How will our perceptions and sensibilities about humanity and society change in the future with the evolution of technology and the convergence of the real and virtual worlds?
Rhizomatiks, a group of creators, shows us what is possible from the standpoint of technology and expression. They are known for producing and developing futuristic technological video for Perfume, a techno pop group. However the creative group’s activities and expressions extend even further.
To commemorate the 15th anniversary of its foundation, an exhibition of “Rhizomatiks_Multiplex” is being held at the Museum of Contemporary Art Tokyo (MOT) in Koto ward, in the eastern part of Tokyo, (closed until the end of the COVID-19 state of emergency) and online.
Visualization of Invisible Things
Rhizomatiks is made up of expert programmers, engineers, and designers under the leadership of Daito Manabe and Motoi Ishibashi. They are responsible for the entire process of the project, from the development of hardware and software to project implementation.
What makes Rhizomatiks’ projects valuable is how they make invisible phenomena in our society ー such as large complex data ー easier to grasp and visualize.
For example, at the event called “Traders” presented at the museum in 2013, trading data from the Tokyo Stock Exchange was converted into sound and video in real time, making it clearer for viewers to see at a glance the unexpected stock alignments. This way, invisible networks and trends could be felt “live.”
Its recent project, “NFTs and CryptoArt-Experience” involves the hot topic of “crypto art”. NFTs stands for non-fungible tokens, which are units of data stored on a digital ledger called a blockchain. They certify a digital asset to be unique and therefore not interchangeable.
By attaching NFTs to digital art, it ensures its permanence and “uniqueness”. The unique value of digital art that is otherwise easily replicated is protected using blockchain mechanisms, allowing its worth to rise to the point that it’s not unusual for such art to move at values equivalent to millions of U.S. dollars. This new undertaking presents a video visualization of the state of these heated cryptoart transactions.
Yuko Hasegawa, a Professor at Tokyo University of the Arts who organized the exhibition, said: “In a new mechanism that we had never imagined before, we are asking questions like: what trades at a high price? Who buys? What is the value that comes from it?“
In the age of change, Rhizomatiks tries to make something that is hard for a lot of people to grasp easy to understand. “It is an art to share with a wide audience of what is happening now, and judgment is left to the individual.” she said.
In Search of a ‘New Body’
Rhizomatiks has consistently explored the boundaries between what is real and virtual, and the “new body” that merges with technology. “Mouth Mantra” is one of its groundbreaking music videos which features the world famous Icelandic singer Björk singing, as seen from her own mouth. This work probably reflects the interest of both parties for integrating the body with digitalization.
The highlight of this exhibition is “Multiplex“, a joint project with ELEVENPLAY, a Japanese dance troupe led by its director and choreographer MIKIKO. It is an installation that combines the movements of living dancers with motion data, moving box-shaped robots, and video projections.
The boundaries between real and virtual become blurred by a multilayered projection for the audience to capture. This seems to overlap with our recognition of reality in the post-corona age. With remote meetings and cocktail parties becoming a part of our lives, Rhizomatiks strives via trial and error to create a platform for online communication that is more rooted in real human behavior and emotions.
What makes Rhizomatiks different?
“Artists usually come up with concepts first, and then think about the means later. But “the process is the opposite for Rhizomatiks,“ explained Professor Hasegawa. “It ponders what can be done using new technologies and media. Of course, it’s a series of daunting hit-and-miss situations,” she added.
It is also worth seeing the group’s archive materials and videos, including a number of valuable groundworks created over a 15-year period. Through serious research and development, Rhizomatiks will undoubtedly come up with new tasks involving new technologies, aesthetic sensibilities, and critical spirit.
This exhibition is scheduled to go until June 20, but it is currently closed to visitors for the duration of the 3rd state of emergency declared for Tokyo and other cities. Tickets are ¥1,500 for adults, ¥ 900 for university and vocational school students, and those over 65 years old, and ￥500 for junior high and high school students.
However, this is an exhibition that can be enjoyed in both real and virtual format, so while the museum is closed, why not visit its “online venue” at no charge?
(Find access to the original Sankei Shimbun report in Japanese at this link.)
Author: Ayako Kurosawa