Top/Why Device Art?


Machiko Kusahara - Waseda University / Media Art Curator

Borders between art and its related fields are no longer clear-cut. Device Art explores new ways of bridging art, design, technology, science and entertainment. Using both latest and everyday technologies and material, these media artworks enable users/viewers/interactors to enjoy and understand what media technologies mean to us. In theorizing the nature of Device Art elements of Japanese culture such as the importance of "tools", the continuity between art, design and entertainment, and the importance of popular culture become key issues. These elements have been consciously (re)examined and used in Device Art.

Appreciation of playfulness is deeply embedded in Japanese culture, and 250 years of peace until mid 19th century nursed the culture of play, including use of latest technologies for entertainment. Playfulness contributes in bringing art outside of museums and galleries, enabling even commercial production and distribution of artwork to reach a wider public. Kazuhiko Hachiya, Ryota Kuwakubo and Novmichi Tosa have commercialized their works to be integrated in our daily life. Device Art rejects the traditional idea that draws a line between art and commercial products.

Mitate, the tradition of using metaphors, associations and double meanings in a playful manner often works together with playfulness. Mitate means seeing beyond the actuality. It plays a magic to turn an ordinary or even trivial object into something extraordinary and unexpected, as in case of rocks and pebbles in Japanese gardens.
Different types of mitate could be observed in this exhibition: Kuwakubo's Nicodama transforms objects from everyday life into personalities; Sachiko Kodama's series of works including MorphoTower turns an industrial material into a kinetic sculpture; a tabletop becomes a window with Hachiya's work FairyFinder.

Although these Japanese elements are distinctive, Device Art is a part of a worldwide phenomenon as well. It is a logical extension of Avant-garde art movements in which artists from multiple disciplines responded to the new media technologies of the time, pushing the border of art. Today we live in the age of digital (re)production and communication technologies, in which the traditional norms for art making, marketing and appreciating are challenged. Not only artists but also designers and architects are highly aware of it and taking actions. Device Art responds to such condition from both contemporary and historical perspective, proposing a new approach to media art, and to art itself.

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