Wednesday, January 14, 2009

experiencing time

Visuals by Shoko Ise / Audio by Steve Jansen

Speaking of all-time favourites, and of Sylvian, Jansen et alia, I have suddenly recalled this most unforgettable exhibition that was being hosted by the Tokyo Metropolitan Museum of Photography exactly one year ago, STILL / ALIVE. All the works on display - by artists Shoko Ise, Jin Ohashi, Koki Tanaka and Toshihiro Yashiro - were remarkable in their own way and linked by the common theme "images of time" - stillness and movement. I was, however, absolutely mesmerised by Shoko Ise's video installation "Swimming in Qualia", with the original soundtrack by Steve Jansen. I must have spent a couple of hours there, transfixed, looking, listening, sensing. Here is an excerpt from an illuminating text by Tetsuro Ishida, the Museum curator, included in the exhibiton catalogue:

Swimming in Qualia is the name of the new work created by Ise for this exhibition. A host of shivering silhouettes beside a blue window, railroad tracks seen through the window of a speeding car, trees in a dim forest, waves on the shore, a random mass of lotuses in bloom, a withered landscape, all presented in a monotone video. These are not things that people go out of their way to look at, things normally only seen in momentary glances. "Qualia", however, is a scientific term in brain and cognitive science, where, in contrast to things in themselves it refers to the qualities perceived in things. Qualia include not only visual qualities but also physical experiences created when all five senses are involved, so that even when the same things are in question, perceptions of them can vary without limit. As subjects for scientific investigation, qualia are not yet well understood. This work swims instead in the sea of ambiguity created by what we sense. Two videos use the same video footage in scenes in which sequence, duration and tempo differ. One is 20 minutes long, the sequencing is relaxed, the music lacks rhythm. The other is short, the sequencing is up-tempo, the rhythm is minimal, 72 beats per minute. Musician Steve Jansen was in charge of the soundtrack. The videos are projected on the two walls of a corner on screens five meters wide, allowing visitors to experience in parallel the two different temporal feelings created using the same footage. It is impossible for the audience to focus on both screens at once or to grasp the whole in a single gaze. The structural elements of both are controlled digitally, by numbers, and, while the images are in digital high definition format, there is also an ambiguous physical quality, like cheeks being stroked by a breeze. Emphatically speaking, there is a multifaceted unease to this experience of time. (p. 99)

I am so glad to have found a downloadable extract of this work on You Tube. A similar piece can be found on the samadhisound website.


Trikatu said...

Thanks for the post. I am very intersted in Ise's work, and would love to find a copy of this catalogue! Do you know if the text is available online anywhere?

DK said...

Many thanks for your comment.

The catalogue is well worth purchasing indeed, and might still be available from the bookshop of the Tokyo Metropolitan Museum of Photography (, where I bought mine more than a year ago. I'm not sure whether they sell books on line, but you can always try to contact them. Or, alternatively, why don't you contact Shoko Ise herself via her website ( She might be helpful.

The STILL / ALIVE exhibition homepage is still on line here ( and contains a few passages from the catalogue.

Well, I hope this helps... Good luck!

All the best,

DK said...

One further suggestion: a great gallery and bookshop in Ebisu, Tokyo, that specialises in artbooks and catalogues and has an online service:


Paul said...

Hi DK. Many thanks for the leads. I will be moving to Tokyo in September and will definitely check Nadiff and the museum bookstore.