The existing things and things that we are looking for in the belief that they exist. Although it is unfortunate that we can’t find these things when we want to, there is possibility in some degree that we don’t get them. If the misfortune happens to many people, the people will be disappointed and gloomy. The media art in Tokyo is suffering this misfortune. Many people say, “Media art is boring and annoying.” and the opinion is being fixed. It has a good reputation in London, New York, Linz and Taipei, etc; however, there is something dull in the center of media art. Not only the audience but also the artists themselves (especially whose works achieved public recognition abroad) started understanding this. If people can find the things they are looking for, the misfortune will go away and unprecedented art will begin.

Using an electric medium, Japanese artists are developing a new approach towards the audience and society. The artists market their works themselves. A cubic robot developed on the contemporary art paradigm (Noboru Tsubaki), the development of educational electrical toys (Hiroyuki Moriwaki), the t-shirts that turn into multiple art works (Ryota Kuwakubo) and more varies from conceptual things to scientific education, design and general merchandise. It is said that the Japanese educational system needs more scientific education. Doing everything by themselves and a self-starting attitude is as important as exhibiting their works at museums and galleries. It carries more weight when you require a close association with the real world. Looking for some commitment, developing new things and exploring the frontiers where they can lay a firm foundation, Japanese pioneers, leaving the White Cube, start to talk to the audience directly more than letting their works or projects talk.

Many people share same feelings when a new fad or development begins. Contemporary art imposes unnecessary pressure and many audiences wants to touch the brilliance of artists and enjoys art in outside of the White Cube. In Japan, there are many people that have dissatisfied feelings with art. On the other hand, there are also people that love good design and look for it throughout their lives. The world hopes to meet the artists and art which develops empathy and culturally feeds the audience.

“The media artist’s plan is given life by working upon the audience.”, “And the audience yearns for something fully attractive, understandable and intriguing.” These possibilities and convincing art events will dissolve the misfortune and make intellectual happiness. They must be a milestone. The participation of both audience and artists must make a new common sense of creation. Believing that, I set to work on “designing” a new art event.

I named the art event “artdemo”, a project demonstration by the artist. The name must be simple and easy to understand and of course it should not be tasteless. “Tokyo Arts Market” is one of the well established projects supported by the administration. Performing artists promote their performing group and repertoire to theater managers. Although performing art is just a small part of art, they named it “Tokyo Arts Market” (*notes; English title is “Tokyo Performing Arts Market” but Japanese title means just “Tokyo Arts Market”) , and it is because performing art has a power presence in Japan. Media art in Japan has existed but has been overshadowed by other aspects of art. “artdemo” brings media art to light. It reveals what is really happening. Technologically capable artists can have a great opportunity to show their works or projects and make them more convincing. The audience can take the artist’s idea into their mind and can try to find a new idea of their own. This event took the form of demonstration and it packed the expression, the creativity and the development of the market. It should have been an opener for a new art events being established in society.

Planning the first artdemo, I did not wanted the event to become just a showcase but to show the dynamism of already existing success and make people notice that some of the success still needs to breakout. The artdemo started from the keynote speech which was given by well-known contemporary artist, Noboru Tsubaki, and the great artisan, Hiroyuki Moriwaki. Noboru Tsubaki made a huge grasshopper shaped figure on a towering hotel for “Yokohama Triennale”, the biggest international art festival in Japan last year. He has been seeking for the limit of technology in art projects. Hiroyuki Moriwaki makes kinetic installations into excellent entertainment and he also worked for Sachiko Kobayasi (Japanese famous singer who always prepares electric spectaculars for the Japanese biggest music festival “Kohaku Utagassen”). His distress is that there is few people to express themselves by building their engineering techniques on their own. So he started to concentrate on developing students at Tama art university.

The students involved with Tsubaki and Moriwaki’s project gave presentations. Tsubaki and Moriwaki complemented them and spoke of their visions. They mentioned the “Inter Medium Institute Graduate School” in Osaka where Tsubaki and his students develop useful methods for media art, making everyone understand and actually make the electric expressions by testing computerized control robots. Like the product development laboratory of Sony or Panasonic, Moriwaki assembles a new product from small pieces of electronic components and explains how to do it. “Moriwakit” encourages the students to understand and practice. He combined these cubic robots “Robocube” and programmed the demonstration. After an hour, a number of people played a number of robots and it became music. The robots, the music software and everything on the demonstration has already been marketed or is being marketed. Not their works but their demonstrations give them new chances. After the two artists, other artists gave presentations. They are gaining international reputations.

