Written by Saori Takeda: Publisher of ART Driven Tokyo

©︎ Shigeo Gomi / MUTEK.JP

MUTEK.JP2023, a festival combining electronic music and digital art, was held in Shibuya, Tokyo, four days from December 7 (Thu) to 10 (Sun), 2023. In its eighth year in Japan, MUTEK originated in Montreal, Canada (founded in 2000). Before viewing, I was surprised to learn that the founder, Alain Mongeau, had stated in a past interview that he did not like the words ‘cutting-edge’ and ‘innovative.’

This is because MUTEK.JP is an event that attracts attention not only from the music and art industries, but also from students of electronic music and creators in the advertising industry, and I had thought that the qualifiers ‘cutting-edge’ and ‘innovative’ would not be out of place at MUTEK.

What was the intent of Mr. Mongeau’s statement? What is the true nature of MUTEK? I hurried up Shibuya’s Dogenzaka, a street overflowing with young people and foreign tourists, toward SpotifyO-EAST, the live music venue for the music event.


©︎ Shigeo Gomi / MUTEK.JP

A Prayer for healing the World that Has Suffered from the Corona? Black Boboi + Yanneek’s Inner World

©︎ Shigeo Gomi / MUTEK.JP

Black Boboi + Yanneek  [JP+CA/QC]

I viewed the performances of three groups from the third night, “Nocturne 3.” What kind of experiments will MUTEK, whose concept is to support the creation of new content in the music festival industry, which is becoming increasingly commercialized, show us this year? From the very beginning, the performance of Black Boboi+Yanneek exceeded my expectations and transported me to another world.

The digital art vibrating was like the light of a never-ending universe and even had a soft texture. Then came the song “Ogre,” and the performance of a man in front of the place like an ancient Greek temple, writhing in agony and seemingly terrified by something, was projected on the screen.

A snake also appeared on the screen, and Black Boboi’s voice echoed enigmatically, “You don’t have to face it now,” as the priestess-like women moved about. The vocals continue, “If you see the dragon in white,” and “Make a circle and dance with me.”

Is the white dragon a snake? Is the snake Asklepios?

Legend has it that when a plague broke out in ancient Rome, Asclepius appeared in the form of a snake and saved the citizens. The performance of the man, his face and body contorted and writhing, no longer beautifully expresses some kind of suffering. It may be that Lucifer is a demon or fallen angel disguised as a snake and that we should not dance with them at the invitation of the song, but to me, it seemed like prayer music for the healing of those who suffer from corona.

Black Boboi consists of three musicians, Utena KobayashiJulia Shorteed, and ermhoi, came together to create the music community label “BINDIVIDUAL.” In June 2018, this collaboration led to the formation of Black Boboi.They marked their debut with the release of their first mini-album, “Agate,” in January 2019, which eventually earned them a performance slot at FUJIROCK FESTIVAL ’19.

I was slowly soothed by their mystical sound and vocals as if they were expanding their internal world and talking to the world.

©︎ Shigeo Gomi / MUTEK.JP

It was an energetic, immersive performance. Yanneek is a Montréal-based artistic director, graphic and motion designer, and VJ, also an event organizer and DJ (Yann). His visuals tap into the beat of any music they accompany, vibrating and oscillating until their expanding forms almost jump off the screen or draw us right into it – from wavering deep space tunnels to seemingly infinite lines of sight.

His work transforms artistic performances into uniquely engaging experiences using cutting-edge graphics tech, whether in Cirque du Soleil shows, events and installations for multimedia company Moment Factory, Silent Partners Studio, LUZ, Float-4, or local music events such the Montréal International Jazz Festival, Igloofest, Montréal en Lumières, Eclipse Festival and MUTEK.

©︎ Shigeo Gomi / MUTEK.JP

Listening to Black Boboi’s prayerful voice, I felt as if I had experienced the true meaning of MUTEK founder Mongeau’s statement that he did not like the words ‘cutting-edge’ and ‘innovative’ and that there was no need to be ‘intellectual.’

Perhaps music has become too forward-thinking and too intellectual in recent years. Have we entered an age in which the primitive human voice and the sounds of instruments performed by humans are more penetrating than ever before?

Influenced by the Fibonacci Sequence, Ida Toninato & Pierre-Luc Lecours Appeal for Ecology

©︎ Shigeo Gomi / MUTEK.JP

Ida Toninato & Pierre-Luc Lecours –– Homeostasis [CA/QC]

Ida Toninato & Pierre-Luc Lecours presented Homeostasis. Influenced by the concepts of balance, ecology, and equilibrium through the Fibonacci sequence, this feature-length show delves into the intersection of nature and humanity.

Digital art swirls around like a spiral. It is, indeed, a visual representation of the sequence of numbers discovered by the Italian mathematical genius Fibonacci!

