What will the future of technological advancement look like? Soo Hahn, Vice-President Creative of DUCFS 2021, discusses the inspiration behind the 2021 creative vision and our relationship with technology as human beings.
The power of technology is undeniable. The majority of our communication as humans had been digitised as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic. The DUCFS 2021 creative vision aims to explore the dichotomy between technological development and human connection. Soo Hahn, Vice-President Creative of DUCFS 2021, discusses the vision, reflecting on the inspiration behind it and her own relationship with technology, as well as how building and working with the rest of the DUCFS team has been in these uncertain times.
: Caragh Taylor, Head of Marketing/PR 2021
: Soo Hahn, VP Creative 2021
Talk to me about the inception of the 2021 creative vision: what was the inspiration behind it, what was it born out of?
It was an installation at the Tate which initially sparked the idea to create something which explored the power of technology and the dichotomies presented by it. I saw it last January - it was by Nam June Paik and called Sistine Chapel. It was this incredible projector installation around a room that created this intensely immersive, hyper-sensory experience. When I began to think about what I wanted to do for DUCFS 2021 in March, I kept coming back to the question - “what is all of this for?”.
Lockdown really made me think about our use of technology - some people were finding quarantine quite difficult and lonely. I questioned why this was the case when we’re all so fundamentally connected by technology - were we craving some type of connection that couldn’t be necessarily satisfied with digital connection? It was a matter of reflection for me - why have we become so inclined to become hyper-digital as a society? Of course, this vision wouldn’t be the way it is without our 2021 Creative Director, Rose Harman, because we shaped this vision together, but this creative vision was a result of reflecting and observing on this specific question.
If you could summarise the vision for 2021 in one sentence, what would you say?
An exploration into the dichotomy of technology and human connection. That’s a phrase, not a sentence. But that’s what I would say.
Talk me through the two parallel visions - DISCONNECTED and RECONNECTED. What was the impetus behind this, and how do they link to one another?
I really like the idea of contrast. When I was preparing for my Vice-President Creative interview, I knew that I wanted this to be the method by which I get my message across. Funnily enough the inspiration behind Disconnected was just looking at someone’s Youtube video and reading dehumanising hate comments. On the internet, I think there’s a tendency to really lose sight of who you are as a person or forget that someone across the screen is also just another human. Not because of anything else other than that there’s constantly so much information to digest; at one point people just become desensitised to it.
I mean, it applies to me as well - even things like looking at an emotional charity advert and just clicking ‘skip ad’ - we’ve all done it. To me, this isn’t a sustainable way to live long-term - so I wanted to contrast that with Reconnected, which starts off with reflecting on the rawness and vulnerability of humanity when you strip back the technology and information that constantly surrounds us right now. We all crave a kind of real human connection that technology can’t offer. Having said that, there is definitely a way we can use technology to enhance our connections with each other. We can optimise our relationship with technology and be far less consumed by it. This is what Reconnected is about - it’s an idealised, but hopefully realistic, version of the future.
With such a focus on technology and our relationship as humans with technology characterising the vision this year, it seems only right to ask - how do you feel your relationship with technology has changed or evolved as the world has become ever more technologically advanced?
I mean, when people are judgmental about being attached to technology, I always think the opposite - I think it’s a missed opportunity to not accept and take advantage of the fact that technology has been so interwoven into our lives. Sure, we could definitely survive without technology and many people live just fine without it. Yet I don’t think I could feel fulfilled without it. I am only able to create in many of the ways I do because technology has given me that vehicle to do so. I’ve lived in many different parts of the world, which fundamentally shaped me into the person I am - everything would have been completely different for me if there was no technology. Yes, there are definitely harmful side-effects of our world being so technological - addictions to phones and social media are very real. There is a line where, for some people, the negatives outweigh the positives. But genuinely every aspect of my life has had technology woven into it - it is a privilege and a blessing that I’m very grateful for, and moving forward I want to make the most out of it.
DUCFS has obviously been impacted by Covid-19: you, along with the other presidents, interviewed committee applicants online, and we’ve been working online and conducting meetings via Zoom ever since. How do you think this has changed DUCFS, and your experience as Vice-President Creative?
