One of the biggest names in contemporary art and minimalist electronic music in Japan – and these days around the world too, from Parisian galleries to New York City’s Park Avenue Armory – Ryoji Ikeda now makes his unique audio-visual mark on Montreal. Always a champion of international-scale challenging art work, DHC/Art in Old Montreal hosts Ikeda’s first survey exhibition in North America…
The solo exhibition, showing until November, spans the four floors of DHC/Art’s main space and the two large rooms of its high-ceilinged adjacent space. Upon first glance, the pieces on the first floor seem to be monochromes squares, but upon closer inspection – with nose inches away from the images, a series of very small numbers emerges. Going upstairs, we see a systematic arrangement of old computer punch cards and have to use magnifying loupes to view back-lit images of microfilm. This deep fascination with data in its smallest component parts – and its coded cultural meanings – continues throughout the show, balanced by Ikeda’s artistic sensibility for the abstract, the invisible and the emotional.
The two pieces in the adjacent space – data.tron and data.matrix – incorporate music and moving images, creating a mostly black-and-white immersive space, as if a computer processor (with a symphonic sensibility) has been blown open for us to walk right into. I spoke with Ikeda about his artistic process: he collaborates on his work with several artistic and curatorial staff as well as programmers, but the initial creative, intuitive process happens alone.
“I experiment a lot,” he says. “Each time I discover something new and I use it or I don’t or I add something else, make modifications – really it’s a lot like cooking!”
Ikeda creates his art and music based on scientifically correct mathematical data that he mixes and recombines like ingredients in a complex, changeable recipe – the result is much more subjective and emotional than one might assume.
Ikeda has even collaborated with the developer of the new Honda Civic car on data.anatomy [civic], an audio-visual piece which uses only the car’s engineering data.
“I love the mathematical world but I’m not really a big fan of using the mathematical method,” says Ikeda. “I’m an artist, I have to use my hands and my head in that way, intuitively. The mathematical world is very pure, idealistic. Math and music are like siblings – I’m primarily a musician, so it’s very natural for me to deal with mathematics… Notes and data are like tiny building blocks to be composed with.”
For Ikeda, his work is in balancing the visible, concrete data of numbers, forms, notes and values with the invisible, abstract world of observation, nature and interpretation.
“I always try to create a balance between the physical and the mathematical, the material and the ideal. That’s why for me, as a musician, it’s a big challenge to do something in the context of visual art, it’s very interesting [to break down these systems of code] – people will try to find their own meaning in it, enjoy it, feel it.”
Ryoji Ikeda at DHC/Art, to November 18, 2012