The Fibonacci sequence is a mysterious sequence of numbers widely found in nature, including the number of petals in plants, the nautilus, which is said to have existed for 500 million years, typhoons, and the spiral shape of the galaxy. The beauty of harmony, known as the “curve of life,” unfolded profoundly as the saxophone played.

©︎ Shigeo Gomi / MUTEK.JP

Pierre-Luc Lecours, a Montréal-based composer and multimedia artist, masterfully navigates diverse artistic mediums, including music, video, and performance. His work harmoniously blends contemporary and experimental musical influences, often combining electronic instruments with traditional ones and written scores.

He’s a dedicated researcher exploring electronic music interpretation, the intersection of contemporary music practices, and the creation of innovative audiovisual expressions. His creative merits have been recognized by notable awards, including Exhibitronic (2017) and the Destellos Electroacoustic Composition Competition (2014).

Ida Toninato is a versatile artist recognized as a saxophonist, composer, and virtual reality producer. Her work explores the fusion of acoustics, resonant spaces, and electronic elements, with recent achievements including the album “We Become Giants.” Nominated for OPUS Prizes.

©︎ Shigeo Gomi / MUTEK.JP

This performance presents the performers as parts of a system completed with video projection and lights. Images and sounds constantly recalibrate each other, renewing their points of connection. This process of creating and disrupting balance allows both the performers and the audience to broaden their perspective on the system.

Harnessing the full spectrum of their sonic encounter and creating a continuous flow of intensity in dialogue with the video content, Toninato and Lecours become one powerful entity by sometimes merging, sometimes opposing their sound: they engage in a process of seeking equilibrium within them, between them and their natural environment.

Again, Mr. Mongeau’s words came to mind. The power of instruments played by humans is returning. I could sense the fusion of humans and technology.

©︎ Shigeo Gomi / MUTEK.JP

Alive Painting. The Beauty of the Moment by Painter Akiko Nakayama

©︎ Shigeo Gomi / MUTEK.JP

Phew & Oren Ambarchi + Akiko Nakayama [JP+AU+JP]

Painter Akiko Nakayama quickly splashed Perrier water and throwed paint into it. She makes the bubbles burst. By using the energy of color and flow to make the materials react, “Alive Painting” emerged.

The artist must have painstakingly experimented and studied the flow of paint. The beauty of the moment, which was controlled and contingent, was ever-changing, moment by moment, with sharp kicks sounded. The audience was thrilled by the improvised, poetic performance.

Is this poetic landscape a creature, nature, or perhaps even oneself?

©︎ Shigeo Gomi / MUTEK.JP
©︎ Shigeo Gomi / MUTEK.JP
©︎ Shigeo Gomi / MUTEK.JP

Phew was a founding member of the legendary punk band Aunt Sally. After the band’s breakup in 1979, she continued her career as a solo artist, releasing a collaborative single with Ryuichi Sakamoto in 1980, and her first solo album, “Phew,” with Conny Plank, Holger Czukay of CAN, and Jaki Liebezeit in 1981. In 1992, her third album, OurLikeness, was released on MUTE, again at Conny’s studio, with Jaki Liebezeit of CAN, Alexander Hacke of Einstürzende Neubauten, and Chrislo Haas of DAF. Since the beginning of the 2010s, she has released a series of works that combine voice and electronic music and has gained international recognition as an electronic artist.

Oren Ambarchi‘s works are hesitant and tense extended songforms located in the cracks between several schools: modern electronics and processing; laminal improvisation and minimalism; hushed, pensive songwriting; the deceptive simplicity and temporal suspensions of composers such as Morton Feldman and Alvin Lucier; and the physicality of rock music, slowed down and stripped back to its bare bones, abstracted and replaced with pure signal. From the late 90’s his experiments in guitar abstraction and extended technique have led to a more personal and unique sound-world incorporating a broader palette of instruments and sensibilities.

©︎ Shigeo Gomi / MUTEK.JP
©︎ Shigeo Gomi / MUTEK.JP

In between performances, I talked with audience. A group of American female lawyers and accountants living in Japan, lightly dressed up for a weekend outing, and a group of young Japanese who wanted to work in the gaming and advertising industries.

MUTEK was a happy fusion of people and technology, with well-known artists and up-and-coming artists, as well as audience who are themselves creators, ultimately becoming one.

I left Shibuya feeling as if the message of MUTEK had eased my worries about the recent conflicts between humans and the future of human-AI confrontation that is so often talked about.

MUTEK.JP 2023 Edition 8
Dates: Thursday 7th – Saturday 10th December, 2023
Organiser: MUTEK Japan AC
Special Collaborator: Shibuya Stream
Collaborator: Mawari Inc
Institutional and Government Partners: Arts Council Tokyo, Shibuya City, Gouvernement du Québec, Federal Ministry Republic of Austria Arts, Culture, Civil Service & Sport, AUSTRIAN CULTURAL FORUM TOKYO
Official website: https://tokyo.mutek.org/