Sunday, 13 November 2011

Seiko Mikami, media artist


On the 5th of November, 2011, I had a short telephone interview with the Japanese 'media artist' Seiko Mikami for an article I was writing about her exhibition, "Desire of Codes," which was being held at the NTT InterCommunication Center in Tokyo. While the mere layman might find her English difficult to understand, I am an expert in understanding Japanese English so her meaning was clear to me throughout the interview.





SM: Hai? Moshi moshi.

CBL: Hello.

SM: Moshi moshi.

CBL: Hello. Is that Seiko Mikami?

SM: Yeh.

CBL: Hi, this is Colin Liddell.

SM: Aha!

CBL: I'm phoning on behalf of the Japan Times about your exhibition.

SM: Ah, yeh yeh yeh yeh, ICC's Hatanaka emailed me about you.

CBL: Yeh.

SM: Yeh, yeh, OK.

CBL: I'd just like to...

SM: I'm sorry. I'm now in Yamaguchi prefecture...

CBL: I understand.

SM: ...working on my new piece.

CBL: Uhu.

SM: So now it's really critical condition so I cannot answer your question sorry, but I have... If you want to know a couple of things, I have time, like 30 minutes.

CBL: Sorry.

SM: I have time.

CBL: Uhu.

SM: 30 minutes only.

CBL: OK. I probably don't need that much time.

SM: OK.

CBL: So, just a few questions.

SM: OK. You already saw it my piece?

CBL: Oh yes.

SM: At the ICC, and Hatanaka, curator Hatanaka told you about...

CBL: Yes, he explained some of the points.

SM: Aha!

CBL: Em, could I just ask you, first off, is your work designed to give us a kind of foretaste of artificial intelligence?

SM: I think I'm not using, I'm not interested artificial intelligence so much actually.

CBL: Uhu.

SM: Aha, and then, uhmm, this "Desire Code" is not hardware, more like information oriented society, I express. For example, ah y'know, not machine have desire anymore like the security camera or y'know... These things are metaphor for information oriented society. So your name is Colin?

CBL: Yeh.

SM: Colin. So if I type it your name Colin whatsaname...

CBL: My full name?

SM: Your full name then something appear y'know like your information inside a social network things.

CBL: Yeh.

SM: Where you work it, where you bought it this book or sometimes something, right?

CBL: Yeh.

SM: And this all information, I mean for more... For example, you have social security number, maybe United States, right?

CBL: Ah, well, UK – yes.

SM: Yeh, UK, or some kind of number of calls, elect sometime very your income or y'know your all information this year.

CBL: Yeh?

SM: So your are... We are living in this kind of world for information oriented society, so if I type it your name so I can see your figure, what kind of y'know people are you, no?

CBL: Yeh.

SM: Then so, other hand, I'm talking to you by phone but real you is in there, right?

CBL: Umhu.

SM: There is two kind of, uh, you in this world. One is information, inside information, one is real.

CBL: Yeh.

SM: Do you understand? And so, it's OK, for example some... I bought it a teddy bear for my friend to birthday, right?

CBL: Mmhh.

SM: Through Amazon dot com. So Amazon dot com tracking me OK, This Seiko Mikami is likes teddy bear y'know some kind of.

CBL: Yes.

SM: And then they are sending over and over to me, OK if you like teddy bear y'know teddy bear likes people buy this book, blah blah blah. Do you know this system, right?

CBL: Yeh. I'm very familiar with that, yeh.

SM: Ya ya [***lacuna***] but anyway I don’t like teddy bear. Just I bought it for my friend, right?

CBL: So it's like... You're interested in how people's, em, sort of information selves will become distorted and different from who they really are?

SM: Ya ya or sometimes this information may be real you or... It depends the people, right?

CBL: Yeh, but of course, e-every single person knows several other people and all those other people have, uh, a kind of image of that person so doesn't that mean every person exists in many maybe hundreds or even thousands of different kind of versions.

SM: Uhu, yah. So, but especially this information world, I mean, for we are living in such a like iPhone or PC or this kind of world. It's more different type. For example my friend has lots of blog stff, right?

CBL: Uhu.

SM: Her blog is pretty famous so now, she, her act, action is, 'OK I have to see this movie or I have to eat this dinner because of this blog.' Not she decide. Because she has blog or a blogger things to make decision. Such things. So I am talking about more like this and then this desire code, y'know, if you are inside everything recorded.

CBL: Ah.

SM: Your face is recorded because this is three parts. One is wall have like really small camera to catch you, right? And then so and then this arm catching you also and then there is also microphone inside this room and all, y'know, conversations is recorded right? And then...

CBL: But your installation is not really capturing information is it? It's more of a kind of tacti... Well, sort of a sensory response. It's not...

SM: Yeh yeh.

CBL: There's no specific, eh, uh, information that's connected to the person.

SM: If specific it's illegal. Anyway this fragment...

CBL: Yes.

SM: ...this fragment of information, catch this and then if you are outside this sensor area, just for keeping tracking you to again, It is recording stuff to show it to people. You see this circle?

CBL: Umhuh.

