Japan Media Arts Festival  
21st

Art Division

Excellence Award

Avatars

Media installation

So KANNO / yang02 [Japan]

Commissioned by Yamaguchi Center for Arts and Media [YCAM] 2017 / Co-developed with YCAM InterLab In collaboration with Yushin Suzuki and Takanobu Inafuku / Photo by Kazuomi Furuya Courtesy of Yamaguchi Center for Arts and Media [YCAM]

Outline

An installation piece composed of various large and small everyday objects such as a telephone, traffic cone, plaster bust, car, and houseplant. Each object is embedded with cameras, microphones, motors, and small computers, and is connected to the Internet. By logging in (“taking possession”) through a web browser, viewers can operate the objects as “avatars”, thereby getting a simulated experience of the objects’ sensory world. The avatars, which move in the place of the viewers who operate them, live in a space that is not virtual but real, and they can even have conversations with flesh-and-blood humans (the viewers) who are present. In the current times when we are seeing advancements in IoT (Internet of Things, a system in which physical objects are directly connected to the Internet and controlled) and the technology of artificial intelligence reaching maturity, this piece explores new relationships that arise when non-autonomous “mono” (written 物 meaning “things”) begin to move about the world as another type of “mono” (written 者, meaning “beings”) who have their own will. 

Reason

Avatars is an attempt at realizing a project that sets itself apart from other artists for its concept that hints at a world of objects in the post-IoT era. Within the exhibition space, large and small everyday objects are scattered about, each embedded with a mobility mechanism. They change their positions and directions of movement within the space according to their attributes. The viewer can observe the entire space from the side, but what is important is to first participate in the project through the network. In doing so, while not knowing which object each person is assigned to, everyone will concurrently decode the deflected world shown through the cameras (single-lens) that is attached to the objects, and from the perspective of the objects, sensorially and separately move around. While this piece can seem far from complete when seen through the concept of building a world of relationships that moves away from humanism toward one that is centered around objects, it has achieved an extremely high technological standard. As such, its incomplete aspects actually give us a sense of anticipation of what is to come. (ABE Kazunao) 


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