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New Media New Face at ICC

by Monty DiPietro

The third installment in an almost-annual series (they skipped it last year), "New Media New Face 02" is now showing at the NTT InterCommunication Center (ICC), in Tokyo's Shinjuku Ward. The work here, from four Japanese artists, falls under the vague but trendy, technology-based genre known as 'media art.'

This is an interesting enough show, although the organizers appear just a little dismissive of the artists with their catalogue reference to the "experimental new works and other forms of art which have failed to attract attention to date." I only mention this because, inadvertently perhaps, ICC has done the same thing before, that is, use exhibition introductions to subtly lower visitors' expectations. Tsk, tsk -- maybe it's a translation thing?

Whatever. Set up in the among the ICC permanent collection rooms, "New Media New Face 02" sees large installations from Daisuke Furuike, Hisako Inoue, Yuki Sugihara and Satoru Tamura, all of whom are Japanese art school graduates now in their late 20s.

I very much enjoyed Furuike's "Broadcast," which comprises a couple of floor-to-ceiling video projections on opposite walls of one of the ICC's larger rooms. One screen shows a bilingual text message, the story of a mythical mountain which appeared one day out on the horizon and was seen through a storm by the people of a small village. On the other screen on finds said mountain, a large gray form which, when you watch for awhile, is seen to be slowly shifting from one side to another, finally morphing into two distinct peaks. I think, and this is a guess, that the image was created by filming someone's knees slowly moving under a thin gray sheet, but that doesn't matter, really, because part of what makes this piece interesting is the synergy between imagination and logic involved in deciphering the visual information.

Inoue's piece, on the other hand, is tactile. The artist has built a number of open-sided boxes, or "homes," these just big enough to crawl into. The boxes are orange and lined with thick sheets of soft white cotton. There is a color-rich ambient video playing on a large translucent screen suspended from the ceiling in the center of the installation, through which wafts the scent of orange essence (or so I believe, my nose was stuffed when I visited). But I couldn't stop touching the soft white cotton, hopefully the hands-on nature of the piece wasn't just for the benefit of guests at the vernissage, and continues through the run of the show. I tried to squeeze inside one of the boxes, an embarrassing effort which only resulted in a promise to myself to cut down on beer.

I don't want to comment much on Tamura's pieces, the big furry bears and Survival Research Laboratory-like smashing-and-burning-of-plastic-models-and-washing-machine video pieces (with giggling soundtrack, no less) are just too childish. But if you bring kids to the show, and they are dim-witted kids, they might get some kind of thrill out of this stuff, maybe.

For me the most memorable bit of the show was Yuki Sugihara's "Head Mounted Water Display." You will experience transport for the few moments you have your head stuck up inside this concave of cascading water, with the soft sound and weird colored light building an ambience that is somehow both otherworldly and strangely comforting ("water is life" reads a message discretely projected on the sheet of water that flows down over and around your head as you stand inside). Paris-based Sugihara has been working quite ambitiously with water for several years now, but I think the intimacy of this piece allows it to work even better than the much larger water dome she installed in the atrium of Omotesando's Spiral building in 1999.

This is a surprisingly well-rounded exhibition, enhanced here and there by sophisticated little sound and lighting touches which suggest ICC's coming of age as a media art showcase. You can spend some time with the work here.

"New Media New Face 02" runs to June 16 at ICC, Tokyo Opera City Tower 4F, 3-20-2 Nishi-Shinjuku, Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo. Toll-free telephone 0120-144199 (domestic only); regular telephone 03-03-5353-0800. Admission for adults is 800 Yen (600); for university/high school students, 600 Yen (450), and for junior high school/primary school students, 400Yen (300). (Rates shown in parentheses are for groups of more than 14 persons.) ICC is open 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m., admission to until 30 minutes before closing. It is closed Monday, or, if Monday is a public holiday, then Tuesday. A schedule of the current exhibition's artists' talks and live online connection to these can be found at www.ntticc.or.jp
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