The Aestheticized Interview with Ryota Matsumoto (Japan)

Saturday, November 23, 2019
The Aestheticized Interview with Ryota Matsumoto (Japan)

Ryota Matsumoto is a co-director of an award-winning interdisciplinary design office, Ryota Matsumoto Studio. He is an artist, designer and urban planner. Born in Tokyo, he was raised in Hong Kong and Japan. He received a Master of Architecture degree from University of Pennsylvania in 2007 after his studies at Architectural Association in London and Mackintosh School of Architecture, Glasgow School of Art in early 90’s.

Image: Those Who Affirm the Spontaneity of Every Event, Mixed Media, 2014, 84cmx119cm


Ryota Matsumoto is a co-director of an award-winning interdisciplinary design office, Ryota Matsumoto Studio. He is an artist, designer and urban planner. Born in Tokyo, he was raised in Hong Kong and Japan. He received a Master of Architecture degree from University of Pennsylvania in 2007 after his studies at Architectural Association in London and Mackintosh School of Architecture, Glasgow School of Art in early 90’s. 

Matsumoto has previously collaborated with a cofounder of the Metabolist Movement, Kisho Kurokawa, and with Arata Isozaki, Cesar Pelli, Peter Christopherson, MIT Media Lab and Nihon Sekkei Inc. He has taught architecture and interdisciplinary design strategy as a lecturer and visiting critic in the United States, Europe and Japan. His current interest gravitates around the embodiment of cultural possibilities in art, ecology, and urban topography.

ArtDependence (AD): Do you have any thoughts on whether that’s a responsibility of artists, reflecting our time is important within the political context?

Riot Matsumoto (RM): I believe art may partake in an actualization of conjectural worlds, temporalities of spatial formulation, and that it does not necessarily correspond to a textual understanding or the routine of socio-critical axioms in post-aesthetic apparatus after the ontological turn of the last ten years. This is especially an appropriate notion given that we live in the realm of post-dualistic and onto-epistemological existence.


Chebyshev Spectral Overcast, Mixed Media, 2019, 102cmx85cm


Regarding my work, I deal with broader phenomenological inquiries confronting the current socio-economic agendas. I also explore new ecological terrains in search of diverse groundings as the urban context of conjectural stream.  Both art and design are meant to be the catalyst for allowing people to be conscious of what is transpiring around our social milieu and surmising how our future could be configured in every possible variant that opens up to us. Unfortunately, current mainstream art has shifted emphasis from the social production of speculative abstraction pertaining to our metaphysical perception to the exponential overproduction of disruptive political binaries. 

AD: What is your main interest as artist? What form of self-consciousness is applicable to art-making?

RM: I am mainly interested in investigating the speculative epistemology on relations between humans and techno-centric transindividuation. These play pivotal roles in my art-oriented practice in both design and architecture. My perennial investigation embodies how speculative post-humanism continues to blur the boundaries between humans, material- semiotic actants, and existing obsolete infrastructure in the form of trans-corporeality. The main tenet hinges on how the hybridization of biotech-driven urbanism and post-industrial infrastructure can act as the catalyst for urban reconfiguration beyond the reach of empirical consciousness.  

AD: Do you feel that it’s important to convey your own beliefs and opinions within your art? Is there a philosophical element in your work?

RM: Art is often held to reflect the transcendent interpretation of life as long as we are conscious beings. One could argue that this is unavoidable because we are hardwired to perceive the immanent existence of art objects through the cognitive abstraction of predictive coding. However, it is important to also note that the art of inner-experience not only raises one’s existentialism, but also challenges embodied subjects of post-Kantian idealism that are unconsciously open to what is being offered libidinally as immaterial and primordial entities.


The Indistinct Notion of an Object Trajectory, Mixed Media, 2014, 75cmx56cm


A central tenet of artistic creation is based firmly on the dichotomy between the desire to be universal yet, at the same time, personal beyond semantic constraints. It is this polarity that mirrors and reveals the Dionysian side of our metaphysical anguish as mortal beings through perceiving the work of art. That could be interpreted as both a phenomenological inquiry of recapitulating the human alterity or materialist dialectics of one’s inner experience. Both artists and their participants are constantly striving towards expressing and integrating these two polar aspects to attain an intriguing balance in their inner-psyche. 

AD: Is there anything in particular that you’d like to get across through your work?

RM: My work reflects the morphological transformations of our ever-evolving urban and ecological milieus, which could be attributed to a multitude of spatio-temporal phenomena influenced by social, economic, and cultural multiplicities. These works are created as visual commentaries on speculative changes in notions of societies, cultures, and ecosystems in the transient nature of constantly shifting topography. The speculative visualization approach integrates multigranular spatial schemas and decode the physiological dimensions of embodied experience in the human-influenced geological epoch. This investigative process eventually fosters critical thinking in relation to the underlying agendas of the increasingly dominant anthropocentric biophysical intervention and the subsequent post-capitalist geological system.

AD: What place does creativity have in education? Do you view yourself as a creator?

RM: I would paraphrase Joseph Beuys’s famous quote and re-state that “everybody is a creator of social sculpture.” Even the minutiae of everyday experience are said to be part of a larger restitution of empirical multiplicity to enhance our creativity as artists. Every individual creatively contributes what they can to this larger whole called society through our words, actions, thoughts and even daily routines. This is especially true in today’s pathological state of the aesthetic regime, when the impact of every individual’s self-motivated initiative significantly influences the current geological epoch. Art is the polyarchic hyperagency that offers a wide range of discursive and visual strategies. The Anthropocene implicates the derangement of our sensual perception with regards to how we perceive art as the cultivation of decoded flow. 

AD: Do you think that by challenging conventional views, art can truly make a change in the public’s perception?

