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famous for his abstract audiovisual installations as for the expert
precision of his live performances, the young multimedia Japanese
artist Ryoichi Kurokawa develops an original aesthetic line, where
digital technology and environmental influences interpenetrate
themselves for our senses pleasure. A hybrid experience that reveals
itself as a real diving in the heart of a very personal investigation
All of a sudden, as in a waking sensorial dream, images freeze and
blur. A waterfall simultaneously takes shape on the three screens, then
a river winds in the middle of cliffs in chiaroscuro, in an abstract
universe of graphical rhizomes and evanescent pixels.
Dense Vegetal convergence lines pierce the substance and weave in an
epidermal way, even organic, on the digitally treated environment that
we perceive in filigree. Accompanying those improbable visual links,
between nature and modernism, an electronic music as minimal as
granular reveals its reactive and spatiality waves.
With Rheo, his last live multimedia creation recently presented on the
occasion of Exit in Créteil then Elektra in Montreal, the Japanese
artist Ryoichi Kurokawa reaches the edge of the sensual and hybrid
expression, sensitive and smoothly hermetic, that is his own. Interview.
Ryoichi, as it’s the case again for your recent creation Rheo,
what I like the most about your work is this capacity to generate a
complex visual and sound piece, where pierces a certain poetry, notably
through the use of environmental elements (images of landscapes,
waterfalls). We immediately feel a great balance between the
technologic modulation and this naturalist inspiration, between a
modernist combination and an atavistic cultural minimalism. Something
very Japanese in fact. How do you proceed to reach this degree of
In fact it’s something very cerebral. In general, I mentally work a lot
on my ideas before concretizing them. I make them under a tangible form
but, thanks to this process, the result remains quite abstract. Digital
tools that I use allow me to keep this orientation, even if course,
sometimes, the production work can alter the first visions that I had
about the project.
Nature is my principal source of inspiration, and has always been.
Mixing in a hybrid way analogical material and digital treatments is as
well particularly important. All my work lies on this notion of
hybridization. Between analog and digital, but also between time and
space, the full and the fragmentary, the simple and the complex, the
reactive and the contemplative, the auditory and the visual.
However, has your creation work evolved through your different
productions, notably concerning your famous audiovisual performances?
For example I noticed that you more and more tend to give priority to
multi-screens environments. Can we talk about new steps about each of
your pieces, between cm: av_c then Parallel Head, and now with Rheo?
Even if it’s true that I can give priority to the multi-screens aspect
for my audiovisual concerts or my installations, I can sometimes work
only from a unique source of screening. As it happens to me to work in
collaboration with other artists. I especially believe that my work is
more en more searching for spatialized expressivity. cm: av_c, for
example, used a diptych format (two screens) and one stereo soundtrack
performed live. It was quite easy to understand the connections between
screening and sound, and it’s true that if we compare it to my
following works, it was quite a simple access approach.
At the beginning, Parallel Head was an installation, corresponding to a
cinematographic environment with ten screens and a surround sound. I
have a concert version of this piece in diptych and quadritych format
(4 screens) in 5.1 sound, stereophonic or quadriphonic. For this piece,
I therefore made my work evolve towards more spatialization than in cm:
av_c, as far as the sound is concerned, and as far as the image is
Rheo is my most recent work. I kept the idea of spatiality and
temporality in the audiovisual synthesis, but I moderated the
synchronized aspect if we compare it to my previous pieces. My
technical approach also evolved by the way, because digital technology
better itself every day and allow a consequent quality gain, for the
sound and for the image.
I read that you had recently developed a kind of instrument that would
allow you to create/compose in real time real audiovisual sculptures
while mixing lots of other sources. Do we need to see here the care to
have the approach as tactile as possible on your creation work?
Yes because this tactile approach allows to go beyond the limits of our
physical perceptions, the audience’s one in any case. I try to treat
those simultaneity and audiovisual stimulations principles in order to
offer the audience an aesthetic as sensible as possible, on the basis
of a synaesthetic experience.
