Gangnam Makeover is an online participatory augmented reality (AR) intervention at the Sinsa subway station in the Gangnam district in Seoul, South Korea. The project collects ideas about beauty from women in Korea through a central website. The collected messages are then displayed over the numerous cosmetic surgery advertisements in the Sinsa subway station through a mobile AR application. The project is meant to makeover a problematic public space that propagates a restrictive standard of beauty into a space of imagination and solidarity for women. The project explores the potential for AR to augment society by envisioning alternative realities.
To provide some background, body-shaming is still very common in South Korea, and more so for women. The Apgujeong/Sinsa neighborhood is the South Korean hub for cosmetic surgery. The subway stations there contain mostly cosmetic surgery ads depicting women with large double-lidded eyes, high noses, V-line chins, “water-gloss” skin, and slim hourglass figures. Gangnam Makeover challenges this standard by enabling Korean women to define alternative visions of beauty in Korea.
Gangnam Makeover builds on the lineage of protest AR interventions by including user-created content. This model of online participation coupled with site-specific augmentation becomes a midpoint between internet activism and physical activism, which allows for spatial intervention free of physical borders. Gangnam Makeover does not limit participation to local Korean women and is open to participation from Korean women abroad who are still affected by the Korean beauty standards. The project will continue until the end of 2020.
Agatha Park is an XR artist/technologist. She creates projections, virtual reality performances and participatory augmented reality experiences based in public space. Having been raised between many cultures and on the internet, her work often tells narratives that connect divides between physical places or between physical and digital cultures. She studied 3D computer art at the School of Visual Arts (2014) and recently graduated from the Art, Design and Public Domain program at the Harvard Graduate School of Design (2019). In conjunction to her creative practice, she has held workshops on 3D content creation and Unity 3D and offers technical services for XR projects. Her past/current clients include the Embassy of South Korea in Morocco, Harvard University, and new media artists. She works between North America and South Korea.