The youngest artist showing at “Cyber Arts Japan,” 29-year-old Yuri Suzuki, is among the generation that grew up immersed in the culture that informs so much of new media art today. He has received honorable mentions in Ars Electronica’s interactive art division for two pieces — “Prepared Turntable” (2008) and “Sound Chaser” (2008).
Suzuki — who also happens to be a DJ and a thereminist — holds a Masters in product design from the Royal College of Art in London and is primarily drawn to sound and everything that it offers.
Last year he was particularly busy working collaborations that took him to many locations around the world. For “The Animatic” (2009), shown at the Craft Punk event in Milan, he worked with design collective Household to create a fanciful Rube Goldberg device that literally animates the story behind the Chuck Berry hit “Memphis Tennessee” (as covered by ’80s band Silicon Teens).
His “Breakfast Machine” project, created with the help of designers and volunteers in September for Platform21 in Amsterdam, pays homage to both the kinetic art of Alexander Calder and cinema’s eccentric inventors (see “Wallace & Gromit’s Grand Adventure”). It also happened to attract the attention of British comedy quiz show “Have I Got News For You.” Although the show’s panelists poked fun at its impracticality, the publicity didn’t hurt and the piece itself was a creative coup.
A more recent project, “White Noise Machine,” grew out of his interest in the ability of white noise to calm babies. Inspired by the noise of New Delhi, India, he fitted a large retro-looking speaker with sensors, and for each loud sound it detected, the device countered with a big blast of white noise. To see a humorous video of kids discovering the device’s hidden power, head to YouTube.
“It turned out to be a quite funny installation. I was also really happy about tearing down the wall between posh people and working-class people. That was really satisfying,” Suzuki said in a recent interview in Tokyo, of which excerpts follow:
On media art: At first, I didn’t want to be known as a media artist, but I was always put in the media-art category and that happened more frequently after I exhibited at Ars Electronica. After I graduated from the Royal College of Art, I showed at many media-art festivals. Recently, however, I realized there is no market for media art. People prefer to buy sculptures or paintings.
There are two types of media artists. For the first, most of their income comes from teaching at universities or government grants. The other type are artists such as Maywa Denki whose work includes making products to be sold. Or Crispin Jones, a media artist who exhibited at Ars Electronica a few years ago. He invests money into developing products that he sells himself. I feel like these are the only ways to make money.
In the past two years I’ve become disheartened by the media-art environment. It reduces the value of art. It’s really sad to see people play with my work aggressively and break them after I put so much energy and emotion into them. There is no difference between what contemporary artists do and what I do.
On the value of memes: It can be interesting to work with a company on a prototype for manufacturing. I wouldn’t mind my works becoming mass-produced objects. It would be nice to see how people react to them. I’d also like to see my work in a purely artistic context.
I’m more interested in the concept of spreading ideas, though. Advertising is the quickest way to spread a technique or idea. A good example is the video “Hibi no Neiro” made by a commercial director [for the band Sour]. Pepsi later used the exact same idea. Though the artist didn’t get any money from it, his idea spread very quickly. It is intriguing when a small idea can spread to everyone.
On the Magic Kingdom: Since childhood, my dream has always been to work in Walt Disney’s imagineering department, creating stories or attractions. I really like Disney, but I don’t like theme parks so much. Conceptually, Disney’s execution is perfect. It’s perfectly organized down to tiniest details. It’s amazing.
On vision: I always have a clear vision. As soon as I get an offer to do something, I know exactly what I want to do. Then the collaboration process happens and it’s always nice to work with people from different fields. For instance, for “The Animatic” [filmmaker] George Wu wrote a great scenario and [graphic designer] Sarah Gottlieb introduced great visuals.
I’ve recently become interested in fashion branding and why nice clothes can be so expensive. Take Victor & Rolf. They’re creating their own world and their concept is perfect. It’s not about decorations. It’s about concept and branding. I’m interested in one artist creating a world, his own world.