On one hand, obviously we have reaped the complete benefits of technology. It’s incredible that some of the people I’ve worked most closely with since May, and have developed a personal relationship with, I’ve never actually met. Through Zoom, we’ve managed to somehow plan a campaign and a show in the midst of a global pandemic, with exec members who were all over the world. I’m incredibly grateful for that.
But with this said, it’s been hard - not just logistically or practically, but also emotionally. At the end of the day, most of us are still sort-of strangers, you know? If I was having a hard day with all of this, where everything I was doing felt like it was falling apart, and all I could do was to lie on my floor and stare at the ceiling because I was in a completely different continent (it has happened many times) - there were times where I just began feeling really alone in it. And in the beginning, with none of us being able to properly meet physically, it was really hard to tell whether my teammates were sort of just doing what I told them to or if they were really invested in it. With so much communication done through text, it’s often really difficult to gauge what the other person thinks about you - both as a leader and a person. Everything I say as a team leader influences their opinion on me. When I slip up, I beat myself up for it. That’s a lot of pressure, and I think we feel things more acutely when you can’t read their reaction through body language.
I find it quite difficult to articulate a creative thought in my head via Zoom. Normally I rely a lot on non-verbal language - facial expressions, body movement, drawings - to convey something from my head. So trying to articulate the image in my head with words on a document or a voice memo has been challenging. Oftentimes I would come out of a call with my team members and be like “wow, I literally have no idea what I just said.” I’ve had several mental blocks and slumps about how to operate something so creative whilst having to translate that by method of technology - it’s so… inhumane. So logical. But it’s also made me try to make sure everyone on the team has some degree of understanding of what’s going on. Asking them if they’re good with everything, if they have any questions or concerns - I try to be as transparent as possible in hopes that they will reciprocate that.
What I hope people remember is that I’ve never been in this position before, and definitely never through a global pandemic where everything is uncertain in the first place. But I’m definitely getting better at managing all of it. It’s not always smooth sailing but I really love everyone on the team, and I feel the love from them. It helped a lot that I got to work with people physically in August for shoots and stuff - and also got to meet a lot of my teammates lately. I really needed to feel like we were physically achieving something together, not just through messenger or a Zoom call. Now I just try not to think about what’s actually happening, how people feel about me, how I feel about them. I just focus on getting the task done. All of this is really hard, but I don’t take any of this for granted, for sure.
How do you think we can optimise our relationship with technology?
I’m just another 20-year-old internet kid out of the 4.57 billion internet users today, so I would be lying if I said I had an answer to this one. but I think it would certainly be helpful for people to just pause for a moment to think about and reflect on all of this. Just evaluating your digital life, your connections with other people, who you are as a person - both online and offline. Then figuring out which aspect of technology is actually beneficial to your relationship with yourself and with others. That’s all I can say for now, because I’m still in the process of figuring it out.
Where do you draw inspiration from? From the digital community, or from your physical surroundings? Can we really separate the two in your opinion?
From both, definitely. Nothing technological will ever replace the value of a good conversation, or a special moment you share with people you value. But I think so much is accessible in the digital world, and so, in a way, we have the world at our fingertips. If I see something on instagram that inspires me to create something, all I need to do is just deep dive on Google and learn how to do it - I’m able to then execute it. That’s fucking cool, because there’s just so much potential. I would say that we can’t really separate digital and physical experiences; information will always come from our perceptions as humans, and therefore so will most information online that we interact with as well. Anything you find in the digital community will inevitably influence how we live offline because in the end, it’s all just one cyclical, holistic human experience.
What do you hope people will take away from the vision, and the ultimate show itself?
I don’t have a particular message I want to preach because at the end of the day, people will take away whatever they want from it. But I do hope that people look at our campaign this year and see that there is at least a point of view - that there’s a reason why we, as exec members, are doing this beyond the superficiality of it all. From that point, I hope our campaign this year becomes the stepping stone for people to genuinely reflect on what it means to be connected, both on and offline.