Saturday, December 6, 2008

RYOJI IKEDA: C4I + datamatics [ver. 1.0]
15 September 2007
Esplanade Theatre Studio

Published in 
Junk (November 2007)

Director's cut by Mark Wong

Amongst sound artists like Pan Sonic and Carsten Nicolai, who came to prominence in the mid to late nineties and continue to focus on the production of austere minimal electronics, it is arguably Ryoji Ikeda who has, since 1995, worked most towards integrating sound and sight (and even the sense of touch, when sonic frequencies edge towards polar regions) creating numerous art installations, video productions, dance performances and other multisensory projects.

Ryoji’s two videos, C4I and Datamatics, presented in the Esplanade Theatre Studio, are studies in the production of meaning(s) in data or information flow. The first, C4I, attempts to use “data” as both raw material and theme by breaking down images and/or abstracting them into their constituent forms. Thus worms of DNA code swim amidst sine waves and pink noise while laser scanners on radar images beep at confluences of rhythmic meaning.

The title, C4I, which stands for Command, Control, Computers, Communications and Intelligence, hints at the politics that lies at the heart of the video. A roll of statistics announcing environmental disaster, resource catastrophe and political conspiracy unfurls, ever-speeding and pushing us towards a precipice of information overload while the elucidating/obscurantist power of the media realises a multiplier effect on the clarity/chaos of global affairs. Long shots of nature follow, ostensibly to offer respite and calm, accompanied somewhat uncomfortably by simplistic slogans which can only render nuggets of uneasy hope given how Ryoji has already worked to shake our faith in the stability of data signs.

The second video Datamatics [ver. 1.0] is more abstracted and pared down, with pixels of information traversing the dimensions: lonely dots on a flat screen shift positions to tease our perceptions, transforming into cragged 3D landscapes that Peter Saville would be proud of. Even as datamatics achieves a stark beauty in the way its skinned down black and white forms shimmer in perfect communion with the shards of shorted static (thus feeling a more coherent synchronicity of sound and sight than C4I), it still never reaches the synaesthetic ecstasy achieved by fellow Raster-Noton artists Carsten Nicolai, Kangding Ray and Nibo in a concert presented as part of the (first) Singapore Biennale a year ago. That concert lay grandiose themes aside in favour of an intense aesthetic feeling and all three musicians, for the most part, kept audiences locked to their respective grooves.

If video killed the radio star, digital video may just be causing a choke at the frontiers of much sonic art today. The convoluted visuals and grandstanding text in Ryoji’s C4I become complicit in the information overload and data confusion exponentially generated in our digital age. This seems quite apart from what minimal electronics promised in the first place: a stripping down of excess to the building blocks of existence, a filtering down to the skins of experience.

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