Get Experimental

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So before you get all judgey on me, I just want to promise you that this isn’t one of those fluffy “Ohhhh I’m SO inspired by art when I’m designing office fitouts” …blah blah blah editorials. Because let’s face it – that’s just crap. Having said that, there is something to be said for the role art plays within design thinking – and the work of Japanese-born, French-based Ryoji Ikeda is terrific example of that role. so lets just get experimental.


You may have caught wind of Ryoji’s work in his first visit to Australia in 2013 with test pattern [No.5] at Carriageworks in Sydney. Or again more recently with the critically acclaimed superposition, also hosted by Carriageworks in September 2015. superposition is/was a new digital performance experience. The 65 minutes multi-media work invited audiences into an immersive space where uncertainty and probability coexist – not unlike, say, a workplace?

Using a combination of 10 synchronised video screens, real-time content feeds, digital sound sculptures, and—for the first time in Ryoji’s work—human performers, superposition explores the conceptual world opened up by quantum theory – ok, I know, just bear with me.

superposition is a project about the way we understand the reality of nature on an atomic scale and is inspired by the mathematical notions of quantum mechanics. Performers appeared in his piece for the first time, performing as operator/conductor/observer/examiners.


All the components on stage were in a state of “superposition”; sound, visuals, physical phenomena, mathematical concepts, human behaviour and randomness – these elements were constantly orchestrated and de-orchestrated simultaneously in a single performance piece. Seeing any crossover into commercial architecture and design yet? Ok, let’s keep going.

The two performers complemented the wide range of video images. An abstract representation of digital data was created through the combination of sounds and visuals. Sine waves, visualisations of code in black and white, or sometimes primary colours, provoked the audience to question how they digest information in their daily life.

Here’s where you need to pay attention, because that reaction is what is truly valuable here. An acute and raw understanding of how we, as people, digest information day-to-day is hugely significant in designing commercial spaces and workplaces. Just look at any commercial furniture supplier right now, what are they all talking about? The Herman Miller Living Office concept is a great example of understanding how people consumer, produce and function within the information-based knowledge economy.

But more than that, what I think is really important about the relevance of Ryoji’s work to A+D, is the value of experimentation. Yes, sure, we are limited by commercial interests and client restrictions, BUT just because experimentation doesn’t exactly bring in the bucks, doesn’t mean you should discount it. This where looking for sources such as Ryoji to do the experimenting for you is of real benefit to your practice.

For example, superposition – not unlike a designer – used scale, light, shade, volume, shadow, electronic sounds, and rhythm to flood the senses. In choreographing vast amounts of digital information, Ryoji conjured up a transformative environment in which visitors confronted data on a scale that defies comprehension, experiencing the infinite. That information is intensely valuable to, say, a designer or architect creating a commercial space from one-to-400 people; needing to understand how people behave and react to particular stimuli on an extreme level.


Again, another Ryoji Ikeda installation, spectra (2001) examined the relationship between critical points of device performance and the threshold of human perception. spectra was large-scale series of installations, which used intense white light as a sculptural material and so transforming public locations in Amsterdam, Paris, Barcelona and Nagoya where versions have been installed. The results of this artistic experiment could have seriously amazing application in the design of civic or public space.

The point is, creative experimentation and exploration without commercial or monetary boundaries is vital to the lifeblood of our industry. And while we may not always be in a position to conduct our own experiments, we need to develop a network of provocative artists and thinkers to learn and take from. Let the Googling begin! //



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