by Vatsala SethiDec 31, 2022
The multidisciplinary creative studio WOW works closely with the new media technologies to create a unique experience around art and design. The experiential art spearheaded by the technology for the studio WOW, based in Tokyo, Sendai and London, may at the first glance prompt an uncertain response, yet a deep dive opens a room to reorient the given sense of time and space. This realisation was heightened with the onset of the pandemic when spatial and temporal axes shifted, only to lead the studio WOW to launch the original AR iOS app, WOW AR. It was a time when the team at the studio explored the potential and possibilities of augmented reality, pushing the boundaries of the motion graphics skills to the AR sphere. The studio is affirmative on the idea of using technology with a purpose and vision in an effort to bring an effective change to society.
Talking to STIR, the studio WOW team states, “The concept of time in our work has a stronghold. What we must do in thinking about such a design of time is to create "phenomena”. By inscribing the innumerable phenomena existing in nature into visuals, we as well as people who see them can strongly become conscious of the world's richness. The origin of the sense of beauty exists in nature. It is quite important for us how to receive those messages from nature and develop them into new expressions.” Floating-anima, presented at Reborn-Art Festival, is one such installation art produced by WOW studio in collaboration with music producer Takeshi Kobayashi and the internationally active artist unit Daisy Balloon. The immersive installation work is a demonstration of the life forms floating in the form of animated balloons. The mirror balloons populate the built environment of the space. The balloons float to highlight the countless reflections of light and objects.
Along with the global and contemporary outlook of the work, the Sendai team of the WOW studio has been acutely focusing on the local history and studies about Tohoku district in North East Japan. There are still many traditional customs, festivals, and lifestyles close to their daily life in Tohoku. WOW originally started in Sendai 25 years ago. “By researching Tohoku's studies, we meet our roots and DNA. Just like we realised our identity as Japanese by exhibiting our works outside Japan, these encounters are pretty important for an artist,” mentions the team at studio WOW.
The BAKERU: Transforming Spirits exhibition via Japan House in Los Angeles had an interactive video installation Bakeru and a compilation of the set of art and craft pieces from Japan's Tohoku region. Furthermore, the studio collaborated with the Lakota people too. BAKERU started to explore Tohoku's traditional festival, yet there were similarities with Lakota people. “Beyond the encounter of our DNA, we faced universal human activities in the end and realised how rich this world is no matter where you are,” adds the studio. The experimental nature of the video opened a window to the universality running under the culture of transformation, and prayer with the aid of ornamental arts, dance, and music.
The research project The Shape of Prayer, an extension of BAKERU: Transforming Spirits, retraces the traditional culture of the Tohoku region. The element of the contemporary expression crucial to the work is the result of the knowledge collected through the fieldwork on the traditional prayer and its form. Having cultural history integral to installation works, be it BAKERU: Transforming Spirits or The Shape of Prayer, the studio is, “offering the opportunities for young generations to know how rich customs they have, we believe. Lots of traditional customs are fading away year by year, but many of them should have had specific meanings or functions back then, and some of them must be valuable to be preserved in the future. We just cannot say that our work stops people from losing the traditional customs. But we are hoping it can shine a light on those vanishing traditional things by any chance.”
Even when the WOW studio confesses to sharing no desire to incorporate extremely classical or typical Japanese expressions, it is quick to believe that there are ways to portray the culture through our contemporary filter. “There is a sense of space and distance that is unique to Japan, even in the way of laying out margins and arranging things. We call this "Ma”. We realised this sense of "Ma" gave foreign people unique impressions when we started exhibiting our works outside Japan. This sense of “Ma” is naturally installed to us, and normally it is out of our consciousness, but once we work on our artworks, the fragments of Japanese, including these senses, come out.”
The new media art in the past decade gained immense momentum among art practitioners. But it is still waiting to gain the undivided attention of the viewers. The team working at the studio WOW is cognizant of this, and is hopeful of the fact, “The emotion in the minds of the audience could be a small swing at the beginning (of watching their works) but could be a giant one in the end, and it will be our ideal goal if these emotional swings make them face our work more actively.”