Toshio Iwai

Title: Violin ~ image of strings

Created: 1997

In 1995, while living in Germany, I created a work called Piano - as image media. In this work a semitransparent screen is attached to a computer-controlled grand piano. Control of the piano is linked to the computer-generated image projected on the screen, so that anyone can play the piano by altering the image. (This work was presented as a performance at previous Interaction '95 symposium and is now part of the permanent collection at Nagoya City Youth Cultural Center, Artopia 7F, Nadya Park.) By combining the piano with computer graphics, this work represented an advance beyond the traditional musical instrument, the piano, through an installation that unified image and music. More than simply a combination of image and music created by computer, it mixed the real and unreal to produce a new viewing and listening experience by retaining the presence of the real, three-dimensional piano.

At The Interaction '97, the theme of the Piano is continued in a new work in which a violin is combined with images. By using a half-mirror, subtle computerized images are overlaid on the violin and mixed with synthesized violin sounds. The result is a performance in which the boundary between the real and the virtual is blurred. Plans call for use of a touch-sensor interface, so that when you move your finger, you will create a new image and experience the illusion as if the image is playing the violin.

There is an opening scene in Disney's Fantasia, created in 1940 by the experimental film maker, Oscar Fischinger, who was born in Germany but fled to the United States. In this beautiful scene, music is heard as the bow of the violin is drawn across the strings. In the work presented here, Violin ~ image of strings, interaction is added, and one can experience "the ultimate pleasure of the fusion of music and image" by touching the sensor with your fingertip.

(This artwork was created through IAMAS Artist-in-Residence Program.)

Toshio Iwai was born in 1962 in Kira-chou, Aichi Prefecture. While an art student at Tsukuba University, he started creating experimental animation, and this became an inspiration for him to become a visual artist. While working in both film and video, he discovered new possibilities for visual expression in such pre-cinematic toys as flip books and zoetropes. He then began producing works on the computer. During his student years, his video installation, the Time Stratum series, won the High Technology Art Exhibition '85 Gold Prize. He was also the youngest artist ever to win the 17th Contemporary Japanese Art Exhibition Grand Prize.

After completing the curriculum in the Plastic Art and Mixed Media course of Tsukuba University graduate school in 1987, he went on to win acclaim for the many interactive, audience-participatory works he has exhibited in art shows both in Japan and overseas. The following are exhibitions of Iwai's work: "The Seville Expo" in Spain, 1992; "In Another Time, Another Space" at the Antwerp Central Station in Belgium, 1993; "the Biennale d'art Contemporain de Lyon '95"; "Mediascape" at the Guggenheim Museum in SoHo, New York ,1996; and the "Sculpture Garden for the G7 Summit in Museum Art Contemporain," Lyon, France, 1996.

While continuing to exhibit his work world-wide, he has also become a key figure in the design of computer graphic systems and of developing characters for television programs such as Fuji TV's "EinsteinTV" and "UgoUgoLhuga." His wide-ranging interests also include the design of computer game software. In 1996, his SimTunes game was released in the United States on CD-ROM for Windows. Recently, he has been active overseas, working on projects and large-scale, one-man shows. He has been an artist in residence at both the Exploratorium in San Francisco, 1991-92, and at ZKM in Karlsruhe, Germany, 1994-95. Iwai is currently an Artist in Residence at IAMAS. In April, he will unveil a new concept for a retrospective exhibition, which will include a workshop, at the ICC-Inter Communication Center in Opera City, Hatsudai, Tokyo.