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The Journal of Aesthetic Education 37.4 (2003) 26-32
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A Sense of Reality
In the current highly information-oriented society, electronic media have entered into our daily lives ever so naturally, even unnoticeably, yet their great influence on us is beyond measure. In addition to the many ways that information surrounds us in our everyday lives, we are also exposed to information from outer space via television; computer networks; the surveillance satellite, Landsat; and the weather satellite, Himawari. The means ofunderstanding the "world" no longer come through our own bodies or through immediate involvement with phenomena. Instead, our experience via technologies of information is now mainly indirect. The changes in the [End Page 26] structure of experience have effectuated diverse influences on people, raising problems both within individuals and in society.
This essay was written as an introduction to the exhibition "A Sense of Reality," held at the Utsunomiya Museum of Art in the summer of 1999. The purpose of this exhibition was to question the new relationship betweenmedia art and today's society, and the relationship between electronic media and human beings.
For this exhibition, based on "sense" and "language," our objective was to examine the transformation of our bodily sensations and the state of "the self," including the changing relations between the two and in the present computerized society. The exhibition has been constructed to have the viewers interact directly with the exhibited works. The works by four artists and two groups cover a wide range of expression, from an installation using a video projector, to digital prints of a virtual space using a computer.
Body Absorbed into Media
"Lovers," a collaboration by Teiji Furuhashi and Artlab, was first exhibited in 1994 at Hillside Plaza in Tokyo, and has since traveled to various countries. This work can be seen as a work depicting the present state of "information" and "body" with the strongest determination, while also superbly revealing the present-day problems in relation to these. When the viewers entered the virtual space constructed by the electronic media, their living bodies were projected as images. Through intertwining and assimilating sensations both through and about the body, the feeling of merging into an imaginary world at some point creates a sense of bodily unification.
This world, originated as a vessel for the "mother of electronics," thatblessed us with "eternal love," was the last device created by Teiji Furuhashi, who had a premonition of his own death. Except for the floor, which was made of white linoleum, the dark space was covered with a black cloth, ten meters in length and width, and six meters in height. A tower-shaped object was installed in the center of the floor. On the tower were video and slide projectors with sensors, which continuously showed the images of nine women and men on the walls and ceiling. The viewers encountered the life-size images that appeared from nowhere, and were compelled to interact with these images. The incidents that took place inside the dark, rectangular space enabled the viewers to actualize various encounters and partings with the images of naked bodies.
Though the viewers felt as if they were dreaming or hallucinating, they had an uncanny sensation that the memory of this experience would become manifest deep inside their bodies. "Lovers" was an extraordinary interactive work that fully utilized electronic media, but was uncommon in that the technology was hardly noticeable. This work signified the future state of "the body and media," or "the body absorbed into media." The [End Page 27] work also urged us to recreate a humanistic relationship with the electronic media.
Today, we are surrounded by a variety of electronic media, most of which are beyond the world of art. Many have already become essential devices in our daily lives. The widespread proliferation of electronic media such as video products, CDs, mobile phones, and devices which use information from satellites, have brought about convenient changes in our living environment and in communication. Real-time information, bi-directional information, and other electronic networks circle the globe.
Electronic media have...