The existence of the word “nearness” indicates that we understand the “perception of distance” in human relations by associating it with physical “distance.” In comunication, this parameter called “distance” plays an important role both physically and psychologically. However, we are usually operating within this parameter unconsciously (we put a relative amount of distance between someone we are coming into contact with for the first time, while in the case of a close friend that distance is reduced); there are not many opportunities for us to turn our attentions toward this parameter.
This work attempts to address the “distance” between oneself and another of which one is not normally aware; that is, changes in audiovisual perception that occur in the between of people. When three visitors constituting a group enter a space, their “presence” will be represented by 3D pulse sound triggered by each of their heartbeats and round “area” that flickers according to their heartbeats. These pulse sounds and areas will create phases of various sounds and images, which sometimes approach and sometimes make interventions. In this space, clues such as figures and voices on which we usually rely to perceive distance disappear. The visitors must rely only on the “audible distance” and thereby realize the relation between oneself and another as if enjoying a game.
The experience that takes place in this space is highly conscious of the “auditory.” The between, or changes in the audiovisual perception of distance, inevitably cause the boundaries betweeen the existence of oneself and nother to become ambiguous and raises a difficult question: “Where do I end?” and “Where do you begin?” The visitor must listen to the changes in this continuity and realize the relation between oneself and another.
On the Artist’s Works
MAEBAYASHI Akitsugu is an artist who locates a new sense of reality and consciousness in the act of communication by expanding one’s perceptions. Until now his activities have been based for the most part in musical composition, software production, and video. Although “Audible Distance” marks his first true installation piece, his interest in music and musical instruments also provided him with a method for representing time and space.
This strategy is readily apparent in “The Here and Now of Musical Instruments,” a workshop he attended at ICC in 1995. Over the course of the workshop MAEBAYASHI and three others produced analog instruments, antitheses to the black box instruments of digital technology. This experiment used instruments as representational devices to explore sensory perceptions hidden in the interface of the body and instrument. The same year, MAEBAYASHI presented a live performance work, which was much like an installation piece and used the heartbeat, at P3 art and environment’s hypersync exhibit in Tokyo. The performer’s heartbeat drove two open-reel audiorecorders, which captured the performer’s reading of a text in real time, and then played it back. The performer’s recitation was interrupted by his/her own body and the information it generated. A subtle interaction thus occurred between the performer and his/her recorded self, creating a new perception of space. In “Disclavier,” one of ICC’s opening events co-sponsored by NTT Network Systems Laboratories, MAEBAYASHI engaged the notion of virtuality by creating a portrait work which allowed the visitor’s alter ego (an avatar) to play an instrument in a virtual space.
One can see how MAEBAYASHI’s “Audible Distance” is a natural outcome of the progression of works mentioned above. In “Audible Distance,” the visitor, equipped with a headmount and sensor system, enters a space of five square meters. The rhythm of the visitor’s heartbeat, taken from the earlobe, becomes a pulsing sound which envelops the body and actualizes the visitor’s existence. The visitor’s sense of touch is extended via the ear to areas that cannot be seen, heightening the perception of distance. The visitor becomes aware of the ear—which cannot simply be shut like the eye—as an organ that does more than hear, giving us an awareness of our vitality. This work is a superb audio-visualization of the perception of space as “invisible bubbles,” which Edward T. HALL discusses in his theory of proxemics. Distance from others is not measured according to vision or sound alone, but by the psychological intervention that creates the auditory experience. Thus, visitors encounter new ralities and perceptions. MAEBAYASHI is one of the leading artists working with htis new art form that explores sensory perceptions, and “Audible Distance” offers a novel approach for approximating the true essence of the human experience.
Cooperation: Hitachi, Ltd.
Sensor System: NAGASHIMA Youichi (Art & Science Labortory)
Network/Graphic Programming: KITAZAWA Jun
Library: FURUKATA Masahiko (International Media Research Foundation)
Design Cooperation KOSAKA Jun, SAITOH Aya