Sachiko Kodama and Minako Takeno were roommates in the postgraduate course of Tsukuba University where you can accomplish electronic technology as much as art. They presented “PROTRUDE, FLOW” to SIGGTAPH last year and were featured on WIRED. The strongest impact their works give. “PROTRUDE, FLOW” is the work that magnetic fluid responds to sound and change its shape. It looks like just black ink but once you make noise, you will find a flower shape there. Surprising and beautiful. At another work “PULSAE”, a dish on a banquet table contains the magnetic fluid. When someone approach the installation, the soup generate various creations. The installation will be shown all over the world. The responce of audience is of high interest. They stressed that they will continue to make art works using science.

Motoshi Chikamori and Kyoko Kunou announced they work under the new name of “minim++”. Their installations deal with shadow. They have great interactivity and give the feeling it has not been computerized too much. As they became a unit and it breaks the limit of their own, they are going to interact with many artists and make a platform beyond art. Their key word is “++”. “Toys, interior and everything around life is becoming media. In that situation, artistic approach can put new steam into them.”, they explained. A interactive picture book were presented by putting their experience of many installations. They appealed the importance of media art which definitely has a space to contribute to our lives.

Her unique FLASH works won the grand prize and the first prize of Canon Digital Creators Contest. Atsuko Uda won the prize of similar contests in Japan tow years in rows. When She was studying Interior Design at art college, she studied access program at film-making school and at the same time she entered IAMAS wanting to make digital movies. Using hand-drawings or photos, she made her ordinary life into dramas or comedies. This method must be brought by her varied experiences. Her works have a kind of Japanese exoticism and you can’t find anywhere else. She gave the demonstration navigating her online portfolio and explained her works. She was like a excellent storyteller and the audience was drawn into her works. A new appeal of web sites were found through her demonstration. She seemed to gain the highest approval from the audience.

Ryota Kuwakubo introduces himself as a “device artist”. He is an artist and artisan who make everything by himself. Each of his works has high quality and well designed. His web site functions as the attractive brochure of his products. He told his ideas and explained his works with showing his site. The hand-held LED display shows a dancing animation. This is the electric accessory “Bitman (already marketed)”. He gets ideas from his wish to make fun and cute but with little meaning things. Then he makes the ideas real by himself. Not only devices but also web programming he made. For example, a Java applet “Bithaiku” on which you draw within 8 by 8 matrix. With limitation, you have to demonstrate your creativity like Japanese HAIKU. Kuwakubo said he could not help making things, so he finally started to develop games for portable game machines and arcade game machines. He invented a small device as well. When you put the device on RCA terminal of TV, it shows the images of Bithaiku. The series of his idea attracted the audience.

There is a company trying to improve company value with the media art experiences. The last demonstrator was Team Photon. They have a unique policy to “develop games without killing and fighting”. The member of the team contains an architect, a graphic designer doing VJ at club and so on. They all empathized with the policy. Giving presentations and making their ideas well understood, they use the art projects. One of their works is clothes that emit light when they receive radio waves of mobile phone. While developing a game, the the interactions are set to an art project. Through the project, Photon’s ideas and creativity become more clear to people. The online project “Rhythm Engine” provide a virtual universe exploration. When you explore it, sound remains as your traces and you make music session with those who use the same application. The cyberspace becomes a mean of communications. Art is the way to express their creativity and it gave Photon credit in game industry, media education, design, etc. They stretch their fields where adopt their ability and expression.

The artists in this events focused their attention on Tomio Gotoh, ex-NEC semiconductor engineer. He has a great experience in computer industry. One of his projects was to release ahead of personal computers. After that, he directed the project of developing DOS machines, that dominated the market and furthermore he brought out the very first game machine with CD-ROM. He is an art-lover and has a wide acquaintance of contemporary artists. Ingo Gunther received the advice and technique from Gotoh. Retired from NEC at the age of 55, he is now freelance engineer. What a pleasure it is that he gave a demonstration! Consider from his ideas and ability to get things done, Gotoh must be a more than artist. The audience got the encouragement from his speech that the endless source of creativity let you continue to create things on your own.

Combining many technologies of Japan, America and the other countries, he makes new products. One tip tuner, micro hard disc and small display which can be incorporated in glasses. What can be made with those? Something new is coming out of his brain more freely. The audience and the artists were enchanted with his talk and excellent insight into the engineering field. Gotoh also announced that he wants to support the enthusiastic younger generation and the possibility to corroborate with highly motivated artists.

The event fused the technology, the movement and the esthetics. It was a melting pot to inspire people’s creativity and gave us something definitely. The preparation of next artdemo has started yet.

NEXT02/artdemo commitee
Address: B1201 Tokyo International Exchange Center, 2-79 Aomi, Koto, Tokyo JAPAN
Fax: 03-5520-6751

Text: Tomohiro Okada
Photos: Shingo Noguchi
Translation: Eriko Nakagawa

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