RM: I believe the particular quality of the core of art objects hasn’t changed much for a long time ontologically. Instead, I prefer to proceed beyond the metaphysical bind of Adorno’s aesthetic ethics and to acknowledge art's autonomous construct as a multivalent space of criticality liberated from order-words dichotomy revealing both contingency and dissimilarity of onlookers.


Those Who Affirm the Spontaneity of Every Event, Mixed Media, 2014, 84cmx119cm


As the way we perceive art has changed over the course of centuries in tandem with socio-cultural relativism, this dialectical shift in the public’s cognitive perspective on art leads to embodied subjects as cultural intermediaries for the empirical dimension of art objects within the axiomatic diagram of social realm.

AD: How has your work developed since you began and how do you see it evolving in the future?

RM: My artistic development, from a systematic perspective, is constantly in flux, always in the state of creating ever-emergent, mutative entities in a multi-agent abstraction of the morphogenetic state.

Lately, my artwork revolves around the epistemic and genealogical meshwork of cavernous, porous texture that represents the strategic apparatus of all possible socio-cultural abstractions in the broad range of the epoch, taking into account both the epistemic and transgressive ruptures. Therefore, each intermeshed stratum of accumulated images represents a post-human agency of epistemological perceptions in the archeological context. These multimodal visual narratives are employed in my work to document the urban metamorphosis to the maximum effect in a syntactic context.

AD: Is sophistication, aesthetic accomplishment in the eye of the beholder?

RM: As long as the aesthetic sophistication of art does not connote the concurrent linear causality of technological advances that are linked to the axioms of the capitalist socius, I think so. 

For instance, the European cave paintings from the earlier Paleolithic Age reflect a religious iconography and evidently show the sophistication of symbolic syntax. Seen from this perspective, they suggest the birth of both refined art and cognitive processing abilities of humans that eventually led to the development of religions and culminated in trans-corporeality between humans and all creatures as embodied beings in a paleo-anthropological hypothesis, as claimed by Jacque Cauvin and Catherine Perlès. 

In my view, the definition of sophistication is open to subjective, multivalent interpretations from the collective praxis of relational aesthetics. 

AD: What do you think is the social role of art? How would you like to be remembered?

EM: As an artist, I’d like to attempt to use visual communication to capture the immanent nature of humanity’s psychological percepts of art as perceptible tactile aggregates.  This sharing of primordial sensations is one experience that artists have the privilege to shape and express as storied matter within today’s multivalent social platform.

I always avoid the commonsense assimilation of cultural entities that are manifested in the capitalist socius of mainstream art. Therefore, I conceive the work of art as the dynamic cohesion of cognitive assemblages that evoke our multisensory experience and transcend spatio-temporal specificity.

AD: How does art school form ideas about art? Does it shape people into being certain types of artists?

RM: I think some art institutions began to take on interdisciplinary approaches by embracing sociology, cultural studies, media theory, computational design, and even architecture. The recent pedagogical perspective most notably culminated in the latest advancement in post-media art, bio art, data visualization art and other new emerging crossover fields fusing latest technology and art. The conundrum of this multi-methodology is that there are the inherent difficulties integrating the set of strategical trajectories and collectively produced final outcomes as coherent entities, especially when time-based procedures, communication systems, statistical studies and their fragmented hybrids take precedence over sensual objects of fundamental inquiries.

AD: What do you think about the art world and art market? Do you accept that art is inherently an elitist activity?

RM: There are mainstream institutionalized practices that are managed by high-end galleries, notable curators, and affluent art collectors. Simultaneously, there are also various virtual platforms where one can exhibit work without the support of any curational establishments. The Internet of Things suddenly makes the work of art and its user generated content accessible to broader masses. There are also quantitative shifts from Cartesian dualism with regards to how we perceive the work of art in the multiplicity of ubiquitous computing.  This is especially relevant in the wake of emergent intermediate networks and subsequent multilayered aesthetics of social totality inspired by Fredric Jameson’s cognitive mapping as communicational data flows. 


Swirling Effects and Their Wayside Phenomena, Mixed Media, 2016, 67cmx72cm


The digital art invariably erases the sense of scale, tactility, and dimensionality in lieu of their immediate manifestation. Moreover, the post-internet art emphasizes the permanent flux of transformations and opens up to the possibilities in unraveling fluid topological space in the context of perceptual indeterminacy, non-representationalism and collective abstraction.  The emergence of virtual multi-sited ethnography and blockchain platforms also force us to take into consideration how our work would be decoded in a hybrid communication milieu. The other noticeable change in art of the current paradigm is the sovereignty

of software, generative scripts and plug-ins that are perceived as autonomous realms of art. We live in the age where we are submerged in the aesthetics of the protocol-defined set of codes and integrated stacks of interfaces as much as we are exposed to the formalistic representation of art objects. This suggests that there are new currents in the art community that gradually replace traditional activity.

AD: What’s the last great book you read? Any other thoughts/projects to share?

RM: All the books are related to architectural or anatomical discourses focusing on drawings. Mask of Medusa by John Hejduk, Crucial Interventions by Richard Barnett, The Projective Cast by Robin Evans.

With my drawings and paintings, I embrace the disjunctive juxtaposition of spatial relationships, oblique projections of Non-Euclid forms, and visual metamorphoses as multi-layered drawing methodologies in order to explore the non-metric topography of decoded fluidity and hybridization between human and space in the context of the vector field.

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Image of the Day

Anna Melnykova, "Palace of Labor (palats praci), architector I. Pretro, 1916", shot with analog Canon camera, 35 mm Fuji film in March 2022.

Anna Melnykova, "Palace of Labor (palats praci), architector I. Pretro, 1916", shot with analog Canon camera, 35 mm Fuji film in March 2022.


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