Thursday Spotlight: Seung Chan Lim

Tell us about your background.
I studied Computer Science as an undergraduate at Carnegie Mellon University. After graduation, I started working at a Technology Design Firm called MAYA Design in Pittsburgh. During that time I also got an MBA from Point Park University. After 9 years of working as both a Computer Scientist and Interaction Designers helping the department of defense as well as fortune 500 companies design innovative products + services, I decided to leave everything behind to attend the Rhode Island School of Design to study art and design.

Name some people, artists, artistic genres, etc. that have been influential in your work.
Most directly Yong Joo Kim (Jewelry Artist), David Gersten (Architect), Paul Pangaro (Theorist), Peter Lucas (Cognitive Scientist), and Thomas Ockerse (Graphic Designer). Through them I became very much interested in the big names like Buckminster Fuller, Leonardo Da Vinci, Shakespeare, and Bach. I think I was subconsciously influenced by Ray + Charles Eames. These days I’m looking into Jiri Kylian, Isamu Noguchi, Oscar Wilde, Uta Hagen, and Andrei Tarkovsky.

Where and how do you get your ideas?
Ideas come from everywhere for me. I know this sounds cliche, but it’s true. The “how”, I think, is more interesting to talk about. When people talk about “how”, most of the times they talk about methods,
but the world’s greatest methods won’t do you any good without the attitude that is conducive to turning everyday experiences into inspirations. This is something I’ve only recently come to realize.
It’s actually very simple, yet not so easy to practice. It’s basically to never assume you know anything, and then to trust that there’s value in acting on that belief: to be both humble and courageous at the same time.

As an Asian person, I’ve always been told that I need to be humble. But for most of my life, I think I’ve confused being humble with being nice or polite. Being humble means proactively assuming that other
people or other things are infinitely more nuanced and interesting than I can ever imagine, that no matter how much I think I know about them, that it is insufficient and incomplete. I have realized that,
without humility I am basically walking around blind.

I’ve also heard that I should be courageous, but I think I’ve confused being courageous with being aggressive. There are countless number of times during the course of a single day when something tells me I should do something, or that there’s something interesting about something someone said or something I just saw, yet I convince myself I don’t need to do anything or that these feelings are insignificant. Courage is what allows you to not let your self-conscience convince you toward inaction. If you follow those seemingly mundane instincts, the whole world opens up to you in magical ways.

What materials do you work with? Describe your technical processes.

I work mostly with wood, digital bytes, photographic images, type, and my body. The technical processes vary greatly across media, so I don’t know if I could really describe them all here. But the underlying principle is same: I empathize with them as much as I can.

What do you find to be the most challenging part of being creative? What is the best part of being creative?

I hate that word: creative. I don’t feel like I am particularly creative. I’m not sure if I ever really create anything. A better description of what I do is that I make things. I make relationships between things. I try to empathize and to understand my materials such that I can make relationships among them that I believe to be meaningful and sustainable.

In this process, the challenging part is doing so in an honest way. This is difficult, because it’s not always obvious that I’m not being honest or if I am, then if it is being clearly communicated.

The best part of the process is that you get to empathize with both yourself and others simultaneously. You feel more connected to yourself and also others through this process. You gain a source of
trust, love, and hope. You find meaning in life, it gives you a reason to keep living.

What advice would you give to someone seeking advice about being an artist?

I don’t do advice. I don’t know if I’m qualified to give advice. If I were to say anything, it’d be to simply trust yourself, and to never let anyone convince you that you’re crazy.

Realizing Empathy Project Website
Realizing Empathy Blog
Realizing Empathy on Tumblr
Realizing Empathy on Facebook
Kickstarter Project

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