Given the digital prestidigitation on display in their first U.S. show, the members of this Japanese art collective certainly live up to their self-billing as “ultra-technologists.” The same prefix is appended to the show title, “Ultra Subjective Space,” which paradoxically frames a collaborative effort as an individual experience in the form of six ambitious flatscreen and projection videos. How much you respond to their stuff depends on your tolerance for the sublime.
The sheer granularity of the imagery astounds, as does its uncanny sense of spatial depth. The pieces swarm with a vast multitude of details: falling blossoms, water droplets, tiny Edo-period farmers. Moving with the imperceptibility of still pictures stirring to life, they hearken back to Ukiyo-e and make literal its meaning in English: floating world.
In a phalanx of LED panels spanning one wall, a sequence begins with a gold backdrop parting like clouds to reveal teeming scenes of village life, dancing samurai warriors and flourishes of pure abstraction, all drifting at a hypnotic pace. Wire-frame illustrations used in the initial stages of computer animation occasionally swim into view, unveiling the machinery behind the magic.
Half of the proceedings are taken up by a proscenium made of projection screens. A pageant of painterly, gestural arcs moves across, shooing away a flock of crows like some magisterial, if mildly annoyed, intelligence vivifying the landscape.
The notion of an animistic universe is an ancient one in Japan, and it very much drives the work here. One can accuse it of being overly pretty, but its evocation of an anodyne, dreamlike realm beyond our contentious existence is difficult to resist.—Howard Halle