The Agency for Cultural Affairs of Japan recently selected "Japan's Media Art Top 100" based on the votes by the general public and experts. More than 33 thousand people voted this summer, and 25 works were selected in the following 4 areas: Art, Entertainment, Anime, and Manga. Here's the top 3 in each area:

Art
(1)Taiyou no Tou (The Tower of Sun) by Taro Okamoto
(2) Meywa Denki Live Performances (see the related entry: Maywa Denki in Paris)
(3) NAKI by Meywa Denki

Entertainment
(1) Yawaraki Sensha by Rareko
(2) Pythagorean Switch
(3) Super Mario Bros

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[Taiyou No Tou. (Photo by the poster)]

Anime
(1) Neon Genesis Evangelion
(2) Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind
(3) Castle in the Sky

Manga
(1) Slam Dunk
(2) JoJo's Bizarre Adventure
(3) Dragon Ball

An exhibition that showcases the selected top 100 works will take place at the National Art Center Tokyo, from January 21, 2007. Hope I can report more around that time..

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The new exhibition at Tokyo's NTT ICC is called Connecting Worlds, which just started this weekend and will last till November 26. It features a collection of works by artists such as ambientTV.NET, exonemo, Mass Dev., Muntadas, MOHRI Yuko + MIHARA Soichiro, Robert DAVIS + Usman HAQUE, Gavin BAILY + Tom CORBY, UBERMORGEN.COM feat. Alessandro LUDOVICO vs. Paolo CIRIO, Wayne CLEMENTS, Dennis OPPENHEIM, Manuel SAIZ, Peter FISCHLI & David WEISS, and TANO Taiga.

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I visited ICC today, watched and played with most of the works exhibited there, and got really interested in ambient.lounge, Evolving Sonic Environment, and yes exonemo's OBJECT-B was outstanding. But, what is the common theme embodied in these different works? Connecting what? Any gaps you can imagine -- like gaps in space, time, people, cultures, social systems?

Then I attended a 2+ hour talk event that discussed what "Connecting Worlds" mean and enable in art, science, sociology and other areas. It was hosted by Yukiko Shikata, ICC's well-known curator, and the discussants included Takashi Ikegami, a professor in complex science, Satou Toshiki, a sociology professor, and Mukul Patel and Manu Luksch of ambientTV.net. The discussions were quite interesting and thought-provoking. I wished more people attended the event.

Mukul and Manu discussed privacy, surveillance, and identity in connected worlds by describing their works (e.g., see the entry "Dance performance for a live location-aware media environment") and their context. They mentioned DARPA's Total Information Awareness, cell phone eavesdropping by the US government, DARPA's Lifelog project, London's public campaign poster "Secure Watchiful Eyes" (see a related story on Wired "London's Privacy Falling Down.") I shouldn't forget to mention that their ongoing project "BROADBANDIT HIGHWAY" uses java scripts to hijack video streams from traffic surveillance webcams around the world, and montage these live sequences to make a real-time 24/7 road movie, re-broadcast on television.

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[ambient.lounge / broadbandit highway by ambientNET.tv]

Takashi talked about time -- unlike the traditional view that time is characterized by a linear sequence, his "texture model" is characterized by many loosely or strongly connected elements.He together with Keichiro Shibuya made Filmachine that is based on this model and influenced by John Cage's Time Bracket. He discussed openness, fluctuation and autonomy in relation to the texture model, not in detail but using interesting examples.

Toshiki, from a sociologist point of view, eloquently discussed what sounded to my ears quite subtle. He sought examples that may show that "connecting" is a key element in Japanese aesthetics and arts. For example, the beauty of cherry blossoms is inseparably related to the image of a "storm" of falling flower petals that can give us the feeling of blurring boundaries between our bodies and the external world. He also mentioned a style of ancient poems -- each of those poems doesn't really make sense for itself but only makes sense if one knows other related poems. He also illustrated different approaches to sociological study. Traditional approaches are characterized by their orientation towards atomism, namely, identifying isolated components to explain social phenomenon and introduce the components' connections if necessary -- therefore, connections can be just add-ons and not integrated into the model's fundamental basis. The starting point of the other approaches is the world where everything is connected. Then a key issue is: how do we find and manage right boundaries. Boundaries are related to privacy. The challenge of wars is how to beat enemies, but a key challenge of coping with terrorism is to know who enemies are. Similar thing in coping with hard-to-cure contagious diseases.

And the discussions continued, involving everyone on the stage --
Important question: who has the power, the right and the skills to create and break boundaries. Some things can stay ambiguous and the world keeps going. It's not just about finding boundaries in the world of fixed rules. Changes can happen at a meta level, also changing rules of the world. In some scientific models these meta-level changes may not be assumed, but, in arts, these are quite relevant.

It's nice to be able to attend a symposium like this -- made my visit to ICC much more interesting than I first expected.

