Live: Ryoji Ikeda – Supersymmetry @ Brewer Street Car Park in London, 25/04/2015


The sheer size of Ikeda’s work hits me hard. Size loiters beneath me as an incredibly low frequency. Size scorches my retinas as the lights flicker at an exact speed. Size dwindles me in a corridor of data analysis, running the length of two gigantic horizontal screens to my left and my right. I feel the light – bright, immaculate blocks of white – hitting me irrefutably. I feel sound as pure blasts of digital chatter and prolonged sine wave. Both are synchronised and inseparable by-products of one another: lightsound, heard through my eyes and seen through my ears. It’s immense.

Moving deeper: I’m able to identify patterns and channels of communication. In the first room, tiny black particles sweep across three tabletops of light that tilt delicately. Every few seconds, the room flickers and stutters as results are presumably scanned and digitally ingested. In the second room, forty-or-so monitors scan through grids of data and beep upon the completion of each, while the sprawling master screens behind them select the next segment for evaluation, forming gigantic blocks of recurrent visual and sonic theme. Aside from the other audience members with me, there’s no sign of human instigation. The code has been left to run of its own accord, strung across time and space like a gigantic binary blanket. And yes, the scale of the operation makes it a technological wonder, although is Supersymmetry only immersive because we have yet to unlock the ability to conduct the process on a smaller scale?

Maybe. Truth be told, I don’t have the faintest clue. I crouch in front of one monitor and squint at the red lines that flash upon a graph axis. Decimal numbers sprawl across the screen like digital ants. Suddenly, dozens of garbled computerised dictations babble at once, forming a nonsensical mash of consonants and vowels. I understand that this is partly the product of Ikeda’s recent residency at CERN, and in particular, the study into “supersymmetric” particles. But what is the output of all of this processing and calculation? Should I care? Probably not. The premise is remarkable enough. Ikeda wires up my dumb brain to some of the most advanced concepts in physics using the most visceral and instant bridge imaginable: sensory data. I see and hear the bridge but remain baffled by what lies beyond it, receiving Ikeda’s transmission without the capacity to do anything with it. I feel useless and dominated by the scale of what’s happening around me, and that’s okay. In fact, at the moments where my knees quiver gently and my clothes are set ablaze with light, it’s totally euphoric.

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