Yuko Hasegawa


Art and Music

Search for New Synthesia(Tokyo Art Meeting III)

Venue : Museum of Contemporary Art Tokyo (MOT)



Organization : Tokyo Metropolitan Government / Museum of Contemporary Art Tokyo Tokyo Culture Creation Project Office (Tokyo Metropolitan Foundation for History and Culture) The Tokyo Shimbun

Co-curator : Ryuichi Sakamoto

Artists :
Céleste Boursier-Mougenot,John Cage ,Manon de Boer,Florian Hecker,Ryoji Ikeda ,Wassily Kandinsky,Paul Klee,Udomsak Krisanamis ,Carsten Nicolai,Seigen Ono + Ryuichi Sakamoto + Shiro Takatani,Otomo Yoshihide limited ensembles(Otomo Yoshihide, Yasutomo Aoyama, Sachiko M, Kanta Horio, Yuko Mohri),Christine Ödlund ,Ryuichi Sakamoto + Shiro Takatani,The SINE WAVE ORCHESTRA ,Toru Takemitsu,Michi Tanaka / Jiro Takamatsu ,Bartholomäus Traubeck ,Stephen Vitiello ,Lyota Yagi

The more diversified our many media become, the more our senses are differentiated from one another. As participating artist Lyota Yagi (born in 1980) points out, continuing progress in the development of digital and recording technologies brings with it the more frequent separation of the sounds associated with ordinary events from those events themselves. When we listen to an iPod while admiring the scenery, for example, the sound is completely disconnected from our sense of vision, while simultaneously creating a new kind of fusion between sight and sound.
In the interview with the general adviser to the exhibition, Ryuichi Sakamoto, included in this volume, he talks about the concept of “art and music” in relation to the title of the exhibition. But it is not sound art he means. It is directional power, dynamism, complexity, continuity, and other elements encompassed within the meaning of the word “music.” Included in this is the proactive participation of listening to natural sounds and environmental noises as forms of music. Now that any sound can be digitalized and segmented, and the breaking of waves, the blowing of the wind, the songs of birds, etc. can all be digitally analyzed, all manner of information is being equalized. While our eyes and ears are undergoing perceptual training to accept and deal with this disintegrated, multiplied and digitally analyzed information, the other senses that have previously enabled our bodies to process information comprehensively from whatever is going on around us are being left behind.
Let’s take an example from one of the trends in contemporary art in the second half of the 1990s: the move to bring together fragments of reality and information to create a work that transforms them into a visual form involving text, photography and drawing. This resulted in many multimedia installations combining painting, video and three-dimensional elements such as models and sculptural objects. What it required was the ability to visualize text, to connect sounds to still and moving images, and to add tactile elements to the visual experience.
In all of this there has been a strong tendency for text and narrative to take the initiative. Digital media are easily tied into the production of signs and symbol. Meanwhile, members of those generations capable of creating simultaneously text, music, video, and pictures with the computer are turning to such activities frequently to take advantage of their signification and symbolic nature, and sensory effects. But while those who create in this way have the flexibility to traverse different sensations, perceptions and sensibilities, the viewers of their works may be somewhat poorer than in the pre-digital age in terms of their sensory reception.
Art, especially contemporary art, often reaches beyond the physical senses and carries an important intellectual dimension, a comment or critique on life. There has been a particular need for such observation, discussion, and analysis of our world in the past ten years or so, a period characterized by instability and a lack of continuity brought on by changes in political, economic and environmental structures. To look at it from another angle, it is as Sakamoto points out entirely a phenomenon of the microcosm of (the people of) our time. So, what kind of world is art concerned about?
This exhibition, despite a title that suggests a theme of art and music, actually sets out from the proposition that a free and very clear connection exists among all the senses, creating a kind of comprehensive sensuality. As Hiromoto Makabe describes in his text in this publication, there was an enormous amount of interest in the beginning of the 20th century in a rather loosely defined synesthesia. In recent years the improvement in the tools available for gauging cerebral physiology has enabled a more precise scientific definition and use of the term synesthesia. There is still a place, of course, for expression like the synesthetic art that Wassily Kandinsky strived for, but this is not limited to sight, hearing, touch and the other senses that make up the group of five commonly recognized. In our post-modern era, as Keita Onishi observes, it’s more realistic to talk sometimes of a “sense of perspective” or some other concept relating to spatial sensibilities and the unique interactions and interconnections that transcend the five traditionally acknowledged senses.
Many artists before now have been involved in musical activities or held a deep interest in music. In particular, one could cite the emergence in the first decade of this century of a surge of drawing as a medium reflecting straightforward physicality and internal emotions, and animation, both abstract and figurative, in which music seems to pursue and overlap the creative processes of drawing. We can see in them a fascination with elements such as time, coincidence, and physicality, and yet many new media works are being created that analyze and reconstruct, with a meta-consciousness, such forms of temporal art as singing, performance and dance. This shows a subtle tension in their approach to temporal art between the sensual and comprehensive on one side and the intellectual and analytical on the other.
There is also the influence in recent years of commercial media such as music videos and background videos on synchronizing the senses of hearing and vision. The works of Doug Aitken, Pipilotti Rist and Masakatsu Takagi, among others, are put forward as examples, but there are so many that we have not sought to include such artists in this exhibition. This is because the relative importance of visual images is generally greater, and we are focusing more on an examination of the relationship between visuality and music in the wider sense, and on how music achieves a mutual connection with external components.
Starting with the experiments of modernism at the beginning of the 20th century, right through to the 1960s, when people strove to deconstruct music and reconstruct it together with performance and images, a variety of methodologies have involved many contemporary artists with a real interest in the relationship between art and music. As we can see expressed in Sakamoto’s comments, the time has come for expression involving sound, which has been examined and refined owing to technology and modernism’s critical spirit, to be recombined once more with many other elements at the macrocosmic level. One of the key elements in making this possible is synesthesia, experiments with which by a number of artists I will introduce hereafter.

"Restoring integrity to sensation" Yuko Hasegawa (Excerpt from the catalog)