How does one describe the world and work of Mariko Mori? The category-defying Japanese artist's photographs, installations, and video work seem to emanate from an imagined near-future, mixing influences from eastern and western religion, popular futurism, and the world of otaku (albeit less overtly than 'superflat' artist Takashi Murakami). She's the aesthetic lovechild of William Gibson, Cindy Sherman, and the Ghost in the Shell.
In the 1990 's, Mori became known for her intensely stylized photographs and multimedia projects. In these, she starred as a priestess, anime babe, and a goddess, exploring the imaginary iconography of a globalized future culture. The work flirted on the edge of kitsch, but also synthesized a myriad of connected influences, from anime to transhumanism, that were bubbling up in the pre-millennial psyche. And it catapulted 36 year-old Mori to the top of the global art scene.
Now, Mori has a new installation in New York. Called 'Wave UFO', the work transcends the pop iconography of her earlier efforts and offers an immersive experience that brings together architecture, real-time computer graphics, brainwave technology, sound, and state-of-the-art engineering to create a profound interactive experience. Anyone interested in experience design, and the relationship between art, technology and the future should see it.
Wave UFO is a 34-foot long, 17-foot tall droplet-shaped capsule of polished silver fiberglass that 'floats ' on stilts about 5 feet above the ground. Inside the shell is an interior capsule, which is reached by white polished stairs. Inside this capsule, three visitors at a time can rest comfortably on an ergonomically-curved surface covered in technogel. As they look up at the domed interior of the capsule, they are treated to a seven minute digital animation, projected from the center of the pod.
But this is no ordinary video presentation. Just prior to entrance, the visitors are outfitted with a set of electrodes (provided by IBVA) which read their brain activity. This activity is digitized and influences the structure and timing of the animation - in real time. The result is an experience that is simultaneously individual and communal, and utterly distinctive - a unique visual 'trio ' of brain patterns that dance before the visitors eyes. The experience, aimed at bringing visitors into a deeper sense of the 'connected world', succeeds marvelously.
Wave UFO is such a stunning and novel integration of media
and technologies that it is almost impossible to critique - we don 't
yet have a critical language for it. But the work amply demonstrates
one truth: artists will continue to pave the way for the integrated
experience of multiple media and multiple sensory channels. Designers
and industry leaders should be watching carefully.
Wave UFO runs until July 31, 2003 in the atrium at 590 Madison
Avenue at 56th Street. Hours are Tues: 10am - 8pm, Wed-Sat: 11am -
7pm, Sun: 11am - 5pm.
Ironically, one of the most impressive things about Wave UFO is the part that can 't be seen. The software which analyzes and visualizes brain activity, developed by Masahiro Kahata, runs on computers which are hidden from visitor 's view. During our interview, Mariko took us back 'behind the curtain ' where Mr. Kahata, like the great-and-powerful Oz, monitored machines that are capable of even more powerful visualizations. Kahata showed how users might 'fly ' through a landscape whose peaks and valleys are defined by the brainwaves induced by their own act of watching. More on the software will follow in this space.
was founded by Andrew Zolli in 2001.
Andrew Zolli of Z + Partners is a forecaster, design strategist and author, working at the intersection of culture, creativity, technology, and futures research. Andrew specializes in helping people and institutions see, understand and act upon complex change. Most recently, Andrew was the editor of the Catalog of Tomorrow, (QUE Publishing, 2002) which explores 100 trend and technologies for the next 25 years. His next book, In Good Company, about the complex relationship between companies and culture, will be published in 2004. He also serves as a Futurist in Residence Popular Science magazine, and is a regular contributor to Wired magazine.