Media Ambition Tokyo returns for another year, transforming Tokyo into a media art bonanza.
In the grandiose words of the organizers, Media Ambition Tokyo “takes an experimental approach to urban implementation.”
This is the third time Media Ambition Tokyo has been held, showcasing cutting-edge technology and art crossovers. The previous two festivals had a combined audience of 120,000 people.
The eight venues across Roppongi, Aoyama, Odaiba, Iidabashi and Shibuya include Midtown and Intersect by Lexus.
Ever worker-bee media art unit Rhizomatiks have partnered up with Lexus to create a video and sound installation inspired by the LFA supercar.
The title for the “1,220″ installation might sound cryptic at first but it’s a reference to the height of the car. Visitors will lie down in a space with the same height and experience a series of landscapes passing right above them on a huge LED screen.
When we watch a screen, we first detect what we see as nothing more than light before it gradually takes form inside our brains. Light captured by our retinas travels to the visual cortex at the back of our brains, and this is where light is first recognized as an image. We are not normally aware of this process, but our emotional reactions to the images we see are triggered by the conversion that takes place in that short span. “1,200” is an attempt to have visitors experience that journey of light attaining meaning across a distance that represents the height of the Lexus LFA.
The winter is nearly over but if you feel like ice-skating artistically, you should check out “Skate Drawing” at Midtown, an interactive art piece where the paths traced by skaters on the ice are displayed on a video screen. Once again it is by Rhizomatiks.
In Shibuya, Tokyo Anarchitecture sounds like the kind of thing to get Tumblr bloggers excited:
Tokyo Anarchitecture is a photography series which evolves around space representations and experience of the reality. Breaking up then reconstructing pictures of huge urban plants shot in various spots in the world, Olivier Ratsi plays with the perception of our daily urban environment in aim to question its references.
The award for most-scary-sounding installation likely goes to “The Fifth Sleep”:
At the crossroads between video game and cinema, The Fifth Sleep is an immersive installation offering a unique experience : Giving a spectator the chance literally to travel into the interior of the most mysterious of organs, the brain. Using an HMD (head-mounted display), the spectator navigates in a 3D environment generated in real-time, and can interact in a story in which he gradually becomes the main character. The spectator thus participates in a team of scientists’ experimental project aiming to test the Proteus, a nanorobot camera that can be injected inside the human body… An unusual journey through landscapes never before observed, in the heart of a labyrinth where each of your choices will determine the patient’s fate.
Other participants include sculptor Kohei Nawa and teamLab.
The period varies per exhibition and installation event, but most start on February 11th and run until later in the month, though some events continue into March.
The 74-year-old artist Tatsuo Horiuchi continues to prove that age and technology can mix very well, as can tradition and computer software.
Horiuchi might well be almost halfway through his eighth decade on this planet but he continues to wow people with his artworks created entirely using Microsoft Excel. Typically these are traditional Japanese landscapes, of the kinds you might find on a folding screen panel.
His beautiful Nengajo (New Year card) for 2015 put any postcards you might have purchased from a convenience store to shame.
Naturally he chose a lamb and sheep as the main motifs (2015 is the year of the sheep).
Forget spreadsheets, use autoshapes to connect and color custom shapes with Excel and the results can be this magnificent.
Horiuchi has been tinkering away at Excel art since his retirement and has even attracted international attention for his work.
See more over on Tatsuo Horiuchi’s website.
No, those are not stars in a planetarium. They are watch parts.
Spiral’s trademark atrium space was transformed by Citizen into “Light is Time”, a special installation that saw countless watch parts suspended by wires and shimmering in the shifting light.
The Aoyama space was packed with Tokyoites understandably desperate to see the mechanical parts become art. There were 80,000 main gold plates, the basic component of a watch, glittering in the atrium (and making it hard for those smartphones to focus).
The epicenter of the installation was an old silver 1920′s pocket watch, the origin of Citizen’s monozuri.
The installation also featured a central projection on the floor of the inner workings of a timepiece, plus videos showing close-ups of the intricate work Citizen does to create its watches.
