At the heart of Korea’s contribution to London’s first design biennale is a digital rendering of Ahn Gyeong’s famous realisation of a visionary dream described by his patron, Prince Anpyeong, a son of King Sejong the Great.
On the left of the image, in place of the calligraphic colophon provided by Prince Anpyeong himself is an extract from Thomas More’s Utopia, in a new graphic typeface – Peach Blossom – designed specifically for this project.
In the middle of this Thomas More passage is an empty window, where visitors to the exhibition, or visitors to the project’s website, can type their Utopian vision in a sentence no longer than a Tweet. As they type, their sentence is transcribed into Peach Blossom font, each character superimposed on the previous one, so that as each successive character is added the monogram becomes more and more indistinct. As the visitor hits “return” a piece of software referencing a modified Microsoft analytics library analyses the sentiment expressed in the visitor’s Utopian vision; the monogram launches from its home in the colophon on the left of the painting, and flies across the utopian landscape until it settles on a seemingly random rocky peak that has been determined by the software routine: the more positive and utopian the sentiment, the further to the right in the painting the characters settle – on the right of the painting is the utopian peach blossom land itself, while on the left of the painting is the real world in which we live.
Finally, to the right of the landscape is another digital colophon. Like a ticker tape, the individual sentences typed by visitors expressing their utopian vision scroll in front of your eyes, again in Peach Blossom font.
It has to be said that some visitors have the strangest vision of utopia. No censorship is exercised over what people type, and you can look at where individual monograms have settled on the landscape to see what people have typed. One person’s ideal world is where Coldplay comes to visit for some tea. Each to his own.
The London Design Biennale is at Somerset House until 27 September 2016.