Ryoji Ikeda’s Test Pattern

Jun 19, 2013
  • Article by Gillian Serisier
  • Designer

Above: Ryoji Ikeda, Test Pattern [No 5], 2013, audio-visual installation at Carriageworks. Commissioned and presented by Carriageworks and ISEA2013 in collaboration with Vivid Sydney. Photos by Zan Wimberley

The work of celebrated Japanese audio-visual artist Ryoji Ikeda has been brought to Sydney by Carriageworks and ISEA2013 as part of this year’s Vivid Sydney program. Test Pattern [No 5] is the fifth in an extraordinary series of works by Ikeda to explore scale, sound and light composition through digitised and projected data.

As with its four precedents in Paris, Madrid, Yamaguchi and New York, Test Pattern [No 5] features a unique composition of both light and sound, which Ikeda composes once the physical attributes of the installation are complete. A real-time computer program converts data drawn from text, sound, photos and moving images into barcode patterns and binary combinations of 0 and 1 to create an arresting visualisation of the data that surrounds our daily lives.

In Sydney, Ikeda’s work occupies a 10 x 40 metre floor space in Carriageworks, with a raised viewing platform that allows visitors to appreciate the installation from a distance. However, the work is more simply enjoyed close-up, where the viewer steps onto the screen to be fully immersed in the flickering, strobing, throbbing and sliding layers of light as they race back and forth along the length of the installation. The sound shifts with the light, flickering from high pitched clicks to dense booms interposed with noises not dissimilar to typing or the science fiction sounds of binary computing.

As part of the exhibition, on 7 June Ikeda performed a live audio-visual concert, Datamatics [ver 2.0]. Using a wall screen rather than the floor, and spatial mapping systems and genome mapping data rather than barcodes alone, the work was both extraordinary loud and wholly enthralling. Somewhat like the hypnotic spiralling graphics of 1960s spy films, the sheer volume of unrelenting information flowed and cascaded, rippled, throbbed and hummed. And yet, the experience was intensely calming. Talking about his work, Spectra, currently on show at Hobart’s MONA (14-23 June 2013), Ikeda said: “Just light and sound, it’s very pure. The piece is so huge, when you encounter, or are confronted by, such a huge thing people tend to be very quiet – even 50,000 people. It is so quiet; it’s nice, it’s very peaceful.” Similarly, the audience in both the concert and installation became incredibly calm, allowing the waves of data to overwhelm the senses.

High profile installations such as this have played a significant role in the exponential growth of Carriageworks. The transformation of the former Eveleigh rail yards into a cultural precinct has been accomplished through considered intervention, beginning with Tonkin Zulaikha Greer’s highly acclaimed architectural renewal. And, under the directorship of Lisa Havilah, the Carriageworks program has become wholly international with extraordinary performances, exhibitions and events drawn from a multi-cultural milieu of excellence. Recent highlights include Birds With Skymirrors by Lemi Ponifasio/Mau from May this year, and the Australian preview last September of Cesena, curated by Anne Teresa de Keersmaeker as part of the 18th Biennale of Sydney. Each of these important shows are supported by rigorous education programs, talks, panel discussions and interviews. Later this year, Carriageworks will once again become a stage for international art – playing host to the inaugural Sydney Contemporary Art Fair in September.

Ryoji Ikeda
Test Pattern [No 5]
8 June – 1 July 2013
Carriageworks, 245 Wilson Street, Eveleigh, Sydney


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