ryoichi kurokawa multimedia

Synesthesia of Ryoichi Kurokawa

Japanese multimedia artist Ryoichi Kurokawa was born in 1978 in Osaka and is currently based in Berlin. He presents an audiovisual language where he combines a synthesis of complexity and simplicity. He began to work as an audiovisual artist in 1999. Released the audiovisual work “Copynature” from the PROGRESSIVE FOrM label in 2003, followed in 2004 by “Read”, released on Haruomi Hosono’s label “Daisyworld Discs”.

Architecture, design, photography, and cinema have a huge impact on him. Before he became an artist, he was interested more about other than digital art. One of his favorite artists was Joseph Beuys. Another influence was musique concrete. The technique of musical composition using recorded sounds as raw material. Very similar to how Kurokawa creates objects and reconstructs them with visuals.

Since 2003 he has been creating installations and performances consisting of the programmed interaction between audio and visuals. His working spectrum is wide: installations, audiovisual concerts, cinematic screenings, 3D sculptures, field recordings, and digital generated structures. His works are shown across the world at international festivals and museums including TATE Modern[UK], Centre Pompidou[FR], Venice Biennale[IT], ARS Electronica[AT], Mutek[CA/MX/JP].

“Synesthesia is a neurological condition when one sensory stimulation results in the sensation of another, such as hearing color or seeing sound”.

In 2010, his work “rheo: 5 horizons” was awarded a Golden Nica in the Digital Music category at Ars Electronica (Linz, Austria). An audio-visual installation that inspires a new sensory experience of “watching sound” and “hearing images”. It is composed of five flat-panel-displays and five multi-channel speakers. Whereas each vertically long visual element is linked and synchronized with one mono channel audio source. These pairs are juxtaposed in line like a quintet and behave as five independent audiovisual apparatuses. The scenery of digitally reproduced high-resolution imagery, perfectly synchronized with playbacks of field recordings, combines both minimalism and complexity into an exquisite spatial construct.

The title “Rheo” refers to the Greek expression for “flow/current”, and was inspired by the term “panta rei” coined by philosopher Heraclitus. Like the providence of life and nature, the essential things are constantly flowing and moving along. By combing elaborately constructed imagery and sound like a single current in time and space, the piece explores the limits of human perception.


At the 2011 Venice Biennale, he was selected to participate in the collateral project “One of a Thousand Ways to Defeat Entropy” curated by Nadim Samman. Held at the Arsenale Novissimo, the exhibition, commemorated in this volume, featuring works by Alexander Ponomarev (Russia), Hans Op de Beeck (Belgium), Adrian Ghenie (Romania) and Ryoichi Kurokawa (Japan). Kurokawa contributes Octfalls, a digital audio-visual work that consists of 8 HD displays and attendant speakers suspended from the ceiling of the Arsenale, arranged in an octagonal three-dimensional configuration. Oscillating footage of waterfalls and digital distortion whirls around the viewer with sound-producing a hallucinatory effect. It is, in the artist’s words, a digital Japanese Garden – a space to contemplate the flow of time.

“I feature nature in my works because I grew up in the countryside. My home was close to the ocean. A lot of my ideas are derived from nature. Art, or man-made things, can compress space and time. They can do things nature cannot. This is where my art relates to nature most”.

Ryoichi Kurokawa: Octfalls
Octfalls, detail

Being Japanese, I am probably very influenced by aesthetics from Japan in particular. The sense of “ma” (interval), space, and Japanese gardens. Without being conscious of it, the way I create time and space are influenced by such things. There is an expression by Isamu Noguchi: “Mistakes that would be forgiven by nature”. I feel great power and meaning in this.

Although his concepts differ with each piece, there are two main axis: the reuse of nature and creating a synesthetic experience. As Kurokawa states, technology has quite an important role in his artwork. They are necessary to him as tools. But his purpose is not about showing technology off. He intends to employ new technologies as an advanced tool to create an artwork that is between the actual and artificial.

“Audiovisual language can be considered as a contemporary global dialect”.

“Audio is one thing, image is another. There is a big difference between light and sound. However, when I create audiovisual works, I consider sound and imagery as a unit not as separately. When I imagine an idea on works, the images and the sounds simultaneously come out into my brain. Always these ideas appear in my imagination abstractly as the images having sounds and as the audio having lights. Before creation, I already have a finished conception and I realize them with computer”.

