11/15/2011 12:50 pm ET

Mythical 'Anima-Machine' Really Breathes! (VIDEO)

This kinetic sculpture by North Korean artist U-Ram Choe renders organic movements with inorganic elements, creating what the artist calls 'anima-machines.' (U-Ram stands for United Research of Anima-Machines, an imaginary organisation which 'discovers' Choe's fabricated creatures.)

The piece, entitled 'Custos Cavum,' or 'Guardian of the Hole,' is a seal-like organism that seems--slowly and realistically--to breathe. Both ecological and mythical, the piece follows Choe's tradition of weaving together art, spiritual transcendence and the natural world. 'Custos Cavum' was inspired by the ancient Indian religious icon Shiva Nataraja, but eventually found its own mythical origin.

The myth behind the machine goes like this:

Once upon a time, there were two worlds. They were connected to each other through a number of small holes, as if the worlds were breathing through these holes. However, the holes had a tendency to close up, so there were guardians next to each one to keep them open. The guardians were called “Custos Cavum.” They took the form of seals and had large front teeth, which they used to gnaw the holes to prevent them from closing up.

Read Choe speak on his merging of myth and mechanics in this eloquent interview with The Asia Society. His work will be on display there until December 21.