The concept’s quite simple. Take a (new Honda Civic) car, its raw data, the nuts and bolts of its design, and use every bit to create an enormous audiovisual art work. House it at MUMA Kraftwerk, Berlin’s industrialised homage to all things vast and concrete, call it what it is – data.anatomy [civic] – and bingo: data made real, the unseen visible, another piece to add to Ryoji Ikeda’s datamatic project, his long standing meditation on what makes the universe tick. Simple.
Technically, of course, it’s a bitch. Half a year in the making, it has involved deconstructing the car’s Computer Aided Design (CAD), its entire data set, tens of thousands of bits, and then reprogramming each individual piece to fit a composition that consists of projecting every one of the car’s datum onto a wall measuring 4m by 20m. Set at one end of MUMA Kraftwerk, accompanied by a sonic pulse and an alternating rhythm of dry clicks, it lasts 12 minutes. Repeat: 12 minutes. The whole car. That, friends of the hard way, is why it takes 5 computers and £30,000 worth of projector to drive the bastard, and why you’re not making it at home.
Art-wise, data anatomy [civic] could be mistaken for a highly abstracted car ad, particularly the latter half, when the wall is divided into three, the imagery presented as a fluid triptych of almost recognizable monochromic engine parts, its sudden blank end lacking only logo and strap line. But that’s just it. No Honda; no The Power of Dreams; a content so relentlessly repetitive – its reoccurring motifs being the small, the tiny, the almost low fi descending illuminator bars, the sudden bright flashes of image destroying light – as to defy narrative. The data never makes itself into anything other than what it is, which is surprising; and gratifying, because – if anything – large multinationals are past masters at the business of smuggling products in under the cover of art.
So what’s Honda up to? Why spend hundreds of thousands on a piece of art? True, the resultant press means a great deal of free advertising – print, digital, something fantastically viral. But really it’s much more about geekery than it is money. Look, Honda didn’t see the piece until 3 days ago. At heart, it’s an engineering firm. Always has been. Data’s its staple diet. It lives, breathes and shits the stuff.
For his part, Ikeda grew up loving Honda the way people love Apple today. By all accounts, his meeting – last year – with Mitsuru Kariya, the Civic’s chief designer, was something of a homecoming; a data fiends’ love-in, all numbers and bits and pieces. It took Kariya 4 years to develop the new Civic. He knows the car inside out. The next best thing to the CAD, he is the most advanced Civic Honda dataset on the planet, which is why, if we buy into the idea that data is machine soul, he must have felt, when seeing Ikeda’s work for the first time, that he was meeting some kind of a god. Maybe.
data.anatomy [civic] will be open to the public at MUMA (Kraftwerk) from 19th April to 1st May