Unfelt Threshold: Art Installation at c:o/re

On 30 January 2024, the art installation “Unfelt Threshold” by the Japanese artist Aoi Suwa was opened at the Käte Hamburger Kolleg: Cultures of Research (c:o/re).

Composition of the art installation “Unfelt Treshold”; photo by Aoi Suwa

During the live performance of the installation and the following discussion with c:o/re Senior Fellow Masahiko Hara on “Fluctonomous Emergence”, the audience was able to experience how machines react to the unpredictable, unknown behaviour of materials, e.g. changing incidence of light. This is where Masahiko Hara’s research comes in, focusing on the integration of art strategies into science and technology based on the emergent functions of autonomous systems that exhibit fluctuant behaviour.

Masahiko Hara talks about “Fluctonomous Emergence”;
photo by Jana Hambitzer

In her project, Aoi Suwa is indirectly linking together various pieces and exhibits that she has produced over the years. The idea behind it emerged out of the concept of “shiki-iki” (識閾, lit. “threshold of consciousness”), which also informed Shiki-iki (Border, 2011), the first installation that Suwa formally presented to begin her career. Composed of a tank of water partitioned with a piece of clear plastic, the work was activated when the viewer poured ink into the water, producing a dynamic effusion of colour that gradually revealed the presence of the initially imperceptible boundary.

Aoi Suwa speaks during the opening of her art installation;
photo by Jana Hambitzer

Suwa has since continued to employ such experimental techniques to create works focused on phenomena that can only be witnessed in situ, developing what could be described as an approach aimed at perceiving thresholds that emerge through the process of traversing back and forth between the realms of the perceivable/imperceivable and conscious/unconscious.

Suwa’s approach can be likened to the way one might attempt to gradually visualize the orbit of a celestial body as it makes its periodic passes or a drawing as it takes shape through the iterative actions of marking and erasing. Through this project, she aims to explore its potential as a way of giving expression to the complexity of our current age, which eludes description in terms of simplistic binaries.

c:o/re fellows and staff exploring the installation; photo by Ana María Guzmán

The installation can be viewed until 22 February 2024 by prior registration with events@khk.rwth-aachen.de.

Interview with Aoi Suwa

Could you please introduce yourself?

My name is Aoi Suwa. I come from Japan, Tokyo, I’m an artist and I’m also PhD student in fine arts at Tokyo University of the Arts. I’m mainly focusing on creating installation work like this, and I am also very interested in the relationship between Art and Science.

What is your installation about?

I named this work Patched Phase. It means that if we see something, something is not just one. It’s very complicated. So, we have a consciousness, but consciousness is also like a more complicated structure for me. I wanted to express such a structure. It is invisible, but if I see it, I imagine the subject’s chaotic dynamics shape it.

Where do you take your inspiration from?

My starting point was the elementary school student generation. When I was an elementary school student, I met a science teacher. She is a very nice person, and she showed me very interesting chemical reactions, the liquid colour is changing again and again. I am very surprised and I got some inspiration from chemical reactions.

I often get so many inspirations from chemical phenomena, natural phenomena in science fields. I very like science, but I mean, I want to see science. It’s very difficult to explain. But, this is the important thing. Of course, I want to understand science, but not only this, I want to feel science. So that’s why I often get some new inspiration from natural phenomena.

photo by Ana María Guzmán
photo by Aoi Suwa