'What's Going on in Your Head When You're Dancing'

by Jon Lowther

Laforet Museum Harajuku

Closes Sept. 15

A garden shed took center stage on Aug. 25, the opening day of Karl Hyde’s debut solo exhibition at Laforet Museum in Harajuku, Tokyo. The British artist and musician, best known as one half of the influential electronic music group Underworld, gave a live painting performance that over an eight-hour period covered the static wooden shack with a series of dynamic improvised brushstrokes and chalk markings.

Presenting over 90 paintings, drawings and documentary videos, “What’s Going on in Your Head When You’re Dancing?” showcases a series of works that postdate Hyde’s last artistic endeavors in Japan, when Underworld and their art and design collective Tomato took part in the Oblivion Ball electronic music festival at Makuhari Messe, Chiba, in 2007.

Working freely across various dimensions of paper, cardboard and hotel notepads, Hyde’s creations consistently emphasize form, space and movement. “Dancing in the Wind” (2010), a large-scale painting on paper, features vigorous circular shapes of daubed black, while swirls of red, yellow, pastel blue and gray seemingly tussle in a cacophony of twisting forms. The painting on cardboard, “Jump Through the Sky Hole” (2010), in a similar manner, depicts a red ring-shaped form entangled within diving black and gray organisms. The experimental nature of Hyde’s abstract forms reveals a debt to the Abstract Expressionists, drawing parallels with artists such as Franz Kline and Robert Rauschenberg.

As the title of the exhibition suggests, music is a fundamental influence upon the works. The jazzlike free-form artistic compositions are accompanied by an omnipresent sound work by fellow Underworld member Rick Smith, creating a dialogue between audio and visual elements.

The show brings to the fore a relentless creator whose individual pieces ultimately find success within the greater dynamic whole of the exhibition. And while Hyde takes the viewer into his mind to see what’s going on in his head, he subsequently returns the title’s question: What’s going on in your head when you’re dancing?

Laforet Museum Harajuku is open daily from 11 a.m.-8 p.m.; admission ¥700. For more information, visit