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A picture of Helen Kwok

Helen Kwok

Multimedia artist, designer

in artist, designer, game, windows

Who are you, and what do you do?

My name is Helen Kwok. I'm a multimedia artist and designer and I create playful installations, experimental games, and public art activations. As an independent artist, I wear many hats and do many things. My creative practice often blends the physical and digital, crafting experiences that playfully extend beyond the screen.

I like to use technology in ways that are playful, provocative, and a bit unexpected - like getting players to sew with a real needle and thread in a videogame, use their hands to conjure ghost stories from a haunted book, or play soundscapes by touching a tree - and I like to embed technology in a way that is invisible to the player. I also love working on purely physical installations that encourage families, kids, and adults to play in public space, such as Street Tape Games and Rainbow Paths, and I collaborate frequently with my partner Chad Toprak as an artist duo.

What hardware do you use?

I use a dual-monitor desktop computer running Windows 10, alongside a silent wireless keyboard, a wireless mouse, speakers, a microphone, a webcam, and a colour laser printer in our home office. Nothing too fancy, and most are hand-me-downs from my partner. The speakers, microphone, and webcam are mainly used for virtual meetings. I love my Steelcase Leap chair - it's helped immensely with reducing my back pain and worth the investment. When I'm out and about, I use my 13-inch Dell Inspiron 7380 laptop for lightweight work.

Depending on the project I'm working on, I also have access to an array of electronics hardware - Arduinos, breadboards, jumper wires, sensors, LEDs, kits, multimeter, etc. If I'm bumping in an installation, I'll often have some chalk, measuring tapes, screwdrivers, scissors, stanley knives, and duct and masking tape with me. I document my work using a tripod and my Panasonic Lumix G7 camera.

And what software?

I primarily use Google's suite of software to manage my day-to-day work, including emails, calendar, web browsing, and file management. I like using Google Keep and Notepad++ for random lists and note-taking, and get away with using Google Slides to do a lot more than just presentations. I use Adobe programs for a lot of digital design work (Photoshop for image editing; Illustrator for vector graphics; After Effects for animation; InDesign for print; and Premiere Pro for video editing), but I'm hoping to switch to open-source and more affordable alternatives in the future.

For tracking my hours, I use Clockify. For communicating with others, I use Discord, Zoom, and Teams. I upload video documentation of my work via Vimeo and YouTube, and promote my work on the usual social media outlets (Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn). When it comes to planning our public art installations, Google Earth is great for measuring distances of sites which we cannot visit straight away. As for programming electronics, I mainly use the Arduino IDE for that. I'll also often delve into other specific software depending on the project I'm working on.

What would be your dream setup?

I'd love to have a dedicated studio space for working on larger-scale installations, and lots of space for storage! We've accumulated a vast collection of equipment and tools over the years, and would love to have it all meticulously organised, clearly labelled, and easily accessible on shelves. A dedicated spot near my desk for our velcro kitty to sleep in would be lovely. Oh, and a bigger bookshelf to store all our books. :)