Japanese composer and visual artist Ryoji Ikeda has conceived an exhibition for the Hamburger Bahnhof that, for the first time, compositionally unites the two symmetrical halls on the upper level of the museum’s east and west wings. The exhibition’s title “db” (abbr. for decibel) refers to this symmetry while simultaneously indicating the complementary relationship between the two exhibition spaces. Ikeda has designed the white room and the black room as counterparts, not only physically (brightness, color), but also conceptually and perceptually. The project is a composition in which time and space are shaped through the most minimal use of sound, light and visual elements. It is the artist’s first solo exhibition in Germany.
The eponymous work “db” (2012) is centrally placed in both halls. In one room, it consists of a black super-directional parabolic loudspeaker that projects a pure wave of sound into the white space. The sound in the white room is reduced to a standing sine wave, the simplest musical building block. Every movement by a visitor alters the sonic field, allowing it to be experienced individually.
In the other room, a powerful searchlight projects a beam of white light into the black space. The beam of light in the black room is directed through a hole in a wall at one end of the space and thus becomes perceptible as a white circle. The beam consists of pure white light that, analogously to white noise, contains all the colors of the spectrum. Here, too, visitors’ movements alter the space; whenever they cross the beam of light, reflections illuminate the dark room.
Two other work complexes in the exhibition, “the irreducible [nº1-10]” (2009) and “the transcendental [nº4]” (2012), also complement each other. In the white room, the ten-part pigment print series “the irreducible”, which consists of over 1 million digits each rendered in black on black stands in contrast to the ten video projections of “the transcendental” in the black room, there, a transcendental number consisting of an infinite number of digits is luminously represented, zooming by at an ultra-fast frame rate while generating sounds in real time. Both works involve the representation of infinity based on mathematical research. Here the visitor can see respectively hear a tiny fragment of this endlessness in each space, as if through a window frame in the wall.
Since the mid-1990s, Ryoji Ikeda (born 1966, lives in Paris) has been among the foremost international composers and artists in the realm of cutting-edge digital technologies and their integration into visual and acoustic presentations. His works are based on spatio-temporal compositions in which the musical and visual material is reduced to a minimum: sine waves, sound pulses, pixels of light and numerical data. He investigates sound, time and space on the basis of mathematical methods and transforms them in his concerts and installations into an intense experience for the audience.
Curators: Ingrid Buschmann and Gabriele Knapstein.