Thursday, July 19, 2018

Ryoji Ikeda, Continuum @ Centre Pompidou

Ryoji Ikeda, Code-verse, 2018
Ryoji Ikeda is back at the Centre Pompidou with two new compositions, Code-versa, and A [continuum], both from 2018, in an exhibition in Galerie 3 titled Continuum. I find much contemporary digital visual art to be unconvincing, primarily because it is so often an image shot with a digital camera that does very little with the medium. Ikeda’s work is everything that the run of the mill digital art is not. It’s complex, intricate, multivalent and best of all, it pushes the boundaries of sound and image, aesthetics and technology.

Ryoji Ikeda, Code-verse, 2018
Ikeda’s work is impressive because it works on multiple levels. On its intellectual dimension, the artist polyphonic compositions “compress vast, dense mass of data together,” and pushe a single pitch (in this case, a piece in which five hyper-directional speakers emit a piercing, almost nauseating sound, the infinite tones of the note A) into infinity through treating frequencies as pure materials. And on another level, Ikeda's creations are endlessly fascinating and invite the computer, sound and music illiterate to enjoy them physically and mentally. It’s difficult to pull ourselves away from the pieces as we become mesmerized by a search for logic and order, for beginnings and endings that don’t exist, and for the perfect place from which to experience them.  

Ryoji Ikeda, Code-verse, 2018
Not being among the viewers who understand the computer coding that creates the sound/image manipulations, I can only give the layperson version of the exhibition. In the hypnotic code verse our attention is held over time as we are sutured into the dizzying, multi-dimensional optical art created through the permutations of sound and images resulting from Ikeda’s computer coding. The long screen moves through what start to resemble images of an interstellar out of space journey seen from the cockpit of a flying machine, leading us into another world. At other times, the icons moving across the screen looking like a creeping cursor, and at still others, the shifting to a two dimensional floor that transforms into a sky, and then shifts perspective to take us back to three dimensional time travel.

Ryoji Ikeda, A [continuum], 2018
In the second white-carpeted and white-walled room, the five hyper-directional speakers emit the infinite permutations of 'A' resulting in a work that will never repeat itself across the ten week run of the exhibition. The sound is piercing to our ears and penetrates our consciousness, leading to a corporeal experience on the slow path to headaches and nausea. Ikeda explains the noise of the installation to be generated through subjecting his data (in this case the multiple instances of the note 'A' played by orchestras and musical instruments around the world) through his individually coded programs. The end result is a manipulation of time and space through the materiality of sound.

Ryoji Ikeda, A [continuum], 2018
Ryoji Ikeda, A [continuum], 2018

Afterwards, I went upstairs to the Chagall. Lissitzky, Malévitch exhibition (which is not about their work, but rather, the story of the Vitebsk School of Art which Chagall opened in 1919). The exhibition is mildly interesting, but what consumed my thoughts as I walked around was the fact that Ikeda could well be understood as a twenty-first century El Lissitzky. Certainly both artists are looking to push the boundaries of the medium of their respective moment, they are looking to move beyond what is possible in and through representation, moving into and exposing dimensions of creation and consequent existence not yet articulated. The major difference between the two being that for El Lissitzky art should always focus on its political concern, whereas Ikeda’s codings seem to stay on the level of the aesthetic. Which is not to say that Ikeda’s work couldn’t be used in the service of social critique, but he is not using technology against itself as were the great Soviet abstract painters of the early twentieth century.

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