Created by architect Tsuyoshi Tane (DGT) and technical director Yutaka Endo (Luftzug), “Light is Time” ran at Spiral Garden from November 14th to November 28th, after having first wowed crowds at the Milan Design Weeek 2014.
Japan’s biggest design showcase Tokyo Designers Week (TDW) landed again for the year in the Gaienmae Aoyama area.
We went along to check out the exhibits. Here are our highlights.
Real estate company Chintai are a regular face at TDW. Here they created a “Tokyo Merry-Go-Round” with artist Asami Kiyokawa.
At the Robot Exhibition we liked this “clapping robot”, a kind of large version of the Pachi Pachi Clappy. Maywa Denki also participated in this part of TDW, showing off their latest instrument toy, Mr Knocky.
This was more mysterious. Artist and digital sculptor Noriko Yamaguchi created the “Keitai Girl Suit Chi”, whose entire body is covered in cellphone (keitai) keypads. It was a contemplation on how touch is still important to communication.
Here we entered the Uncanny Valley. The android Asuna was a “receptionist” created by A-Lab.
This booth was very popular, a manga sticker world presented by Toyo Ink and manga-ka Shintaro Kago.
DNP and Kengo Kuma teamed up with technology that allows you to print directly onto a tree, fusing the texture of metal with wood and promising a “new materiality”.
The outdoor schools section featured this “Tanjo no Katachi” by Nihon University, a primitive representation of form itself.
Staying outside, these kids seemed to love this container installation designed by Sebastian Masuda (an art director for Kyary Pamyu Pamyu).
It wasn’t all “new” stuff, though. A special pavilion was devoted to the work of Edo-era ukiyoe print artist Hokusai.
Here the Hokusai prints came into digital life. Using a special interactive app, holding up your phone brought the flat images into colorful life on your mobile screen.
Shiori Yano’s “MOTHERS MOUNTAIN” bottled up motifs of street culture.
Finally, Sato Sugamoto’s “Non-Verbal Communication” shows two “hats of thought” of two people meeting and trying to communicate.
Tokyo is a city that is a paradise to photographers; it opens up just so many opportunities for images — the technology, lights, crowds, fashion, subcultures, architecture, businessmen, seasons, festivals… We would venture that Japan has been responsible for more Flickr accounts that any other “source materials” but of course, we may be wrong there.
And so with such competition out there competing for eyeball space, it takes a project with something special to stand out. And while there are legions of talented photographers — local or expat — resident in the city, perhaps Matthew Pillsbury succeeded because he’s an outsider — he’d only come to Tokyo once before he started creating the images for his new show, aptly titled “Tokyo”, showing at Benrubi Gallery in New York until October 25th.
“The growing use of technology in our lives has simultaneously allowed for instantaneous global communication, but it also can isolate us by favoring virtual contact as opposed to real-world interaction,” he told Slate.
While making his epic long-exposure shots of various locations throughout the city he ran into classic Japanese bureaucracy, which made getting permission to shoot in some places difficult. Shoots at some locations, such as a sumo tournament, ultimately did not work out because the management would not allow him in. We would have loved to see a long-exposure sumo bout!
Phillsbury usually works in color but we can certainly see why he broke his own rule for this series.
How many of the places in the photographs do you recognize?
Shibaura House is a community space in the Tokyo district of Shibaura, a neighborhood in the south of the city near the port. The stylish glass building is designed by Kazuyo Sejima and hosts private functions, as well as regular workshops and art events.
When the center first opened in 2011 its translucent architecture attracted quite a bit of gushing from the likes of Design Boom et al. Arc Space compared the building to a Japanese paper lantern: “Public and private programs interweave in this cunning, white-clad amalgamation of boxy geometric volumes and playful curves… The most luxurious thing about Shibaura House is the spaciousness of its rooms in a city notorious for its exorbitant land prices. This is architecture far more down to earth, stripped down and pragmatic, yet with a playfulness instigated by the rounded shapes and shifting heights of its interior and semi-interior spaces.”
Earlier this year Shibaura House published a series of illustrated bilingual “Kanto Tour Guides” with the help of 10 foreigners (why only foreigners, we’re not sure). Contributors included Lucas Badtke-Berkow, Jean Snow, Vivian Morelli, and Jared Braiterman.
