• Ryoichi Kurokawa / Synaesthetic Artfacts

    In conversation with Ryoichi Kurokawa

Kurokawa uses computers to create installations and performances in which sound and visual elements are in close connection with each other, seeking the creation of synaesthetic experiences. Considered a pioneer in the field of art generated through the use of new technologies, Ryoichi Kurokawa began his artistic career as a musician, and has maintained over the years a strong interest in the performative act. In addition to creating multimedia installations, in recent years, his interest in natural sciences has led him to establish important collaborations with the international scientific landscape.

In 2022 you presented a series of works that create immersive experiences through multimedia technologies, can you tell us how the design of this body of installations came about?

I have been creating immersive works in various forms over the past two decades, not just last year. Regarding the spatial design of installations, I assemble it along with the rough ideas of the concept, sound, and light in the plotting stage. Therefore, it is created before specific time-based content such as visual and auditory media. When designing installations, I basically consider the most visually effective design for the viewers, including the content of visual media, such as when I want to show the visual details or want to make it more dynamic and effective as light. Simultaneously, the technical aspect becomes equally crucial. I often work alongside technical riders, taking into account considerations such as equipment combinations and architectural feasibility. In this way, considering both artistic elements and technical aspects, I optimize and develop the design of the installation.

In your work you tend to explore the various possibilities and combinations offered by audiovisual forms, juxtaposing sound with moving images, where does your interest in this synesthetic research come from? What do you investigate through this sensory interchange?

When I initially immersed myself in the realm of audiovisual art, the notion of synesthesia was unfamiliar to me. It was not until others began to characterize my work in such terms that my inquisitiveness was piqued, and I began to explore this captivating phenomenon. Approximately twenty years ago, I delved into synesthesia by reading works from the likes of Richard E. Cytowic. Since then, I have incorporated it into my creative concept and made it one of my primary focal points. Although I myself am not synesthete, I employ this function in my artwork to offer a synthetic experience to viewers with multisensory faculties such as visual, auditory, and tactile. Through such sensory experiences, what I would like to offer to the viewers is not so much a specific message, but rather the ability to inspire them.

Your works consist of audio-visual sculptures with a high visual and sensory impact, it is possible to detect various references to natural elements in your art; and  recently you talked about how your aesthetic is slightly influenced by Japanese culture and the aesthetics of ‘intervals’. Can you tell me more about the cultural contaminations that most influence your vision?

That’s right, nature; the physical phenomena and the laws of nature, is one of the main motifs of my artwork, and capturing nature and distorting it to reconstruct it again is one of the pillars of my creative process. Therefore, morphed and reconstructed natural components can be seen in many of my artworks. I obviously have peculiar Japanese conception and attitude as everyone who has own national cultural influence as part of identity. For my creation, I don’t intend to incorporate it consciously into my artworks but it definitely affects my view. About ‘interval’ that I’ve mentioned is the Japanese word ‘ma’. It is equivalent to ‘negative space’. In Japan, this term refers to the area between objects in the context of the space, and in the context of time it’s the period between events. This concept is a very important element for me in constructing space and time, but I’m not deliberately trying to incorporate Japanese characteristics into it. I think it’s an unconscious thinking process that is working. It’s not a special thing, and I believe that people from any cultural background have their own philosophical and aesthetic sense, and this is one case of them.

You identify your art making with the completion of a path, which is still in progress. What were the decisive aspects, from a technical and artistic point of view, that you became aware of by embarking on this journey? What aspects do you intend to share through your vision?

While each individual artwork has its own concept, as a whole, I hope to continue to provide inspiration rather than convey a specific message, as I mentioned earlier. This applies not only to artistic inspiration but also to a more holistic inspiration. Through those multi-sensory works, I hope to provide a stimulus that can lead to new realizations, values, thoughts, and concrete actions. It would be gratifying for me if my artworks could act as a catalyst for such outcomes.

Physical form is a great pillar of research in your works, as is the symbiosis between nature and technology, we can talk about the presence of ‘artifacts’ in your creations and the need to create your own personal dimension of space and time. In your recent works, the theme of data is combined with your creativity to create new possibilities to interface with the viewer. What can you tell me about this?

Since nature is one of the main motifs in my artwork, the contrast, overlap, confrontation, and coexistence between artifacts and nature are also important keys. The manipulation of nature through artificial means is linked to important themes in many of my works such as order and disorder, entropy and negentropy. Artifiacts is able to make perceptible what cannot be perceived in nature. Reconstruction of nature: deconstructing and rebuilding it to highlight its specific points or to show its another phases, I’m trying to resolve it and reveal hidden aspect in it. I have had the opportunity to collaborate with scientists on several projects. When artists collaborate with scientists, there are various methods such as being inspired by the scientist’s research and producing output with their own interpretation, or sharing ideas with the scientist at the concept stage and incorporating the scientist’s philosophy. What I have done so far is to use the data that scientists use in the field of science and visualize or sonify it in a different way. For example, scientists visualize multiple-dimensional data by reducing dimensions or extracting only necessary elements so that they can get a glimpse of the overall picture, but artistic rendering that does not consider scientific purposes may use less important elements. There are still many ways to use scientific data in the field of art, such as data that does not need to be turned into sound and is not effective for scientists. When I received valuable feedback from scientists that they found the some artistic visualizations more understandable than their usual visualizations, this has given me a lot of insight.

The format of the material is constantly changing, it is always evolving and so is your work. What will the future take you to explore?

The incorporation of new technologies, tools, and materials can often serve as one of a major sources of inspiration in the creative process. While I do aim to incorporate these elements into my work, I don’t always feel compelled to do so. In terms of future works, audiovisual creations will undoubtedly remain a central pillar of my artistic output. I believe that continuing to explore how to construct time and space through art will be an ongoing pursuit.

Ryoichi Kurokawa / Synaesthetic Artfacts


Artist: Ryoichi Kurokawa  / @ryoichikurokawa
Interview: Alisia Marcacci / @miabrowe
Editor: Maria Abramenko / @mariabramenko

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