Beijing’s North Sanlitun district has been undergoing almost constant regeneration for the past few years, evolving into the trendy shopping area full of popular bars and clubs that it is today. An influx of new galleries, including ones like Tokyo’s Y++ Gallery, which opened its doors in the neighborhood not too long ago, seem to indicate that it’s also on its way to becoming an alternative art lover’s hangout.
Y++ Gallery brings a roster of 22 outstanding Asian artists to its new outpost in North Snalitun, focused primarily on showcasing contemporary work from Tokyo and Beijing. When we visited the gallery a few weeks ago, we caught the end of “Unsound Explorations,” a solo show from L.A.- and Tokyo-based media artist Gil Kuno. The show presented two of Kuno’s video works, The Antmaster and Haze, along with the musically-inspired pieces The guitar morphologies and Six String Sonics, The, the latter of which was recently recognized as one of the “Top 100 Japanese Media Art Works” by the Japanese government.
Six String Sonics, The
Presenting a re-imagination of the physical structure and performative abilities of string instruments—more precisely, the guitar—the multi-faceted work includes a 20-foot sculptural instrument that’s played by six musicians, live performance and projected visuals. Kuno’s goal was to break away from the conventional way we think about the instrument, which he found “dangerously constraining” with its 6-string format and limiting design (why are there six strings if we only have five fingers? why do some chord progressions give guitarists tendonitis?).
Kuno divided the six strings, making six guitars with one string each, capable of being played simultaneously in all manner of chord progressions by six individual guitarists who sit perched on the scaffolding-like structure. “I am not aiming to build a better guitar, but to change people’s perspective,” explains Kuno, who is himself a musician. The project encompasses musical performances, often paired with interpretive dance and audio-responsive visual projections. He also released an EP under this performance model called String Theory.
Kuno’s video work is much different from Six String Sonics, The but is similarly concerned with re-envisioning common, everyday experiences in an effort to “push people away from paradigmatic thinking.” The Antmaster, for instance, combines drawing and visual projection and is displayed as a giant sand pit where a massive amount of ants move around with the purpose of “dispelling bad karma”. Haze, on the other hand, is a mesmerizing projection of gaseous matter displayed in Rorschach experimental style. In a previous exhibition, the work was displayed in a space filled with fog, which created an even more vivid experience of the piece, enabling the video to literally invade the gallery space.
“In my work, I attempt to displace natural activity from its context, revealing an otherwise hidden level of metaphorical absurdity within the ordinary patterns present before our eyes, " says Kuno.
Image Courtesy of Madi Ju and the artist