SM: Fifty...sixty-one kind of compound eyes that...

CBL: Yeh.

SM: [***lacuna***] the screen. You see, right?

CBL: It's, it’s sort of reminded me of some of the kind of science fiction movies like uh well Solaris or 2001...

SM: Yeh, yeh.

CBL: ...where you have this this computer which has...

SM: ...like 1984 or...

CBL: ...which starts to develop its own kind of intelligence and will...

SM: Yeh, yeh, exactly. Anyway...

CBL: I thought, I thought you were trying to give people a kind of, y'know, impression of how artificial intelligence might seem in the future when, when machines and computers...

SM: OK.

CBL: ...will be more powerful and possibly more self-motivated than they are now.

SM: I am really question about technology... So, like more critical.

CBL: Yeh.

SM: Cristicize. Either way, y'know, like become bigger things. On the other hand it's really critical for the humans...

CBL: Could I say you're pessimistic about technological development? Do y... You see lots of dangers?

SM: Pessimist and optimist, both.

CBL: Umhu.

SM: It's not either side. It's not like doing a wrestling. I mean more we are living between worlds...

CBL: Umh.

SM: ...so that, that's my position - two: sometimes AI is good, sometimes AI is scares, y'know.

CBL: Uhu.

SM: It's not so... It's not... [***lacuna***] art is just reflection of society, right? Now too I think. That's why I express this installation, big interactive installation to be... I am thinking about right now of my, our society, yeh?

CBL: Uhu.

SM: So it's not either side, so just reflection through my brain.

CBL: Yeh.

SM: Uhu...so, is that answer to you?

CBL: Well, uh, uh, I was just, uh, interested, eh, in another aspect, because usually this kind of technological area, it's usually associated with the kind of otaku or male geeks and otakus...

SM: Yeh, yeh!

CBL: ...and, and you're a female artist so why are you attracted to the technological art because...

SM: This is a kind of really strange question, y'know.

CBL: Umh?

SM: Strange question.

CBL: Why?

SM: Lots of female doing media art also. Lots of female in Japan have the same kind of mathematics or computer, or it's a lot of people are interesting right now.

CBL: I just thought being a woman might give you a different way of thinking about technology than a man because usually y'know technology's very associated with the male mentality, and when a woman is also interested in technology how does that, eh, effect the equation?

SM: Uhu. OK. But I'm not like that. I mean I don't think about that [***lacuna***] female or male... Also, all my pieces using eye-tracking or gravicells series about gravity, more like... Even I don’t... It doesn’t matter to Asia or it doesn't matter to area to... It doesn't matter to black and white or doesn't matter to female, male.

CBL: You say that, you say that, but I also, I also found out that the exhibition, eh, which is being shown around Japan also travelled internationally. It didn't travel to, say, Africa or South America. It went to Germany. So it went to a very technological... It went from a technological country to a technological country, so there are certain countries that are much more technological and the people are much more technologically inclined, aren't they?

SM: Yeh. No, no, I mean talking about my, my piece, my concept...

CBL: Mmm.

SM: ...of my piece is always using eye-tracking .

CBL: Yeh.

SM: ...[***lacuna***] or human-like eye to eye or just walking through to [***lacuna***] to gravity.

CBL: Yeh.

SM: I mean so like more universal things I use.

CBL: Well, aspects of humanity?

SM: It don’t matter to female, male, or Asian.

CBL: Yeh, well everybody has eyes, yeh?

SM: Uhu.

CBL: So, as long as people have eyes your eye-tracking art is obviously relevant to that, to every human being.

SM: Yeh, I'm not so using for this female or Asian. Normally a lot of Asian artists do...

CBL: Yeh.

SM: ...the cultural stuff, but I don’t do that...

CBL: But also if you're doing eye-tracking, you must notice there are differences between what men look at and what women look at, aren't there?

SM: Aaah, but eye-tracking I'm not using for real pictures, I mean more eye can make objects, this kind of stuff, yeh.

CBL: Mm? Sorry.

SM: My Eye [***lacuna***] maybe… Are you living in Tokyo now?

CBL: Yes.

SM: OK, so maybe this December 9th I will show also ICC one piece of eye-tracking at theatre A.

CBL: Uhu. Oh good, I should try to mention that in the article then.

SM: Yeh, yeh, so, anyway, uhhh, my piece doesn't matter so much female or male.

CBL: Umhu.

SM: Like, sorry about that.

CBL: Oh no, I'm just, y'know, the key point would be what people look at and people look at different things connected to their interest and motivations.

SM: Uhu.

CBL: But your art doesn’t look at that.

SM: I don’t care about that.

CBL: Uhu. OK.

SM: Yeh. Very unusual, yeh?

CBL: Yeh?

SM: I don’t know.

CBL: OK, let’s see, em.

SM: It’s Ok?

CBL: Yeh, I think that's plenty of material for my article actually, so I don't think I really have to, y'know, em, spend any more of your time because I have a lot of information to give the reader already.

SM: That's good.

CBL: OK. Thank you very much for your time.

SM: Thank you very much, so keep in touch.

CBL: OK, I will. Goodnight.

SM: Bye!

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