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Takehisa Kosugi


22 July — 27 September 2015

Ikon presents the first major solo exhibition in the UK by Japanese composer and artist Takehisa Kosugi. A pioneer of experimental music in Japan in the early 1960s, closely associated with the Fluxus movement and the Merce Cunningham Dance Company, Kosugi is one of the most influential artists of his generation.

This exhibition features three sound installations, including one made especially for Ikon. Combining everyday materials and radio electronics, they involve interactions with wind, electricity and light, making sonic relationships between objects.

Kosugi studied musicology at the Tokyo National University of Fine Arts and Music during the late 1950s and was inspired by the spirit of experimentation coming from Europe and the US, while simultaneously intrigued by traditional Japanese music, in particular Noh Theatre, and its concept of ‘ma’ – the conscious appreciation of the in-between-ness of one sound and another. The artist’s desire for spontaneity in his own performances led him to co-found Japan’s first group dedicated to collective improvisation, Group Ongaku in 1960, and later the Taj Mahal Travellers. He became involved with the Fluxus movement, and in 1965 settled in New York, where he collaborated with a number of other artists including Nam June Paik.

Kosugi’s interest had by then shifted from making music towards what he referred to as ‘events’, and he began producing work that formed a tangible relationship between sound and the environment. Experiments with radio electronics were manifested in Catch-Wave (1967), a seminal work which includes several transmitters, radios and a toy slide projector, suspended from the ceiling, close enough to one another to cause audio and visual interference.

Ikon’s exhibition features Mano-dharma, electronic (1967), a work in which Kosugi makes use of inaudible waves – such as radio frequency waves and wind movement – and draws sound from them through the interaction of electronic wave transmission devices and receivers suspended from the ceiling. The effect is enhanced by an oscillating fan and visualised through a video projection of ocean waves.

Interspersion for Light and Sound (2000) is a work which embodies imperceptible movement. A Perspex box is filled with white sugar and/or sand emitting faint crackles of sound and light from the electronics and LEDs concealed below the surface, caused by the acoustic and visual transparency of the granular materials. Kosugi thus shares with us the wonder of accidental encounters and uncertainty created by invisible phenomena at work.

This exhibition is supported by the Japan FoundationThe Great Britain Sasakawa Foundation and the Daiwa Foundation.