Ryoichi Kurokawa's work simulates incessant energy flow found in nature

The multimedia artist with his art practice, at the intersection of sculptural installation, audio-visual and digital arts, creates large-scale installations to extend sensorial experience.

by Dilpreet BhullarPublished on : Apr 12, 2022

The Japanese concept of ‘Ma’ mediated with a sense of void around the spatial and temporal axis digs into contemplative self rather than advancing the state of nothingness. The multimedia artist Ryoichi Kurokawa of Japanese origin, now based in Berlin, creates large-scale installations at the intersection of sculptural installations, audio-visual, digital arts to have his audience take a pause or experience ‘Ma’. Having produced the works for more than two decades now, Kurokawa is synonymous with the art steering sensorial experience around nature and its many manifestations. In the hands of the artist, the objects are reconstructed as the 3D sculptures accentuated by the cinematic screenings and dramatised by the sounds to underline the interplay of reality and fiction.

Still from Unfold series,2016, Audiovisual installation | Ryoichi Kurokawa | STIRworld
Still from Unfold series, 2016, audio-visual installation Image: Courtesy of Ryoichi Kurokawa

The new-media large-scale installations produced by Kurokawa are a reflection of the deep-rooted influence around architecture, cinema, design and photography. The title of the work, Rheo: 5 Horizons, felicitated with the Golden Nica in the Digital Music category at Ars Electronica, suggests its Greek roots – ‘rheo’ translates to English as flow. The installation consists of five flat-panel displays supplemented with five multi-channel speakers. The rheo of installation holds the attention of the viewer to ‘see’ the unfolding of the sound rightly synchronised with the digitally produced images. The maximalism of the installation in terms of its scale in the physical space coupled with the technology-driven images and sound is bound to have the attention of the viewers. Yet, it is a deft use of minimalism when it comes to the appearance of the materiality – image and sound - which takes the viewer onto an experiential journey. The eloquence of flow or rheo found in nature is metamorphosed in the installation to let the viewers push the potential of what is discernible to the human mind.

Ittrans, al-jabr, 2018, print | Ryoichi Kurokawa | STIRworld
Ittrans, al-jabr, 2018, print Image: Enrico Maria Bertani, Courtesy of Ryoichi Kurokawa

His work lttrans, a series of diptychs, currently part of the ongoing exhibition Flora at Kalyon Kultur in Istanbul, brings to fore the concerns of climate change while having two algorithms, which are antithetical to each other. The congruent pattern when aligned to the incongruent one leads to the three-dimensional models of plants and flowers. To acquaint the viewers with the process he is engaged with to create the large-scale light installation, Kurokawa expounds, “I usually define all aspects of final artwork as much as possible when I am plotting a piece before practical operation. Then I follow my original idea, however, while working I welcome errors, accidents, something I haven't expected if I find it yields worth-full outputs. More or less, it has these elements in all my works. But most times, the final artwork output is nearly the same as my original idea. It is hard to transcend the original picture.” Since lttrans is a series of diptych digital printing, sort of the simplest pieces in my works, “I did not really need to simulate artwork in 3D like other large scale or immersive art installation, final rendering turned out to quite similar to the initial reflection.”

Artist Ryoichi Kurokawa | STIRworld
Artist Ryoichi Kurokawa Image: Courtesy of Nina Lüth

Kurokawa’s practice has evolved from the works done by the artists including Walter Ruttman, Hans Richter, Oskar Fischinger, Len Lye who have explored the aesthetic sensibility and power of time-based visual works. The distortion of the images with the software and sound recordings collected from natural environments are put under digital manipulation to create an abstract form and hypnotic pulsations. Kurokawa admits, “In general, to avoid an expectable outcome, I try to employ some new elements I have never applied or technology I do not know, into my new pieces, otherwise it is hard to always keep up motivation on creation.” The installation lttrans was created after the artist has created several large-scale works, multi-channel installations and immersive pieces. “I wanted to take different approaches than the pieces in past years, and I headed towards the simplest formats and smaller-scale pieces,” mentions Kurokawa.

Node 5:5, 2016, Installation, Gwangju | Ryoichi Kurokawa | STIRworld
Node 5:5, 2016, Installation, Gwangju Image: Courtesy of Ryoichi Kurokawa

The performance of interdependence integral for survival in nature is what interests Kurokawa when he takes on technology in his work in an effort to create an uninterrupted flow of enriching forms. The digitally produced works underscore the presence of contradictory motions in nature. Yet the play in lights, part of the art installations, is a crucial part, when “I want to deliver a more abstract and pure colour perceptual experience rather than conducting a message. Generally, I use a projector or display containing recognisable visuals even if it is abstract geometry, however with installation of Constrained Surface, I introduce displays as rectangular light emitters by displaying only gradient colour to provide sharper synesthetic experience.”

Still from lttrans 5| Ryoichi Kurokawa | STIRworld
Still from lttrans 5 Image: Courtesy of Ryoichi Kurokawa

Similar to the experience of ‘Ma’that could anchor an element of surprise in the mind of the observer, Kurokawa is keen to have his audience have the sense of awakened with a new thought as they experience the “phenomena” that he creates. The artist admits, “I like colourful feedback. Different thoughts or what I do not expect is very interesting for me.”

04 mins watch Node 5:5, Installation, Gwangju, 2017 | Ryoichi Kurokawa | STIRworld
Node 5:5, Installation, Gwangju, 2017 Video: Courtesy of Ryoichi Kurokawa
03 mins watch rheo: 5 horizons | Ryoichi Kurokawa | STIRworld
rheo: 5 horizons Video: Courtesy of Ryoichi Kurokawa

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