BFI Sonic Cinema: Ryoichi Kurokawa syn_ Review

September 26, 2013
BFI, Southbank, NFT1

The first half of this Sonic Cinema night was a performance from award-winning Japanese artist, Ryoichi Kurokawa presenting his latest work syn_ for its UK Premiere.

The theme of syn_ explores abstract musical patterns. The work consists of raw computer graphics abandoning humanism and aesthetics in an attempt to get deeper into your conscious and sub-conscious mind by playing with colours, shapes, perceptions, sounds and harmonies all at once.

After a short welcome intro and details from Alphaville team, Ryoichi took to the stage.

The light in the venue was turned down to absolute minimum, with only some light from the fire-exit signs in the corners… and then the two huge screens on stage lit up.

An abrupt intro began with some crunchy white noise and some crunchy looking soundwaves on the screen. The visuals spanning the two massive screens. The soundwaves began to merge, distort and change into other more defined objects and shapes, like insects and birds in mesh forms. Some beautiful plant based imagery, that could be best described as a digital dandelions. The visuals continued to develop into other shapes, peoples faces and eyeballs. All the while, still in Black & White.

The next sequence saw the introduction of colours. Global hyper-colours. As things stepped up a notch, the visuals got a lot more colourful as the heavier beats dropped in. We were now well and truly into the performance. Throughout the show the colours played a huge role. From the crazy psychedelics through to flat primary colours and everything in between.

As the performance moved on again to another phase, the visual style changed from extrapolated graphics, looking like expanded star constellations, to straight lines with a more clinical feel. White noise bouncing and reacting to the music, revolving around a single central vertical line, on each screen.

Until now all the content had been displayed across both screens – but now the screens started to alternate, flicker and strobe from one to the other. At points the content was reminiscent of the tracking you’d get from an old VHS player trying to tune itself in. The use of the single screen was fairly rare throughout the show, which was great – very hypnotic. Another little tactic to draw the consciousness on another path.

During the show you’d catch a slight glimpse of Ryoichi’s silhouette outlined figure against the screen, but other than that you were as immersed as possible in the content on the screens.

Ultimately a performance like this needs your devoted attention for the entire time. The sequences consisting of predominantly noise were difficult for people to engage with. If you had to pick a single word to describe the show, it would be INTENSE. It is not the easiest show to just sit and watch.

At the end, the crowd were a little stunned. Did Kurokawa achieve the synsthesia that he was planning to? Yes, for some. Not for others. With a work like this, it’s hard to put yourself in the right place and mindset to fully relax into it.


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