Leo Kang's Frontstage

I Want To

4th Version (electronics on canvas)

3rd Version (TEI edition), 2018

2nd Version, 2013

Original Version, 2011


Publication: Kang, Laewoo. “I Want To: Multi-media Installation for Exploring Our Desire”, Proceedings of International Conference on Tangible, Embedded, and Embodied Interaction (TEI). ACM, 2018
** Award: 4 Blue Ribbons at Maker Fair NY 2012

doi: https://doi.org/10.1145/3173225.3173315 / download: [pdf]

- Exhibition and invited talk at iConference 2012 in Toronto, Canada,
- World Maker Faire 2012 in Hall of Science, Queens, NY - 4 blue ribbons award
- Solo Exhibition at Olive Tjaden Hall, Ithaca, 2013
- Tangible, Embedded and Embodied Interactions 2018, Stockholm, Sweden

Interview with Makezine : http://blog.makezine.com/2012/09/26/maker-faire-new-york-i-want-to-interview-with-leo-kang/

Meeting in the Medium :Leo Kang's I Want To at Tjaden

‘I Want To’ is a series of multi-media art installations that explores how our desire is presented, negotiated and internalized in contemporary digital media. The system of this project extracts live Twitter messages that start with ‘I want to.’ The expression ‘want to’ becomes ‘have to’, and the newly composed sentence is displayed on the television screen while also being vocalized through speakers. With each sentence, the custom-made wooden toys respond by marching in unison. This installation give the audience an opportunity to explore our hopes and desires as unconscious internalizations of external expectations and social norms.

When we say that we ‘want to do’ something, the desire might not be motivated by our minds, but created to satisfy social expectations in everyday social institution such as families and workplaces. As Foucault explains in Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison [1], people in society may believe that they are under constant observation through such everyday social mechanisms, and as a result they regulate themselves. Furthermore, such self-discipline may become internalized and make us think that those disciplines are our actual desires.

Take the following Twitter messages as examples: “I want to get married”, “I want to study at Harvard”, “I want to get pregnant soon and have a baby”, “I want to glorify Jesus”. Do these desires present something that they really wish to achieve or something that society makes them believe or present as if they have such desires (or something in-between)? The project, I Want To, provides a techno-aesthetic space in which the audience can observe our presented desire in digital social media, and to think about such questions through computational, aesthetic and critical ways.

In the original version, one hundred custom-designed wooden toys, a television screen and speakers comprise the installation, which is controlled by public live Twitter messages. The system extracts the most recent Twitter messages starting with the word ‘I want to’ every 15 seconds, then the expression ‘I want to’ is replaced to ‘I have to.’(e.g. ‘I want to get married’ becomes ‘I have to get married’). The television displays this newly formed sentence while being vocalized through speakers. With each new sentence, all of the wooden toys start to march in unison.

The second version involves a bigger exhibition space. A beam projector has been used instead of the tube screen for this version. The third version involves three different tangible interfaces (crank, button, sound) where users can individually and collectively enable wooden toy’s marching and visualization of Twitter message in the mini LED screen.


* The 4th version (void loop crave) is built with much helps from Marty Sullivan (MPS 18, Cornell) and Alexis Vinzons (BS 19, Cornell)
* The 3rd version (TEI edition) is built with much technical help from Marty Sullivan (MPS 18, Cornell) *