”
Oh’s goal isn’t to relay his exact purpose behind the scenes in “Origin” to the viewers.
“Rather, what I want to get across to them are the many emotions that the scenes trigger,” he said, adding that he wanted the viewers to embrace even the feeling of confusion as they watch the film.
“I didn’t want to spoon-feed anything to the viewers because individual interpretations are what completes the beauty of abstract art.”
“Origin” also differs from other short films as the 8K resolution video is screened on repeat against the side of the 11-meter-high (36 feet) grey exterior of Space K Seoul, a local art museum operated by Kolon Group. Because it is displayed outside, the film can only be seen after sundown.
Oh had wanted “Origin” to be enjoyed through various mediums so when Space K Seoul suggested an outdoor facade screening of “Origin,” Oh was intrigued.
“By being displayed against a large wall outside, people may see it from a far distance while they are walking or some may start seeing it from the middle,” he said, adding that such factors excited and inspired him further as an artist.
“Origin” is an extension of Oh’s 2021 Oscar-nominated short animation film “Opera,” which also revolves around similar fundamental questions about human civilization. But, while “Opera” was a project that was depicted with hyperrealism, “Origin” is much more abstract. Oh describes it as being art that is “beyond what words can explain.”
He called the two projects parts of his own “universe” or “world view.”
“I’ve always enjoyed ruminating about very basic yet central subjects such as life, death, and humanity, ever since I was young, and I am used to expressing them through my art,” he said, saying he was an old soul even as a child.
“But I’m not trying to suggest an answer for these questions,” he said. “They are more of a question that I am asking others to think about as well.”
“Origin” will be screened on the walls and floors outside Space K Seoul every day from 7:30 p.m. to 11 p.m. through Dec. 2.
Oh is an Oscar-nominated Korean-American filmmaker based in California. His films have been screened and awarded at numerous film festivals such as the Academy Awards and Annie Awards. Oh worked at Pixar Animation Studios as an animator from 2010 to 2016, and has worked on movies including “Finding Dory” (2016) and “Inside Out” (2015).
BY LEE JIAN [firstname.lastname@example.org]