Remain in light
In 1980 Talking Heads released the cult album “Remain in Light” on which they collaborated with Brian Eno. Although the Japanese artist Haruki Nishijima named his project after this particular album, structurally his work is much more closer to “My Life in the Bush of Ghosts” — the “cousin-album” on which David Byrne and Brian Eno worked at the same time and released a year later. On that album they used parts of radio broadcasts: unidentified politician, priest, exorcist… In the 90’s, a formal parallel can be drawn with U2’s “ZOO TV” tour where they mixed live radio and police signals with their music. As well as pop-culture, contemporary visual art uses hacked frequencies of different open and closed systems — Slovenian artist and former radio-amateur Marko Peljhan is a name that instantly comes to mind. In Remain in light Haruki Nishijima uses the ana-logue frequencies in a Japanese “way”.
The first thing that strikes the eye in the Haruki’s artwork is typical Japanese “minimal” design of the nets that look like ones for catching butterflies. The participant holds a net in his hand and puts a bag on the shoulder, but what follows has nothing to do with running on the meadow or the romantic image of a man in nature. The “butterfly nets” are antennas connected to a device in the bag, and with the nets, apart from real insects, you can catch modern-day insects — audio bugs of different communication systems.
Catching certain frequency ranges, the participant of the interactive installation breaks into various systems and can hear taxi drivers, police conversations, mobile telephones, Marine control or FM and AM radio. And one would think — This is it! — the Jap has made a perfect survaillance device, catching bugs with his high-tech net. And once he gets bored of eavesdropping on the neighbors, he listens to the radio for a while. All that with just a net.
With the exception of radio as an open and public system, this im-plies interfering with hermetic, non-public systems — for example the public law sector. That is an illegal act, espionage, breaking into security of power systems or privacy. But that’s not all: this form of espionage is not related to the content of a conversation but one spies on the system as a whole. Therefore Haruki Nishijima is neither a mere sound voyeur, nor is his goal to enable the audience to tap into secret, intimate and other forbidden conversations. He is simply interested in mapping the density of analogue audio signals questioning different kinds of their use — from surveillance to enter-tainment. Sounds caught by the net-antenna become one-second information when projected — they change from diversion to effect, from venom to spice.
The main difference between the man from the beginning of the last century, running merrily after insects accross a meadow, and the man from the beginning of this century is that the first one saw all his numerous targets. The modern man is surrounded by information, which exists beyond his senses and perceptual abilities. The most important characteristic of Haruki Nishijima’s work is the fact that it makes visible and audible this mass of information that until re-cently did not exist, and yet today is of the greatest importance. Haruki approaches the net metaphor consequently; his floating dots of colour, which make the audio information visible, are abstract si-mulations of butterflies or fireflies. And that is merely the analogue spectrum of invisible sound activities, a kind of situation archae-ology. The digital spectrum, will be “shown” in some future piece.