While regine might be enjoing the transatlantic fun, just a small update from Tokyo. A recent Digital Stadium show featured this installation piece called Uku-Fuyu (Floating Winter).

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Kosei Komatsu has been making esthetically appealing artifacts using feathers and this is his latest using geese feathers.

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The feathers in the twenty five acrylic pipes fall straight down. They are "creme de la creme" feathers that Komatsu could find only a few in a mountain of feathers. Then he also developed air filters that create "straight wind" in the pipes. Digital technologies play an important role in controlling the movement of feathers. But Komatsu's efforts for perfecting non-techie part of this installation seem to have been substantial.

here's a movie clip.

via digital stadium

The Little Japan vehicle was developed so that its creator Kazuya Kanemaru and any volunteer could travel to towns and villages on it. They were searching for a place to launch the attached balloon that was shaped like Little Boy, the nuclear weapon dropped on Hiroshima, on August 6, 1945.

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More atomic art:
Tom Sachs' Sony Outsider, a true-to-scale replica of the Fat Man, the atom bomb dropped on Nagasaki in August 1945, Postapocalyptic survival gear, Kenji Yanobe's manga and sci-fi inspired sculptures intended to protect humans and dogs from potential threats and help them navigate a disintegrating future; Cinema in The Wood, by Yanobe Kenji, a movie theater and nuclear shelter.

"Monalisa: shadow of your sound," by Norihisa Nagano and Kazuhiro Jo, is an installation that allows one to interactively "watch sounds and hear images." It's currently exhibited at the renovated ICC Museum in Tokyo (if you want to know more about the museum's recent happenings, see the PingMag article "Rebirth of Japan’s Media Arts Centre ICC." I (manekineko) recently went into Monalisa to hear the sound of my face. Then, I sang to it to modify my face.

The main component of this interactive installation is the software application called Monalisa that melds sounds and images using Monalisa-Audio Unit and Monalisa-Image Unit plug-ins. The audio unit processes sounds using image processing mechanisms and the image unit processes images using sound processing mechanisms – for example, one can rotate a sound sequence using an image rotation tool and likewise one can manipulate an image's frequency levels using a sound processing tool.

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[Monalisa: shadow of your sound.]

I asked Kazuhiro (K) and Norihisa (N) questions to know more about the ideas behind Monalisa.

What motivated you to create Monalisa? I could view Monalisa as a machine that produces very unique sounds and images. I could also view it as an environment that provides opportunities to think about the image-sound relationship.

K: I surely want people to hear those sounds and the images, but one of the intentions of showing it as an installation is to allow people to think about the relationship between image and sound through interactive experiences.

By rolling out the image-sound-image conversion process in a physical space, we can let users see and hear parameters; I mean the parameters for changing characteristics of cameras, speakers, a room, and microphones. They are used to transform images to sounds and then to images. In my opinion, this seems interesting as a method for presenting media, visually and audibly.

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[image taken from the Monalisa brochure.]

Were you aiming at making a new musical instrument? Is Monalisa designed as a musical instrument that users can play with fluency?

K: When we made Monalisa, we thought about its aspect as a tool, perhaps like a musical instrument or a paint brush -- not just as an art installation or a machine to make people think. But it's made as a specialized tool for possible user population, maybe one in ten thousand people – it's not made as a tool that anyone can use fluently.

N: "Bridge," "method," and "anti-these" are the keywords for thinking about what Monalisa is. We can call it a musical instrument or a tool since it makes sounds, but it is also a "method." That is, Monalisa is a bridge that connects images and sounds – they are treated differently even though they are both internally zeros and ones on a PC. And Monalisa provides a bridging method. Also, it's my own way of showing the inevitability of using computers for reasons beyond "computers are useful"

It's very interesting that Monalisa converts images to sounds and then back to images. This makes me think about an infinite loop that repeatedly merges bits and atoms in a Jimi Hendrix style. Along this line, is Monalisa designed for personal, immersive experiences rather than multi-user, social experiences?


K: It doesn't really matter if it's used by a single person or multiple people, but we think it's important that visitors intervene in Monalisa's conversion process in the physical space, and don't just passively view it. In this sense, it can be more about immersion than sociability, but we haven't set any rules about what's right. I also want to see and hear intervention methods we didn't anticipate – not just shouting or covering the microphone by hand.

What are your future plans?

K: We are making the Monalisa software available for download. Currently Monalisa-Audio Unit and Monalisa-Image Unit plug-ins are available and the Monalisa's main application will be released soon. We also plan to update the installation at ICC.

N: In the future, I'd like to show the "method" that the three software applications enable.

Any other comments?

N: In the Monalisa installation, what people see and hear are the same. It's not just synchronization of sounds and images. Reflecting on this situation of seeing and hearing the same thing at the same time, I'd hope to gain some hints for the next ideas about what computers can do.

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You can download the plug-in software at: http://monalisa-au.org. (Nao Tokui also has some audio samples made using Monalisa.)

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