Translation/Transformation in Ryoji Ikeda's "Datamatics" Project — Perceptualization of Data


January 2014
BA Thesis | Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin
advisors Robin Schuldenfrei, Charlotte Klonk
120 pages

Here, embalmed in the translation/transformation of ready-made data, animated by the performativity of code, and transcending opacity for transparency, Ryoji Ikeda is mirroring the pulse of our contemporary condition in his datamatics (2006-) project. Transgenesis is an inquiry into the processes of translation and transformation, a contemporary analysis of art, and a detailed account of Ikeda's project.

Ryoji Ikeda does provide with datamatics a unique perceptualization of data as meta-language – much as binary code – to be experienced and performed rather than read or written. He returns to us in an increasingly decorporealized world, traversed by a decoupling of physiological and digital personae, what it means to experience these invisible structures. His emphasis culminates in a perceptualized data design derived from phenomena spanning a broad spectrum, varying in scale from immaterial structures of errors in software code to a mapping of the vast, expanding universe. Through sedimentation of sensory perception and other strategies for empathizing the condition of being surrounded by unfathomable amounts of data in our new media culture, datamatics epitomizes the data art research undertaken by the artist throughout his other serial projects. 

Morphing iconographic visuals and sound of the contemporary coded world with the abysmal spheres thematized, Ikeda is able to fracture the preexistent distance to the phenomena and digital material we utilize so naturally. He achieves this through an intricate perceptualization of data and creation of a unique aesthetic language that transcends the verbal by accessing the sensory realm at an intermediate level. 

With a unique amalgamation of visual and sonic complexity, he mediates our contemporary techno-cultural condition, posing questions such as: What does it mean to be surrounded and embedded in a sea of data, the invisible structures that are with us always? With this, he is installing datamatics as a work of art that acts in the enigmatic vein of the Sisyphusian challenges in its most contemporary relevance: The immersion in the performance of 0/1 binary code. In a language and sphere where 1 means “on” and 0 means “off,” the act of transgenesis is becoming the generative core and pulse of Ryoji Ikeda’s datamatics project, constituting itself as the dynamic genesis derived from flowing streams of data—mapped, aestheticized, manipulated, and perceptualized as potentialities that are situated in-between these absolutes. Using as his material sine waves, white noise, feedback, light and darkness, psychoacoustic effect and affect, Ikeda is negotiating a somewhat unique, digital, multisensory and synchronesthetic material for the arts. 

By pushing the materiality and effectivity of visual art and sound art to exceed their primary (sensory) aim, Ikeda’s datamatics is renegotiating the synesthetic art historical experiments as perceptualized synchronesthesia that updates the cross-sensory endeavor of modernity to opt for a simultaneous approach more befitting of our increased “multi-tasking” orientation. Kazunao pragmatizes this germane aspect of datamatics’ localization by not only anchoring it in new media but also within the art historical discourse, dubbing Ikeda’s minimalistic, “clean” aesthetic an “ultra-minimalism” that he asks “may be comprehended as the ‘next modern,’ or whether it opens the way for confusion and creation as a new form of minimalism that is derived from ‘/’, the point of contact between sound and art that is isolated from conventional forms of art.” By intelligibly working with and being situated in both, visual art and sound art alike, Ikeda’s experiment has become a crucial attempt at making opaque the invisible, transparent structures of data by transcending what Lev Manovich would call modern art’s role as data-epistemology.