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Spot walking through the center of Seoul. Spot is a yellow robot with 4 legs, with ‘Boston Dynamics’ written on the side.

Can art change the world?

6 minute read

Art has the power to move us, to challenge us, and to shape our world. It is a form of communication that allows us to explore new ideas and push boundaries. But can it change the world? This is a question that we, at Hyundai, along with artists MOON Kyungwon and JEON Joonho and our robot – Spot – are all trying to answer with our latest project.

MOON Kyungwon and JEON Joonho

MOON Kyungwon and JEON Joonho have worked together since 2009. Their first major collaboration, El Fin del Mundo (The End of the World), examined the meaning of art in a future era where all social values and orders have vanished. This piece was first presented at DOCUMENTA in Kassel in 2012, and since then has been shown at the Korea Artist Prize 2012 exhibition at the National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, Korea (2012); the Sullivan Galleries, School of the Art Institute of Chicago (2013); Migros Museum für Gegenwartskunst, Zürich (2015); and Tate Liverpool (2018).

MOON Kyungwon and JEON Joonho sitting in the center of a gallery. Behind them is a doorway lit up red and a mountainous scene projected onto the wall.

We’ve been exploring the impact of art on our society for more than a decade. MOON Kyungwon and JEON Joonho

MOON and JEON’s profound and moving work confronts us with fundamental questions about the role that art can play in our rapidly changing world and the crises that humanity faces. They do this through exploring key themes within our society, including the contradictions of capitalism, historic tragedy and the climate crisis.

Spot standing in the middle of a circle of chairs. Spot is illuminated with a spotlight and has its front lights on.

Can art change the world?

This year, MOON Kyungwon and JEON Joonho are going one step further and exploring the question of whether art can save the world. To do so, they have joined forces with Spot to capture and visualize carbon levels so that we can all see and think about our impact on the planet. After all, art can help us to explore sustainability from new angles. As climate change can’t be seen in a tangible way on a day-to-day basis, the artists set out to visualize carbon in a way that has never seen before.

Using Spot and a carbon monitoring device, MOON and JEON have collected information about the carbon levels in different parts of Seoul and used this data to create an immersive piece of art.

Carbon is all around us, and the more carbon in our atmosphere, the more problems we'll face with the earth’s temperature, along with the rise of sea level each year. By bringing together the worlds of art and innovation to tackle carbon, we aim to extend the conversation on atmospheric carbon, and, ultimately, use art to change the world.

An engineer fitting the custom-made carbon monitoring device to Spot. Behind him is a workshop filled with other kinds of robots.

How was Spot able to capture and measure the carbon levels in the air?

We equipped Spot with a custom-built carbon data-collecting device and autonomous driving system at the Hyundai Motor Group Robotics LAB.

The “Smart Carbon Monitoring Processing Unit” was produced in collaboration with professor Jeong Sujong, who works at Seoul National University Graduate School of Environmental Studies, and Hyundai Motor Group Robotics LAB, and BKID, the industrial design studio. This device detects and logs carbon levels wherever Spot traverses the city. And, in order to visualize the data in a tangible way, the design studio BKID created a carbon calendar that reinterprets the results.

Innovation is creating so many new possibilities in art.


Even with the state-of-the-art carbon monitoring device, capturing carbon levels proved to be a challenge, especially as the amount of carbon dioxide in a place actually fluctuates during the day and night.
“It has been a challenge, and it has pushed us – including Spot – to our limits. But we are eager to see the outcome... Most importantly, it’s a collaborative effort," said one of the engineers.

A close-up of the carbon monitoring device on top of Spot. The device is a black box and looks like an air filter.
Someone is walking up a staircase in Art Sonje Center. Behind him is an illuminated poster with ""Salt Lake 2008"" written on it.

What did Spot bring to the project?

So, why did the artists decide to use Spot for this project? According to MOON and JEON, the primary objective of this project was to revisit the climate issue from a non-human perspective, specifically that of the robot Spot. In fact, the artists said, “we are aspired to explore how Spot perceives its surroundings, interacts with other beings, including humans, and ultimately how this becomes a part of art,” they said. “What is more, robots are increasingly integrated into our daily lives and it's exciting to see the art community embracing this innovation.”
Accordingly, using Spot for this project is opening up a whole new conversation around robotics, art and climate change all at once.

We believe that only art can provide this glimpse of new possibilities on this journey to change the world. MOON Kyungwon

Seoul Weather Station

MOON and JEON’s collaborative project with Spot is now on view in their exhibition “Seoul Weather Station”. This exhibition uses artistic imagination and interdisciplinary cooperation to explore the rapid environmental changes that have come about through global weather phenomena and natural disasters. It examines the social role played by art.

This project fuses art with artificial intelligence and it will be exhibited at the Art Sonje Center through November 20, 2023. There will also be a talk program ‘Mobile Agora’ in which experts from different fields are invited to share their research on our rapidly changing climate and global environment.

The gallery becomes both an immersive space and a sculpture from which a non-human voice narrates the history of Earth. JEON JOONHO

Our commitment to sustainability

For Hyundai to achieve ‘Progress for Humanity’, we need to explore sustainable solutions that confront existing ways of thinking. Right now, we’re committed to building a world fit for Generation One and will continue our progress to become carbon neutral until we realize a world that is truly sustainable and liveable for all.

Check out @hyundai and @hyundai.artlab on Instagram to find out more about how we’re supporting art that might just change the world as we know it. Also, click here to find out more about Hyundai’s art initiatives.


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