It also recently produced this funny English-language video introducing its facility and services.
The presenter is “Charlie”, who for reasons unknown does the whole video in a top hat.
While casual visitors are perhaps unlikely to be passing through the business district of Shibaura (though a walk by the canals is nice), do pop in if you are nearby. Shibaura House has a free ground-floor space open to the public and which also has wi-fi. There is also a library with many books about architecture (of course!) and the staff can speak English. Oh, and a cup of coffee only costs ¥100.
A major trend in the Tokyo art world over the past few years has been the temporary “art-jacking” of old buildings and facilities just before they are scheduled to be knocked down.
This was a major success at the former French Embassy, which allowed artists to take over every corner of its old premises for the extravaganza that was “No Man’s Land” back in 2009 and 2010.
Trans Art Tokyo, whose current edition is running now, has been transforming old (and some new) buildings in the Kanda neighborhood with various art exhibits and events. This year includes a flying whale! The publisher Shogakukan also invited people to graffiti its walls as a tribute to its manga output over the years shortly before its building was pulled down.
This also extends to reclaiming the buildings on a permanent basis, such as the case with 3331 Arts Chiyoda, a former school that is now one of the capital’s premier art centers.
In BCTION some seventy artists and artist gropus have taken over all nine floors of a building in Kojimachi, central Tokyo, and turned the whole thing into a big installation shortly before it is going to be demolished.
Increasing the sense of this being a secret event, visitation is by reservation only. Work on the installations began in August and then the main exhibition was for the first half of September. However, some events and “encore” exhibits are being held at the end of the month.
The main disadvantage to this is that BCTION has gone under the radar somewhat and did not get as much coverage as other similar art-squatting events in the past, which is a shame as the events and exhibits (so far) looked impressive.
As the 2020 Olympics loom and bring with it a bonanza of new development works, many old buildings and districts will be making way for shiny new venues. While in limbo awaiting their fates, the spaces open up exciting opportunities for artists and designers.
Being the season of the rice harvest, at this time of year there are lots of traditional festivals around Japan. Just this weekend (a long three-day holiday weekend) we saw several portable shrines (omikoshi) around Meguro and even in the heart of Shibuya.
But every year in early September there’s another kind of festival hosted by students from Tokyo University of the Arts, one that is part art carnival though with plenty of nods to the same modus operandi of a traditional Japanese matsuri.
It’s called Geisai (“Gei” means “arts” and comes from Geidai, the nickname for the college, while “sai” means festival) and the three-day festival always features elaborate (and huge) floats that show off the students’ creative talents. There are also performances and music during the festival, with the events happening at the main campus but also spilling out into the streets of nearby Ueno.
The students compete to see which team has the best float as they parade them around, wearing colorful clothes that sort of resemble the usual garb that shrine-bearers at festivals usually wear, with some extra flourishes.
This tiger float was the winning entry in the festival. The mouth is amazingly well made.
God knows what they do with the giant floats after the festival is over, though.
Also check out Tokyo Art Beat’s photo report on a Geisai event a few years ago.
[Images via NetGeek.biz]
teamLab has got together with Gucci to create “Infinity of Flowers”, an interactive digital installation at the Gucci Shinjuku store from September 13th.
Visitors will be able to “touch” the flowers on the screen and see them bloom, scatter, grow and wither. The installation using a computer program to “paint” the flowers in realtime on the screen. The imagery on the display is created spontaneously by the system. We look forward to the video that will surely be made.
There will also be a teamLab work in display in the 8-meter window that faces Shinjuku-dori.
teamLab is an award-winning group of “ultra-technologists” working with digital experiential media. Its previous projects include a remarkable high school musical, an amazing digital mural of Tokyo at the Skytree, smart clothes hangers in a department store in Shibuya, and many more. This Shadow Dance and Shadowgraph video from early 2011 was a hit, not least because it seemed to adhere to everything we love about Japan — samurai swords and technology!
teamLab already has a florally-themed installation, “Time-blossoming Flowers”, at the new KITTE department store in Marunouchi.
“Infinity of Flowers” will run from September 13th to September 28th at the third-floor event space at Gucci Shinjuku. Entry is free.