WEDNESDAY 19TH FEBRUARY 2003
16.30 | ECO-TECH KEYNOTE SPEECH
here to access the archived stream of this speech
Colchester Town Hall - Mayors Parlour
The keynote speech by Japanese new media artist Masaki
Fujihata expresses a Japanese view of nature and explores
technology as a mirror of self reflection.
a new medium with Masaki Fujihata
Wednesday 19 February 2003, in Colchester Town Hall, world-renowned
Japanese digital artist Masaki Fujihata marked the start of Future
Physical's Ecotech Network Exchange with a keynote speech.
Fujihata is primarily known for digital installations that map physical
rambles in various parts of the world, and combine GPS positioning
data, video and still photography, assembled in a very visual manner.
He is planning to bring his unique skills to bear on Mersea Island,
He began by
investigating mankind's changing relationship with nature through
the ages, by drawing a simple circle representing nature and a dot
in the middle: man's original position. He said: "Once man
developed consciousness, he tried to make a barrier between him
and the environment."
he moved around and, for example, found caves to avoid the rain
and roots and branches for making homes." Here, Fujihata drew
a squiggly circle around the original dot, still occupying little
of the overall circle of nature.
"Next, he piled up resources, brought materials back into his
house and started using wider nature for his survival." Here,
he draw a larger concentric squiggly circle. "Then he started
farming, so we then tamed nature. This type of deal between man
and nature continued until the 18th or 19th century."
drew a squiggly circle filling in all but a few extremities of the
circle of nature. He said: "When science and technology came
into being, man started to use nature in an alternative way, using
natural resources such as oil and coal and transferring those materials
into other objects. With that invention, man could go anywhere and
could use high technology to survive in wild areas."
the big circle now formed by humans, we face big problems. The problem
issue is not about wider nature and humans, but about artificial
nature and humans -- that is ecology. Then some humans said we should
go back and forget about things like electricity, but that is impossible
for us now. Others said that we can solve those problems by developing
science and nature
to ponder the "Philosophy and science" of the problem
between artificial nature and humans: "I considered the concept
of art. Even on the ground, you can make a drawing. But dogs don't
do that -- they can mark an area with their pee-pee, but humans
actually enjoy drawing. Plato invented the idea of mimesis, in which
art is a copy of nature. For example, a person trying to create
an intimate view of a sunset has respect for nature, but until people
were able to make art like that, there was no difference between
science and art."
the Renaissance, science started and we developed tools for understanding
nature, such as the telescope and microscope. Scientific tools gave
new visions of nature. Now we have computers, microphones and so
on. Finally, Einstein came up with his equation E=MC2, a very simple
theory that can explore a variety of things in physics, and a mathematical
formula that is a model of the world."
returned to his original circle diagram and drew a speech bubble
in the middle of it: "What is the problem we are now facing?
This circle is on my computer; now all people have the same speech
bubble in their brain. But maybe all those speech bubbles are slightly
different. People in all fields are now talking about this problem
of inclusion and complexity. The reasons for these problem cannot
be defined because, they are the kind of problems that happen recursively."
tackled the question of consciousness and the media: "When
you become conscious, it is dangerous: you have to go to philosophy.
Why do we communicate? because everyone knows we will die. We have
to be conscious not only of the content and structure of communication,
but the problem also is that it is invisible. With artificial nature,
like TV, we do not have much consciousness of that kind of abstract
environment. In the e-environment, you might say, our consciousness
can be controlled by the mass media."
media -- such as pencil and paper -- were used as recording devices.
Then came distribution media: books, CDs, videos and so on. Then
came retrieving devices, where the topic strongly related to the
interface. Then you could extarnalise yourself, which is very important
to me: writing and reading at the same time, and expressing what's
on the inside. You see what you are by expressing yourself. Having
a strong sense of how to understand the medium you are using is
a serious thing."
example of teaching elementary school children about maths using
apples (say, here are three apples, here are four, three plus four
equals seven). By using apples, teachers are trying to teach about
abstraction, but the apples remain material. So the apple is now
a new medium
I'm doing is about creating a new medium. Most new media are presented
as technological innovations, but the way I'm thinking is: change
the medium and you will change your consciousness. Then, maybe,
the environment, life and ourselves will be seen in a different
showed his 1996 project, Light on the Net. This consisted of 49
lightbulbs, in a 7x7 grid, sitting in a real space, observed on
a website using a Webcam. People could log on to the site and click
on the bulbs, which would turn the corresponding bulbs in the space
on or off.
"Every day that year, someone tried to draw a heart. I also
put the 10 most recent IP addresses of people who had accessed the
site: it was important for people to know who had just accessed
the site. people would never jam with each other: it was too fast
-- you had 14 to 20 seconds and in that time, someone else would
click a light. One time a guy in LA tried to write "LA"
in the lights and at the same, in Tokyo, I tried to write "TYO".
For 10 minutes, we chased each other. I got the idea I had to stop,
so I drew a smiley face. Everything stopped for about 20 seconds,
then he started to draw hair on it. So that was a simple medium
we constructed on the Web."
showed a 1992 project involving a walk up Mount Fuji, tracked with
a GPS system. First he used the data to plot a 3D image of Mount
Fuji, exaggerated so that its height was 12 times what it should
have been. Then he used the data to produce a resculpted image of
Mount Fuji: "At each point, the GPS gives position and time,
which in turn gives speed. So the "exploded" bits in the
image correspond to when I was resting." He then replotted
Mount Fuji using data gathered when descending; the image proved
a lot more like the real geography of Mount Fuji. He explained that
was because he climbed down at a high, constant speed.
showed a project involving Lake Shinji, in rural Japan. He said;
The idea was to use the lake as a drawing pattern, using GPS systems,
and it was intended to be participatory with, for example, local
fishermen." Armed with a GPS and a digital video camera, Fujihata
boarded a tourist boat, starting off on a river which flowed into
the lake, recording video synchronised with the GPS information
and still photographs at various points. He also equipped cyclists
with GPS systems, who rode around the perimeter of the lake. The
end result -- a digital installation -- was very striking: the river
was delineated by video information, and the trails created by both
cyclists and the boat created striking patterns and gave a sense
of what the lake looked like on that day.
He said: "I'm
now thinking about how to expand this idea to suit Mersea Island.
I would like to make the contours of the island with as many participants
as possible, then I want to deform the lines according the speed
of walking, giving different shapes for the island according to
who walked around it."
wrapped up; "By changing media, our consciousness can be changed.
This kind of consciousness can change our view of ecology, also."