Ryoji Ikeda – A Cosmic Journey from Infinitesimal to Astronomical

Ryoji Ikeda’s solo exhibition is on view on the ground floor of Taipei Fine Arts Museum until November 17, 2019. TFAM curator Jo Hsiao and guest curator Eva Lin have joined forces for the most comprehensive solo exhibition of works spanning Ikeda’s career in Asia since 2009. The selected artworks include large-scale sound sculptures, audiovisual installations, light boxes and two-dimensional works, which are newly conceived and exhibited for the very first time, forming an immersive space-time landscape that vaults from microscopic to macroscopic dimensions.

Ryoji Ikeda is one of only a few artists renowned internationally for both visual and sound art. His artistic explorations range from math, quantum mechanics, physics and philosophy to synthesized audio tones, music and video. His live performances, installations, and long-term projects involving print publications and music recordings constitute a distinctive creative terrain. Ikeda has exhibited around the world, including Park Avenue Armory in New York, the Centre Pompidou in Paris, the Museum of Contemporary Art Tokyo, ArtScience Museum in Singapore, and the ZKM Center for Art and Media in Karlsruhe, Germany. He is the recipient of the 3rd Prix Ars Electronica Collide @ CERN, winning the artist-in-residence program at CERN. Even though he never received formal training in art or music, Ikeda began absorbing music from a broad spectrum of genres at an early age, and later he began experimenting with editing music, manipulating magnetic tape and toying with sound frequencies. In 1994 he became a member of the multimedia art collective Dumb Type, whose works involved exhibitions, theater, dance, music and publishing. Through these cross-disciplinary collaborations, Ikeda turned his attention to theater and art exhibitions. Later, he began to do sound art performances and became active in music festivals, creating sound installations and releasing albums.

By 1995 Ikeda had begun to gradually abandon the use of repetitive musical elements in his sound creations, instead exploring the fundamental question, “What is sound?” and launching an in-depth study of its physical nature. Thoroughly reducing sounds down to their smallest units, he then rearranged and reassembled them, employing such basic elements as pure sine waves and white noise to create composite soundscapes with shifting resonances, and challenging the limits of human aural perception. In this way, he became a pioneer of minimal electronic music. Since 2000, he has followed this spirit of questing for the essence, breaking the basic structure of light down to the level of pixels, while reducing the world to data. Ikeda makes art with the mindset of a composer, incorporating physical phenomena such as sound, light, space and time as elements in his compositions. Achieving a precise expressive structure through the use of mathematical calculations, he transforms rigorous arithmetic logic into artistic forms, endowing his works with his own unique data aesthetic.

This exhibition presents the major works of Ryoji Ikeda’s artistic career, gathering together data and code language to compose a metaphysical space of the spirit within Taipei Fine Arts Museum. In the TFAM lobby—an intermediary zone where guests briefly linger, wait or meet—five speakers in the shape of silos have been placed, simultaneously emitting sounds in specific sequences and combinations. This is the work A [continuum]. The standard concert pitch of “A,” to which orchestras tune, has never been precisely defined, from the age of Bach to the present day. In this work, each speaker has been assigned a different “standard pitch” used at different times in history. Their different frequencies interweave and overlap, forming a supremely intricate topography of resonant sonic forms. This rich tapestry of sounds and frequencies permeate the museum lobby as sine waves, providing visitors a listening experience that is always unique at every moment.

data.scan [nº1-9] is part of Ryoji Ikeda’s datamatics project, in which he uses pure mathematical calculation to reduce massive quantities of real-world data, such as human DNA sequences, Morse code and particle structures, into individual pixels of visual imagery, yielding meticulously composed microscopic visualizations, which are shown on nine displays set on plinths, all tightly synchronized with a minimal soundtrack. code-verse is a higher abstraction of Ikeda’s previous works, which he has re-scanned and meta-composed, extracting multiple codes from digital data and setting them free in a world devoid of meaning or content, where they form a symphonic tone poem. The work places the viewer in a space of drifting, flashing sound and light, challenging the brain’s capacity to perceive without interpretation.

point of no return is a double-faced installation, which Ikeda considers to be his most metaphysical work. On one face, a single video projector casts a black hole, formed by a vast quantity of information. On the other side is a white light with a color temperature nearly the same as the sun’s. The work references the scientific concept of a black hole, with a huge gravitational force that distorts time and space, capturing anything that enters it, even light. The edge in between the two faces is where the trajectories of the black hole and white light intersect, serving as a symbol of the critical threshold of space-time and expressing an enigmatic state transcending reality yet containing limitless images.

The large-scale audiovisual installation the planck universe [macro] makes use of the Planck length, an infinitesimal unit of measurement in physics, to explore humankind’s potential capacity to perceive the natural world at scales both infinitely small and infinitely vast. Depicting the boundlessness of the cosmos, from the human scale up to dimensions beyond the observable universe, it attempts to extend the limits of our understanding of the world and approach the edges of the universe’s extremities. Ikeda conceived this work during his residency at the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN).

Using science as a medium, Ryoji Ikeda creates immersive environments, presenting metaphors of cosmological immensity through the mathematical structures underpinning scientific phenomena. His works compel the audience to move beyond an anthropocentric perspective, to expand their understanding of the world, and to begin a new way of sensing: by completely giving oneself over to the connections among perception and soul, scale and space and time. Present throughout Ikeda’s works is an unceasing exploration of many unanswerable questions, ultimately yielding an interpretation and re-expression of the self.

The exhibition also features several rare experimental drawings and manuscripts, as well as an audiovisual experience area where visitors can view concert footage, listen to music, and read books, affording a glimpse at Ikeda’s creative ideas.

In addition to the catalogue for this exhibition, Taipei Fine Arts Museum is publishing the global Chinese-language edition of the catalogue Continuum for Ikeda’s 2018 exhibition at the Centre Pompidou in Paris. On the day of the exhibition opening, the artist will present two live performances. Entrance is free, and the public is warmly welcome. For event details, please visit the official Taipei Fine Arts Museum website (www.tfam.museum) or the Taipei Fine Arts Museum Facebook page.

Ryoji Ikeda
A Cosmic Journey from Infinitesimal to Astronomical
August 10–November 17, 2019

Taipei Fine Arts Museum
No. 181 Zhongshan N. Road Sec. 3
Taipei 10461