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Yuri Suzuki's sound installations combine human, environmental and sonic values

The Tokyo-born London-based artist navigates the discipline of art, design and music in an effort to activate human relationships with the surrounding environment.

by Dilpreet BhullarPublished on : May 03, 2023

The experience of recognising the presence of sound waves and vibrations is tied to accentuating the sensorial touch points of the human body. The poetic eloquence or disturbed flow of sound around the artwork seeks the attention of the senses as a way to recognise the other. The in-situ sound installations by Tokyo-born London-based artist Yuri Suzuki navigate the discipline of art, design and music to open an opportunity for the audience to reflect upon and build relationships with the surrounding environment. Suzuki’s fascination with material sound lies in the fact that since it is invisible, it can be one of the strongest methods of communication and can be used for both positive and negative reasons. The art practice rooted in sound is a plausible ‘mission’ to investigate what should or could be.

Sonic Seating, 2022, galvanised and powder coated steel | Yuri Suzuki | STIRworld
Sonic Seating, 2022, galvanised and powder coated steel Image: Faruk Pinjo

The past couple of years drowned in the pandemic and its subsequent isolation led the Japanese artist to believe that he had almost forgotten how to communicate with others. The immersive installation Sonic Bloom features horn-shaped sculptures to let the audience experience human interaction after a bout of isolation. In an interview with STIR, Suzuki shares the conception process of Sonic Bloom, saying, “I wanted to create a sculpture that worked as a communication device to create opportunities to start a conversation with someone. The installation conformed to social distancing rules being outdoors and welcomed people to interact safely with each other through speaking tubes.”

This engagement activates the senses that are otherwise not easily available to experience. Further, Sonic Bloom facilitates the relationship between the spectator and the city of London via the channel of sound. Suzuki adds, “It offered seats for resting while being able to hear the soothing sounds of the area, as well as voices of others there. It became a bridge between two different times: a return to older forms of communication and newer pandemic and post-pandemic modes.” Suzuki was cognisant of the fact that a physical installation may not be possible for everyone to see so he made a digital translation for his global audience. The distinctive design coupled with voice recording gave birth to the flower animations. Later, invariably, these vivid animated visuals were ‘planted’ onto a map of Mayfair.

Sound of the Earth Ch 2, 2020 | Yuri Suzuki | STIRworld
Sound of the Earth Ch 2, 2020 Image: Alan Rose

The three audible sounds—people, nature and the surrounding environment—as a part of the installation as well as his large art practice seek to create a milieu where each of the elements interacts. To give an instance, the installation Sonic Playground made of six interactive sound sculptures transmutes according to the position of the audience—where they are standing, listening or speaking. Given the scale of his in-situ installation, the dexterity of the engineer and Japanese designer was crucial in allowing the acoustics to have a seamless flow across the audience.

Sound of the Earth Ch 3, 2022, metal geodesic dome with 300 speakers metal geodesic dome | Yuri Suzuki | STIRworld
Sound of the Earth Ch 3, 2022, metal geodesic dome with 300 speakers metal geodesic dome Image: DSL Studio

Another installation Sound of the Earth: Chapter 3, launched at the Triennale Milano Festival of 2022, is rooted in the idea of glocal to connect communities that are otherwise geographically distanced. In places where no border or no-man land is visible to the naked eye, yet a salient sense of foreignness does not leave, the sonic installation connects disparate localities. Like the rest of the works, the sonic value of this sound art installation is built upon the idea that humans have sensitive ears to listen to what remains otherwise unheard. The artwork is a combination of an interactive website developed as part of the Artists + Machine Intelligence Grants at Google Arts and Culture with an accompanying physical installation.

Sound of the Earth: Chapter 3,2022, Launch with User Sound Video: ©Pentagram Design

From the space of your home, the artist cajoles you to participate in the making of the sound archive—the world in the shape of a geodesic sphere on the digital platform, as the website informs. The artist’s website reads that the installation, "uses machine learning to link user-submitted sounds to their nearest sonic neighbours, generating a unique journey through a changing soundscape that transcends geographic borders.”

The immersive experience is pertinent to his public art projects that encourage engagement and actively open spaces of interaction with local communities. The world has become more disconnected and isolated because of pandemics and wars, and that inspired the creation of the Sound of the Earth series. The sound artist hopes to bring people together by unifying and gathering global sounds. SOTEC 3 was therefore created to blur the boundaries of geographical borders and enable people in becoming active participants in the project.

Yuri Suzuki’s Portrait at Dallas Museum of Art | Yuri Suzuki | STIRworld
Yuri Suzuki Image: Nick Glover

The installation Crowd Cloud at Haneda Airport’s arrival hall in Tokyo, Japan represents an amalgamation of words, noises, tones, and tempos. Without losing the sensitivity of the human voice, the Crowd Cloud "distils the vowels of the Japanese language" that are further emanated from the bunch of long-standing horns. The installation simulates the crowd at the airport, of which conversations and interaction are an integral part. It invites us to pause and listen to the installation in an environment synonymous with hustle-bustle or the act of waiting.

Suzuki admits that it is indeed “great to see people actually actively using and interacting with my art pieces.” Being an icon of the space, he strongly believes that public art should have functionality and interactivity rather than being an expensive statue. To that effect, Sonic Seating is a two-piece artwork located in Potsdamer Platz in Berlin. Bright Noise is a permanent piece displayed at the Color Factory in Chicago. For his followers and new admirers, Suzuki succinctly unravels, “There is an upcoming piece being installed in Singapore, which we are excited to announce once it is ready to be unveiled.”

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