Eye Exhibition: Ryoji Ikeda
Adventurous Japanese artist Ryoji Ikeda, subject of a major new exhibition at EYE, always tailors his work very carefully to the space in which it is shown, writes Geoffrey Macnab.
From mid-September to early December, Ikeda's imagery will be projected onto the walls and floors of the EYE museum. They are mostly in black and white, sometimes with a little bit of red thrown in. Sound is always present too. Ikeda doesn't like barriers. He keeps the space as open as possible.
"He works always with data, the flood of data that surrounds us all the time," Marente Bloemheuvel, Associate Curator at EYE, says of the Japanese artist's approach. His sources of inspiration include the human genome project which maps the DNA of the human body, highlevel astronomical analysis of star systems or molecular structures. In other words, he is not the type of artist who sits by the riverbank, painting watercolours of pretty sunsets.
The show includes older work and new pieces specially made for EYE. Both are equally mind bending. Sound and image are always combined in a startling way.
As you would expect from someone who puts data analysis at the centre of his work and was recently resident artist at CERN, he knows his science. However, Bloemheuvel also points to a new lyricism in his recent work.
Ikeda moves in this work from "the very small to the very large." He makes visualisations of the tiniest, most microscopic elements in nature but also of huge cosmic phenomena. He has an alchemical genius for translating complex scientific formulae into pure sound and image.
To an outsider, the art may sound forbidding. Bloemheuvel, though, is quick to reassure anyone planning to visit the exhibition that they don't need to be physicists to appreciate or enjoy it. "The viewer steps into a fascinating world with a sea of data that is overwhelming," the curator says. Science and arts lovers should both be intrigued by him. Kids will enjoy interacting with the pieces.
One new work Ikeda has created for Amsterdam features a black circle (representing the black hole at the heart of the universe) on the wall. It is full of data. On the other side of the wall, there is a powerful white light. The colour temperature of this light approaches that of the sun. "It is a very intense lamp, as used on film sets. Both projections cancel each other out and create an intense experience of light and temperature," the curator explains. Ikeda began his career as a sound artist working in electronic music and later worked with radical theatre collective, Dumb Type, in Kyoto. One of his defining traits as an artist is his absolute perfectionism.
EYE's curators have been following Ikeda for a considerable period. They see the new show as a natural successor to one they held showcasing the work of GermanAmerican abstract animator, Oskar Fischinger (1900-1967) who embraced sound and light in an equally ground-breaking way in the 1920s and 1930s. Ikeda is an admirer of Fischinger and was delighted when EYE approached him.
However, don't expect him to give many talks or to speak to the press. The Paris and Kyoto-based artist is a self-effacing figure who tends to allow his work to speak for itself. When he gives a concert, he won't speak to the audience. He gives his show, comes on the stage at the end and bows - and that is it. Nonetheless, he is a bit of a showman. He dresses in black, wears sunglasses (even indoors) and has the aura of a modern-day necromancer.
"He is a very, very sympathetic person, very enthusiastic. It is really inspiring to work with him, especially because of his enormous knowledge and wide-ranging interest," Bloemheuvel says. "Ikeda lets his work speak for itself, and as you will find out, the way it speaks out, is mindblowing, sublime."
SEE NL Magazine #32 September 2018 / Venice, TIFF & NFF Issue
SEE NL is published four times per year by EYE International and The Netherlands Film Fund and is distributed to international film professionals.