Kurokawa generally avoids becoming attached to gear. He prefers to change his system for each concert or piece of artwork. He is dealing with how to design the sound in space and time. How audio can sculpt space-time. The completion of a piece is important, but he makes things mostly because he wants to see them. “While working, sometimes they have a little difference from the original idea, though their various patterns are valuable for me. Basically I don’t draw what I imagine in my brain as a picture, and I directly create with PC. At first, I transform visual information. After the rough visual part is formed, I conduct a transformation of sonic information and get through with audio. Then I complete motion pictures again. Finally, I adjust the close operation of images and sounds. So actually, I have a big three-part general system of operation: video-audio-video”.

Whether it is sound, moving image, or an object, he reproduces ideas originating from audiovisuals as sculpture. Audiovisual is the core of his works. “Technology is one form of art and an artifact. People have been seeking the symbiosis of nature, art, technology, and artifacts. This is the same in the world of art. I would like to make works that produce this symbiosis in a beautiful form”.

“I want to see my ideas exist. As something in reality”.

With “unfold” Kurokawa steps into the territory of scientific discoveries. A tactile and sensory experience and cross-disciplinary dialogue between science and art. It is a collaboration with astrophysicist and researcher Vincent Minier which took place in Liverpool in 2016. It explores the birth and evolution of stars. The installation offers viewers an artistic representation of how the solar system was born and how our galaxy might evolve. This innovative experience was possible due to efforts of FACT (Foundation for Art and Creative Technology), Stereolux, and University of Salford Art Collection, with the support of CEA Irfu, Paris-Saclay, Arcadi, and DICRéAM.

Kurokawa uses data collected from molecular clouds—places of interstellar germination where hydrogen and other molecules are formed. They are known as stellar nurseries, as stars can be born within them. He constructs his vision of a molecular cloud as close as possible to the scientific truth using striking 3D representations of space, combined with interpretations of how stars form within the cloud and create star clusters.

Kurokawa’s is most famous for his audiovisual installations, but he works with a wide range of mediums. Artist’s digital print series and sculptures are an interesting hybrid of physical and digital art.

“elementum” and “lttrans” are series created in 2018. “elementum” is a mixed media series using the method of oshibana (pressed flowers). It is composed of two different element planes, one by nature print and one by digital print. “lttrans” is a diptych digital print work where images are generated based on the detected feature point of captured natural plant life, which is then split into two separate prints. It shows confrontational evolutions presented as laminar and turbulent flow.

“All my works lies on notion of hybridization”.

He notes that hybridization lies not only between analog and digital but also between time and space, the full and the fragmentary, the simple and the complex, the reactive and the contemplative, the auditory and visual.

Ryoichi Kurokawa: lttrans #6
(lttrans #6, 2018. Courtesy Takuro Someya Contemporary Art)
Ryoichi Kurokawa: renature::insecta #2
(renature::bc-class #n Series of 3D printing sculpture/renature::insecta #2)

One of the bigger challenges Kurokawa faces as an artist is to break with methods and expressions that have once erected. “It’s difficult to change or develop all at once but I’m trying to do at least some parts in small steps”.

node 5:5 is an installation work co-organized and produced by ACT Center and the “Kinetic Media Lab” residency program in 2016. The collaboration of Ryoichi Kurokawa, Hiroshi Matoba, Seonghoon Bahn. It consists of 18-meter high, 50-meter wide projection, kinetic laser beams, and module wave field syntheses. The installation fills the entire space, displays video images overlayed with laser projections in combination with assorted sounds.

The term “node” describes a point of intersection or a vertex. The title is derived from the structure of the piece which has 5 nodes on the left side and 5 on the right side. The visual structure such as image area, ratio, and every 5:5 nodes movable scope is geometrized based on the number “5”.

This is a more architectural, larger scaled approach. The use of space by light and sound sets out a new phase in Kurokawa’s work.

subassemblies is a Kurokawas latest project (2019), that pursues the relationship between natural and human-made structures. He reconstructs 3D data from laser scanning, thermal images and filmed footage to render and rebuilt. He creates a renewed timeline through a perspective of architecture, layers of concrete and abstract reality.

The project creates an in-motion hybrid reality that renews history’s accepted timeline and exposes the forces of nature and art for their combined possibilities.

Ryoichi Kurokawa: subassemblies


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