Digital arts and realities «An inspiration rather than a clear message»

An interview with Ryoichi Kurokawa
© Bruno Destombes

Ryoichi Kurokawa is a transformative and performing artist. For this Japanese artist whose work celebrates the meeting of art and science, reality is seen through the filter of digital technologies, which he uses to deliver visceral images and vertiginous emotions. In his complex work Kurokawa transforms analogical and fragmentary matter of reality while playing with the audience’s persistence of vision, visual memory or hallucinations made possible by the contiguous stream of digital effects colliding in a single stunning work. 

With subassemblies, presented for this 2021 edition of Multiplica, Ryoichi Kurokawa offers a physically intense and graphically powerful audiovisual performance, with an environmental theme that will inevitably appeal to modern sensitivities.

subassemblies is a powerful and unsettling audiovisual performance that explores humanity’s relationship with nature. What are the origins of the project? How did you come up with the idea for it?

I often use elements of nature as motives since one of my main creative axes is the reproduction of natural phenomena, such as laws of physics and biology. I have been drawn to abandoned buildings for a long time on various levels and the original idea was to use these structures to contrast with nature.

In subassemblies the landscape is mostly devastated. Architectural structures in dereliction, overgrown with vegetation: it’s a post-apocalyptic vision of structures built by humans. As an artist and as an individual, do you think that humanity is currently on the verge of collapse?

I think that there might be a risk of self-destruction, there is a sort of shared awareness about that. Only humans change the systems on Earth, we have a responsibility to sustain it for all forms of life.

How did you work on the graphic and visual design of the artwork? Is it totally recreated in 3D, in 4D photography, in photogrammetry?

All visual materials in this project are based on real point cloud data captured by an imaging laser scanner. I scan real elements, then transform that point cloud data into various renderings with shading language.

subassemblies is a very powerful experience. Are you trying to manipulate the audience’s mind with this work? Do you want to make them physically” feel that the path we have taken as a species is wrong? How do you want the audience to feel during the performance?

I don’t intend to manipulate the audience’s mind, it can be freely interpreted in different ways. I want to provide inspiration rather than deliver a specific message or information. I don’t want to lead by verbalising, except with a audiovisual language. I’m trying to let viewers think through experience or to provide a trigger or awakening.

subassemblies is one of several different artworks with formats that vary (concerts, installations, prints, sculptures, projections…). Is this an exceptional process or do you always imagine your projects on a large scale or with different presentation formats?

Not always but I often go that way: one art project, which is constructed with different art format pieces based on the same materials and concept. Generally when I conceive the idea, I consider concept and format at the same time. I like modelling one matter with different perspectives to figure it out.

As an artist, what is your opinion about the art world’s current concern about issues concerning our relationship with the environment?

As I’m not really familiar with the art world, it’s difficult to deliver an opinion on its actual concern as if I were part of it. I personally believe we need to rebuild a relationship with the environment. We have been putting a huge load on the Earth, it’s necessary to reframe the system fundamentally.

May I ask if you think being a Japanese-born artist has influenced your vision of nature and your concern about the environment? 

I obviously have a particular Japanese conception of nature and attitude towards the environment as has anyone whose identity is influenced by his or her national culture. Nature is mystic, beautiful and frightening at the same time. In our country we simultaneously receive benefits and threats from nature. Creatively speaking I never intend to incorporate it consciously into my artworks but it definitely affects my view.

Interview by Maxence Grugier