ICC Symposium on Connecting Worlds

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.


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 HIGHWAYuses 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.

[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.