When Ryoji Ikeda performed a live version of his piece “data.matrix” at Pierce Studio in the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust Arts Education Center during the Sept. 23 Gallery Crawl, he did so to a capacity crowd.
“We had to turn people away,” says curator Murray Horne.
Ikeda, a Japanese sound and visual artist who lives and works in Paris, is becoming something of a household name among millennials, Horne says. “He just had his 50th birthday. He’s been doing this kind of work for quite a number of years, and he’s known throughout the world for doing this sort of work.”
Case in point: In October 2014, Ikeda’s piece “test pattern” was brought outdoors and reimagined for Times Square in New York City. From 11:57 p.m. to midnight each night of the month, digital screens featured tightly synchronized, flickering black-and-white imagery mining data for mathematical beauty as part of “Midnight Moment,” a monthly presentation by the Times Square Advertising Coalition and Times Square Arts.
Even before then, Ikeda had gained a global reputation as one of the few international artists working convincingly across both visual and sonic media. He elaborately orchestrated sound, visuals, materials, physical phenomena and mathematical notions into immersive live performances and installations at prominent institutions and festivals such as the Museum of Contemporary Art in Tokyo, Singapore Art Museum; Ars Electronica Center in Linz, Austria; Elektra Festival in Montreal; Grec and Sonar Festivals in Barcelona; and the Palazzo Grassi in Venice.
Since his Sept. 23 performance, Ikeda has headed back to Paris. But “data.matrix” remains on display, in the form of a 10-channel video on a 10-minute loop, through Dec. 31 at Wood Street Galleries, just two blocks away from the Pierce Studio, above the Wood Street T Station.
Projected on 10 screens that span a 60-foot wall, “data.matrix” features a variety of shimmering black-and-white imagery that unfolds before the viewer to strobe-light effect.
The piece actually begins with data Ikeda recorded from broken computers, then moves into DNA sequencing and, ultimately, a variety of mathematical algorithms shown on each screen.
“This is as good as new media gets,” Horne says of the piece, which, in addition to the imagery, is accompanied by a multilayered sound score.
“The sound is like poetry,” Horne says. “After a while, it becomes very contemplative.”
Ikeda’s music is concerned primarily with sound in a variety of “raw” states, such as sine tones and noise. He often uses frequencies at the edges of the range of human hearing. The result is a highly imaginative score comprised of beat patterns and a variety of discrete tones and noises that create the semblance of a drum machine.
Born in 1966 in Gifu, Ikeda has long been fascinated with combining data, light and sound.
Horne first learned of Ikeda’s work in 1997 when Wood Street displayed the work of the late Teiji Furuhashi, a founding member of Dumb Type, a performance dance troupe from Kyoto, for which Ikeda created musical scores. “His work with Dumb Type was brilliant,” Horne says.
That brilliance can be experienced yet again when contemplating the sound aspect of this piece, which emanates from 10 speakers, each perfectly timed to coincide with the videos, Horne says. “It gives you a place in space relative to the data,” he says in regard to the sound.
“Data.matrix” is part of Ikeda’s larger “datamatics” art project begun in 2006 that “explores the potential to perceive the invisible multisubstance of data that permeates our world,” according to the artist’s website.
Projecting dynamic, computer-generated imagery in pared-down black and white with striking color accents, Ikeda’s intense, yet minimal, graphic renderings of data progress through multiple dimensions.
Horne says the overall effect “is like the sequencing for all data.”
Kurt Shaw is a Tribune-Review contributing writer.