press release

Otomo Yoshihide
quartets online
September 9, 2020–September 8, 2021

quartets online
Wednesday, September 9, 2020 / Wednesday, September 8, 2021
Special Website:
Yoshihide Otomo, Norimichi Hirakawa, Yuki Kimura, Ko Ishikawa, Yoshimitsu Ichiraku, Jim O'Rourke, Kahimi Karie, Sachiko M, Axel Dörner, Martin Brandlmayr, YCAM

A continuously updated ensemble installation piece from 2008 reincarnated online YCAM announces the opening of quartets online, a new online version of musician Yoshihide Otomoʼ s collaborative quartets installation project with numerous other artists. The first quartets installation was produced and unveiled in the Yoshihide Otomo / ENSEMBLESexhibition at YCAM in 2008. Videos of individual improvised performances by eight musicians, including Otomo himself, were edited together in real-time, into one permanent improvised session. Unveiled this time as part of YCAMʼs participation in the Ars Electronica Festival, one of the worldʼs largest annual media art spectacles in Linz, Austria, is an online version of this work, reconfigured to be viewed on a web browser. After its initial presentation in Yamaguchi, and subsequent exhibitions at places around the world, the work resurfaces in a new form, to be experienced at any time and any place. The world is continuously facing the global spread of COVID-19. In Japan, the spread of the infectious disease imposed a heavy burden on the medical system, led to the declaration of a state of emergency, and otherwise affected peopleʼs daily lives on an unprecedented scale. Various aspects in regard to social gatherings have been scrutinized, which ultimately inspired a reconsideration of methods and forms of community culture, including events at museums, theaters and live music venues. Since March, YCAM closed its doors twice for extended periods of time, while continuing to host several events according to the circumstances. Events that were held online during that period include the “YCAM Sports Hackathon 2020” implementing new ideas for sports based on media technology, and “Understanding Living Culture 2,” a talk event on the present state of art, technology, research and development. While it remains to be seen how the situation will develop from here, YCAM is going to continue to draw on its knowledge and experience, and carry out online programs for which we will invite various experts to discuss matters of art and culture in the “new normal” that is life with the coronavirus. Launched this time in the context of these recent endeavors is a new edition of quartets, an installation piece based on improvised ensemble performances that musician Yoshihide Otomo created and unveiled in 2008 at YCAM. The piece was remodeled into quartets online, a version that offers the unique features of a work to be experience via a web browser. It will be online for one year.

quartets online is a new version of the quartets installation that musician Yoshihide Otomo unveiled at YCAM in 2008. The original installation consisted of images showing only the silhouettes of eight performing musicians. Their performances were based on the instruction to ”play solo while imagining the presence of other players,” and ultimately projected as shadow images onto the sides of a big cube at the exhibition venue, according to a certain algorithm. Displays on the walls reflected how objects made of wood and iron vibrate in response to the oscillating sounds. As visitors could hear the audio of all performing musicians at once, but not look at the cube and the surrounding walls at the same time, it was not possible to grasp the total picture visually. Furthermore, as the solo performances were put together in constantly changing combinations based on a computer program, visitors witnessed at any given moment a “one-off improvised set.” quartets online is a remodeled version that comes with the unique features of a work to be viewed on the Internet. This time, viewers can enjoy an unlimited number of improvised performances at any time on their own devices. Even though Otomo and the YCAM staff started discussing the idea soon after the initial exhibition of quartets, it took a long time to realize it. The viewer is inspired to think about the contemporary meaning of space and time within experience, and about the physical distance between human individuals, as the fleeting ensemble performances reverberate—differently from the original “quartets”—across the World Wide Web.