Talking about this synasesthetic experience between sound and
image, what are you the most interested in: synchronizing contradictory
or complementary audiovisual elements or playing with their collision
In fact I think I especially try to conceive a space where two
different materials coexist. It doesn’t mean that these two sound and
visual materials have to come to a king of synthesis, it means they
have to be synthetic and enter in collision one with the other AT THE
SAME TIME. In the frame of my audiovisual work, I consider each of
these materials as the part of a same unity, different vectors of a
In this context, what has been you artistic development to arrive where
you are today? Did you have particular influences in you multimedia
I don’t have any particular artistic training. I did not study design
nor music at university. In fact, I taught myself everything. At the
beginning, I started creating pieces for the fun of it. But it’s true
that I’ve always liked architecture, design, photo or cinema, and they
all were without a doubt a great influence. Before becoming an artist
myself, I was besides more interested in contemporary art than digital
art. I liked Joseph Beuys a lot for example.
Going back to your synaesthetic approach, your DVD Copynature
represents a great example of this aesthetic orientation. Do you work
on sound and image simultaneously or do you give a certain priority to
one of these supports?
Both of them are indivisible. I create audio pieces as well as visual
pieces, but the main thing remains the audiovisual concordance. As I
was saying before, I start my work by building my audiovisual work in
my head, in an abstract way, but in a way sound and image are already
present. The idea is to get this way, intellectually, to the most
concrete structuration possible, before really building the structure,
with my digital tools and my analogical material. Then, inspiration can
follow different flows, more visual sometimes, more related to sound at
However in Copynature you pointed up the fact to work on the
musical way on the retinal persistence phenomenon; those images that
remain fixed in the retina under the effect of their excessive luminous
visualization. The visual idea therefore seems predominant here and
joins even a reflection more precise on memory…
It’s true that for this work I interested myself in this notion of
persisting images, linked to memory reminiscences. According to me,
vision is not only used to see what eyes reflect. Vision simultaneously
takes to all the other perception fields and may be to an expression
field as well for blurred memories. It joins my stimulation work. In
Copynature, I translate this vision principle in an emphatic way in a
way. I suppose that all our memories remain anchored in us as images
placed side by side on our retina. Those persisting images also being
the reflection of our imagination a bit.
Your work can also be very progressive if we consider a same
live performance. Your “interpretation” of Rheo during the Elektra
festival in Montreal was different from the one given at the Exit
festival in Créteil. It notably seems that you have reworked the piece
with new images?
In fact, I presented Rheo four times in beta version in France, then in
final version at Elektra. So of course, some parts of the piece are
different, but I kept the same guidelines. Given the places where the
concerts took place were very different [a small room where the
audience seated for Exit, a big room giving priority to the standing
position for Elektra.], different audiences had also a very different
perception of the piece. And as I always keep a live latitude
concerning sound mixing in surround, it allows me to bring the audience
towards new impressions.
When we see the evolution of your work towards always more spatiality,
with the use of multi-screens or surround sound effects, we can ask
ourselves what is the interest to produce pieces in mono-screening more
classical, as for Colorfield Variations 2 for example?
My interest in my work doesn’t necessarily change depending on the
format. But to tell you the truth, it is much harder to apply a
spatialization concept to a simple screening work than to a live
multimedia performance or even an installation. For me, this simple
screening work is more related to cinema. In this perspective, not
always but often, I like to work the video as a luminous source.
It’s not rare to see you working on projects with other
Japanese artists, coming from the techno music scene like Aoki
Takamasa or Yoshihiro Hanno from label Progressive Form, or from a
contemporary scene more general public, like Ryuchi Sakamoto ou Haruomi
Hosono. What brings you those collaborations in particular?
Making collaborations always give me a feeling of novelty. The simple
fact to have exchanges, discussions, allow me to draft new artistic
ideas that my solo work wouldn’t have allowed me to imagine. Working
with others also allows me to be more flexible in terms of methodology.
Sometimes I feel more free. And for me there is no difference between
the fact to work with an artist from the techno music scene or actual
music because, from the time that I work with musicians, I treat music
for what it is, meaning sound, simply.
To conclude, can you tell us few words about your next
projects? Is a new step in your evolution working process already on
I’m going to keep on presenting Rheo and prepare an installation
version of this piece. I’m also working on a theater play for the end
of the year, on the occasion of a collaborative work. I will start
working on a new piece for live concert and on a new installation next
Animation anne cecile worms ARTIST, ARTWORK digital Digital music Exhibitions Experimental Game Hybrid Interactive Jason Cook mcd Mur Water PCB Netart Object Avatar Ryoichi Kurokawa Technology Video VideoEx by
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