Melbourne Art-Power Plant
20 July to 16 August 2012, PROJECT SPACE
Ecology and art after 3.11
When encountering the work of Kosuke Ikeda one is immediately struck by the sensorial nature of his work and its pressing environmental concerns regarding energy generation and ecological systems, such as water circulation. Ikeda’s artwork comprise multi-media installations of found materials re-made into alternative power generators or into micro-water-cycle machines. These works create dynamic visual, sonic and tactile experiences for participants. The encounters with Ikeda’s work are indicative of the range of poetic and political relationships between human activity and ecological processes.
The context for Ikeda’s more recent work is the events and effects of the March 2011 Tohoku earthquake and tsunami in Japan and the subsequent Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant emergency. Works such as Kesen Transplant (2012) directly address ongoing effects of the disaster in one of the regions devastated by the tsunami: Iwate prefecture in Kesen. The socially engaged participatory work provided an on-site space for local residents to share and reflect on their recent experiences and on the future. Using refuse materials and alternative sources of power generation, Ikeda explores the social and political role art can play as part of the reconstruction process, with an aim of providing a positive and creative feedback loop or ‘transplant’ mechanism for the area.
For many contemporary Japanese artists how to engage with March 2011 in a meaningful way and what art’s role can be in the face of disaster and reconstruction has been a critical concern. This occurs as part of the emergence in the last decade of artists who are reacting against the hyper-consumerism and neo-pop vision of Takashi Murakami and others. Faced with serious issues of a stagnant economy and aging population, many Japanese artists such as Ikeda have been critically engaged in environmental and community-based art projects.
Like Kesen Transplant, Tokyo Art-Power Plant (2011) is a collaborative project involving a range of techniques and devices for providing non-nuclear and non-fossil fuel power generation: human energy, wind, water, and solar. Presented as a ‘laboratory for experimental power generation’,1 the final iteration of the work featured performances by voice artist Fuyuki Yamakawa (who incorporates pulsing light bulbs generated by his heartbeat into his set) and experimental musician Atsuhiro Ito (with his ‘optron’ fluorescent lighting musical instrument). The show was powered with alternative energy; the flickering bulbs and the waning sound of electric guitars are stark reminders about the fragility of energy generation and the invisibility, and environmental impact, of more commonly used energy sources.
Other works by Ikeda such as Exform (2011) and Rain/Desert Island (2010) focus on the water cycle and the multifarious social and environmental meanings of water—as both vital resource and destructive agent. While the reference for Exform is March 2011 it resonates with local events in Australia, such as the recent flooding in Victoria, New South Wales and the Queensland floods of 2011. Water and the hydrologic cycle is a powerful symbol of a global network, of the relationship between resources, activities and events, and of how we—as humans—are connected to the Earth. These works poetically articulate the ‘invisible’ production, consumption and environmental impact of human activity.
Dr Kristen Sharp
1. Notes from artist talk at RMIT University, June 2012.
Kosuke Ikeda’s work is based in an interest in environmental phenomena, energy and natural disaster. Recently influenced by Japan’s 2011 earthquakes and the resulting devastation, Ikeda has developed a series of works which consider our interaction with and dependence on electrical power grids. This ongoing research project Toward the New Vision of Energy and Ecology after 3.11 is a collaboration between artists and engineers which utilises a wide variety of technologies—from micro-power generation to water circulation—to investigate the complex relationship between society and our environment.
RMIT School of Art international Artist in Residence Program—iAIR—has collaborated with Asialink and Japan’s Tokyo Wonder Site to launch a new initiative between Australia and Japan. This project has been developed to connect and explore culture of the Asia-Pacific region through art. The School warmly welcomes Kosuke Ikeda as the 2012 Japanese recipient of this exchange.
This partnership is made possible by the generous support of Asialink, Tokyo Wonder Site and Central Sky Lounge Apartment Hotel, and the cooperation and assistance of Yusaku Imamura, Daisuke Harada, Lesley Alway, Eliza Roberts, and Grant Richardson. Mr. Ikeda and iAIR would also like to thank Ken Shimizu, Cameron Robbins, and Ceri Hann for their generosity and assistance.
iAIR is global in attitude, action and presence—connecting people through art and generating opportunities for creative experimentation, cross-cultural dialogue and international mobility. For further information about iAIR or this exchange, please visit the iAIR website.
Concurrent Spare Room Exhibition: