Mesmeric, Transient

Dated: January 06, 2015

Japanese artist Ryota's shadow-play installation creates a magic chamber

Kochi, Jan 6: It’s a toy train at the heart of it all. Casting giant shadows several times larger than itself and unspooling magic...

Inside the dark room is a barely visible little toy-train casting in slow succession magical shadows on the walls and the ceiling of the room as its headlight falls on familiar objects that run alongside the rail track.

It’s a magical constellation — of the familiar and the unfamiliar.

Such is the public fascination with Ryota Kuwakubo’s work at the Kochi-Muziris Biennale (KMB) that many in the chamber continue to sit mesmerised long after the six minute live installation finishes its cycle.

“This is excellent. I watched it again and again. Three times... I think,” gushes Adithya Menon, a Class VIII student after coming out through one of the two doors — both curtained with black cloth. “Only now I notice I have sweated a bit. It matters least,” says his mother Priya Shyamkumar.

What the Japanese artist has done at KMB’s main Aspinwall House venue is simple. Tokyo-based Ryota’s kinetic sculpture, titled LOST # 12, has lined up along the rails of the toy-train a set of everyday things that he picked up randomly though purposely from the markets of Kochi.

When illuminated at close range by the moving train, they produce, what KMB’14 curator Jitish Kallat says, “a mesmerising procession of shadows that rise and fall, rescaling the relationship of these objects to the viewer’s body”.

Thus short tumblers appear as high-rise buildings, inverted plastic clips used along clothesline look like electrical pillars with wires linking them, and stationary human-like moulds give the impression of passengers on the platform hurrying up to catch their coaches.

What’s more, there is an upturned perforated vegetable basket with the train passing through an inverted ‘U’-like entrance. As the automobile with a single-point light source nears it, the plastic object keeps gaining size. The movement casts giant web-like shadows on the facing wall first and then rambles up the ceiling before petering out along the wall on the opposite side.

Down the trip, which is strikingly slow, there is another metal cage-like object with which Kyota repeats the magic but with a different kind of feel. Then, a minute or so later, the train takes a reverse journey at clipping pace. This reverses the visual effect that appears in a different velocity.

“The two possible perspectives are for the viewer to experience,” notes 43-year-old Kyota, who is a multimedia artist is an alumnus of University of Tsukuba on the Japanese island of Honshu. “The objects are arranged in a way that the shadows they throw up remind a viewer of familiar images — a forest perhaps, or a tunnel or a cityscape,” he says. “Each viewer might perceive differently, drawing from his or her own personal experiences.”

The installation thus creates a self-reflective space, summoning a viewer’s conscious and subconscious recollections, adds Ryota, who KMB work is modelled on the lines of his 2010 installation called ‘The Tenth Sentiment’ which was exhibited at the Cyber Arts Japan exhibition hosted by the Museum of Contemporary Art in Tokyo.

Having studied also from International Academy of Media Arts and Sciences at Ogaki in Gifu Prefecture, Kyota believes that his KMB installation can connect two seemingly opposite visual experience — one of the digital realm and the other pure analogue.

For many at KMB’14, the experience of silence in Ryota’s work has made it a major talking point.




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