The Ground – Glowing landscape, arrhythmic glory

‘Making’ begins in the mind’s eye – with the visualization of an idea, the abstraction of a problem, or the crystallization of a concept. The references our imagination draws on however are not only defined by aesthetic preferences, cultural imprints and historical precedent, but by the technology that underpins them all. To trace broader shifts in ‘making’ and creative practice we must look to the most visionary methods of representation.

Ever since digital technology defined our current era of immateriality, the concept of what constitutes an image – how it is created and how it manifests itself – has become at best ambiguous, if not inherently unstable. Culturally, we saw this coming, as immateriality was foreshadowed in both photography and cinema – mediums where light is carefully controlled to capture (and then conjure) images out of ‘thin air’. The advent of the moving image in particular, where a coherent animation only emerges at specific frame rates, perhaps marked the moment that image separated from medium for good.

Today this separation is the status quo. Rapid technological advances enable us to render immaterial complexity from code and even use light as a medium in and of itself. Programmed, processed, and then projected, it rewrites the rules of space and scale and rewires perceptual paradigms altogether.

Few demonstrate this total authority over light better than renowned Japanese artist and composer Ryoji Ikeda. With a talent for monochromatic extremes and high frequency pings punctuated by controlled bursts of white noise, Ikeda has been exploring data aesthetics since the turn of the millennium. Whether stark pointillist maps, visual indexes, or precise rhythm studies – the ‘pulse’ of the digital echoes throughout his audiovisual concerts and installations, and it increasingly resonates at an architectural scale.

Ikeda’s test_pattern series, in particular, has radically expanded the digital domain as projected (or displayed) binary oscillations that have ‘interrupted’ arena-sized spaces at YCAM in Yamuguchi (2009), the Park Avenue Armory (2010) and Times Square (2014) in New York. An idiosyncratic visual system that translates data (text, sounds, photos and movies) into a stream of high velocity barcode patterns, the piece is part pattern study, part glowing landscape, and all arrhythmic glory. Like a strange area rug for the over-mediated, test_pattern functions as an immersive, striated plaza for us to step into and, quite literally, reset and recalibrate our senses for the exploration that lies ahead. Enter The Vault.

Photo: Ryoji Ikeda
test pattern [nº8], 2015