Ryoji Ikeda: The aesthetics of data flow

Ominous, disorienting and relentless, incorporating strobe effects and sonic frequencies on the edge of human hearing, the experience of Ryoji Ikeda’s art is often described as a kind of data sublime. Evoking a posthuman, post‑nature universe, the technical virtuosity, spectacular scale and intensity of his installations draws crowds wherever they are shown. Ikeda’s appeal to institutions competing for attention in the experience economy is obvious. As a typical promotion reads: “Ikeda’s work overwhelms the viewer—don’t miss this chance to see it in person.” In other words, even as prolific documentation inevitably accompanies his work, Instagram cannot replace the physical encounter of being exposed to it, because the “immersive” scale and soundscape are so integral to the encounter. Tellingly, Ikeda started out as a DJ in Tokyo, and he continues to orchestrate singular experiences for visitors en masse on a global circuit, where works can be re‑versioned to suit the venue.

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