Pika! Ppeonjjeog, Pika! Ppeonjjeog / PPiikkaa!! PPppeeoonnjjjjeeoogg

(2015/2020)
Immersive audiovisual installation with 3D-engraving and printing

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The Korean and Japanese languages contain many onomatopoeia to describe phenomena which produce no sound e.g. how things look or feel and emotions. This mixed-media installation is based on this practice of “sound symbolism” of silent phenomena.

“Pika!” and “ppeonjjeog” depict flashing light in Japanese and Korean. They were used by the K-pop group Crayon Pop in Uh-ee for which the song was deemed unfit for broadcast by Korean Broadcasting System which heavily restricts Japanese content. Various combinations of the two words may be heard in the exhibition cell: “pika! ppeonjjeog” from the original, “ppeonjjeog ppeonjjeog” from a KBS-approved version which removed a “vestige of Japanese imperialism”, and “pika! pika!” catering for the Japanese market and backlash against the “Korean Wave”.

They are sung by Hatsune Miku, a sound bank from the singing voice synthesis software Vocaloid and a virtual idol claimed to be the most popular Japanese “singer” due to the volume of her output from her online user/fan base. The Risset rhythm or the eternal accelerando based on the Shepard tone is used: an aural illusion equivalent to Escher’s Stairs is created whereby the pitch and speed appear to continually rise. It is played back over parametric speakers, with the repetitive wailing recalling “sound cannons”, another directional audio technology used for crowd control.

The projections, 3D prints and laser-engraved crystals are created from the Menger Sponge and the Mandelbox, inspired by the well-known Mandelbrot set, and have a fractal structure similar to the sounds. It is a response to the architecture of the Asia Culture Center in Gwangju where the work was developed and exhibited, and its fetishisation of technology and media art.

As well as being used in everyday speech to describe all manners of light and reflection, “pika!” also refers to the flash of light emitted from the nuclear bombs in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The two words also aptly describe a growing number of art works from Asia where garish displays of flashing media are prevalent.

Commissioned for the inaugural exhibition at the Art and Creative Technology Center, ACC Creation of the Asia Culture Center, Gwangju, South Korea, November 2015 to June 2016. Also exhibited at Art Machines: Past and Present curated by Richard Allen and Jeffrey Shaw at the Indra and Harry Bangra Gallery, Hong Kong, November 2020 to May 2021.

 

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