Kūsou/空相’s interactive audiovisual art installation blends calligraphy, music and multimedia — Stir

THE NEW IMMERSIVE audiovisual installation Kūsou/空相 not only brings together cutting-edge ancient and contemporary art forms, but also artists who live across the Pacific Ocean.

As the Japanese calligraphy transforms in a mind-blowing way on a massive 20-meter-wide screen, a live computer-generated soundscape of electronically modified flute surrounds the audience.

Premiering tomorrow at the Anvil Center in New Westminster as part of the Powell Street Festival marks the culmination of two years of work between four artists, including two in Vancouver and two in Japan. (The New Media Gallery and the Formscape Arts Society have also partnered on this major project.)

“We don’t present any stories to the audience, we just present rather abstract visual concepts,” says Yota Kobayashi, soundscape artist and interactive systems developer. “I want the public to make sense of them. We only provide the abstract building blocks with which the audience can create a unique reality in their mind. »

He worked online on the project with famed Tokyo calligrapher Aiko Hatanaka and videographer Ryo Kanda. Here in town, he spent hours recording little musical phrases – more than 650 of them – from flautist Mark Takeshi McGregor.

Kobayashi explains that he then feeds these sampled bits into a computer program. “He will recompose the soundscape, generate it in real time,” he says.

The artist explains that the main concept behind the work is “ku”, the old Zen Buddhist concept of emptiness. “Basically, it says everything is empty, but that doesn’t mean there is nothing, just that reality only becomes reality through our imaginations,” Kobayashi explains.

The Japanese calligraphy “kanji” characters that Hanataka employs here lend themselves perfectly to this concept, he adds, because they are not only aesthetically beautiful as pictographs, but have a meaning that can be widely interpreted by different persons.

“So, for example, if we introduce the character of ‘virtue’ to the public, what does that mean to them?” says the artist. “It’s different for everyone. If someone thinks theirs is the only version of virtue in this world, then there will be conflict. We would like to create a harmonious universe, a world where these various phenomena can coexist harmoniously. This is what we want to represent in the artwork: to accept that there can be multiple versions, and that each has its own meaning, belief or awareness. »

In other words, Kūsou/空相 creates a kind of community peace and acceptance. And the calligraphic shapes that appear and disappear fluidly before your eyes on screen, seeming to take shape from luminous dust particles, are “empty” vessels for anyone’s interpretation. (It echoes the computer-generated sounds also evoked from the fragments of McGregor’s ethereal flute playing.)

“Everything we can see on the screen in seconds becomes blank,” says Kobayashi, who invites visitors to move through the space, moving closer and further away from the screen to see its various effects. . (See the video below for an idea.)