By: James C. Kao
I have been a fan of the art installations at the Park Avenue Armory since I moved back to New York. The vastness of the Wade Thompson Drill Hall allows for ambitious and grand projects such as Christian Boltanski’s “No Man’s Land”, which I reviewed a year ago. I saw pictures of Ryoji Ikeda’s “The Transfinite” and was intrigued by its simple yet compelling aesthetic. If I thought the photos were beautiful, they were nothing compared to my experience of the installation in person.
As I walked into the hall, I saw a large screen on the floor and another that was perpendicular to the floor. On the screens were projected black and white lines that moved up and down. These lines moved smoothly from the floor to go upwards making the screens appear continuous. There was a line down the middle and the two sides moved in opposite directions. Lines and blocks changed sizes and frequencies on the screens. Visitors were encouraged to walk onto the installation, as long as you took your shoes off. The hall was also filled with ambient sounds, which could at times sound like white noise. The thumping was irregular at times, and the flashing visuals, I imagine, could cause seizures. I thought the combination of all this would be jarring and discomforting, but it was not. In fact, my experience of the installation was tranquil. The immersive visuals and the surrounding sounds obliterated my other senses and thoughts. Ikeda is inspired by mathematics, which I detected in the installation. The sounds and the lines were all precisely calculated. The Transfinite had order and pattern, but it also was infinite through the repetition and my experience of it was ethereal and beyond the ordinary. I thought that this demonstrated the power of mathematics – possibilities of infinity.
When I had arrived at the Armory, I was told by the box office to also walk to the back and thus I did. I expected the back would be the same as the front: that the visuals would be repeated on the other side, but I was wrong. If the front was the graphic representation, then the back appeared as if it was the coding that led to the lines and patterns. On the back screen, there were also movements of blacks and whites and changes in frequencies, but there were numbers instead of lines, which led to my association of computer coding. In the back, there were also small plinths with screens that continued this motif of using numbers to form moving images. One, for example, gave the impression that I was some deity looking down onto a galaxy in constant motion.
All three projects added together to form a poetic experience through a seemingly uncomplicated concept and aesthetic. Ikeda is labeled as both a composer and an artist. He composed an installation with audiovisual elements that was at once beautiful, compelling and sublime.
“Ryoji Ikeda: The Transfinite” runs through June 11th
Park Avenue Armory
643 Park Avenue
(Between 66th and 67th Streets)
Take the 6 train to 68th Street
Hours: Open to the public: Tues-Sun, 12-7; Thurs, 12-9; Memorial Day, 12-7