Photo by Kenichi Hagihara
Courtesy of Yamaguchi Center for Arts and Media [YCAM]

Photo by Hiroki Obara
Courtesy of Yamaguchi Center for Arts and Media [YCAM]

“What we call ‘interface’ in the context of computer technology already exists within us: a network that mediates our subjectivity, that synthesizes what we perceive and the world that is perceived.”    

  - Seiko Mikami (Molecular Informatics, 2004) 

‘Gravicells’, is a media art installation that alters the psyche through a technologized environment in which  “the sense of perception is suspended” (Kashino, 2004). Seiko Mikami and Sota Ichikawa’s collective work deciphers the inherent human sensorial experience, allowing us to interact with our own senses as they enter our consciousness.

Here, the interface is a sector of infinite space in which the participant’s sense of equilibrium and perception of gravity are visualized by continuous calculations. A combination of GPS tracking, geometrical mapping and an underfloor water pressure system, form a three-dimensional medium in which the mass of an object and its gravitational effect are indicated by a distortion of the space. This hybrid of digital and analogue data is supported by visual scanning, LED lighting and sound dynamics to create a kinetic artwork that is informed by the participants’ interactions with the space and with each other.

The term ‘gravicells’ refers to the effect of gravity on our biological cells, as well as the physical space that is created. This sixth consciousness of directivity (up and down, left and right) ascertains our personal emotions, religious beliefs political views, even the function of our organs and the cells of each living thing. The elderly lose balance due to a weakened sensibility of the inner ear, through which an artificial implant can restore their sense of equilibrium. This work has both biological and sociological implications in which our spirits are expressed or bound by the laws of gravity.

Sota Ichikawa observes space from the individual’s perspective using pseudocoding: a form of programming that applies the structural foundations of computer algorithms to human functionalities. He challenges corrective devices through his unique understanding of space from the Polar axis of the individual, rather than the typified Cartesian planes of architectural practices. This unique methodology reveals the symbiotic device of gravity in which “our senses are not direct products of nature, but of modern society and its power formation” (Kosho, 2004).

Seiko Mikami’ s artistic endeavours were influenced by 18th century German philosopher, Immanuel Kant and his doctrines of space and time, and of synthesis. Kant’s Synthesis of Apprehension in Intuition (1781) states that our perceptions are inextricably linked: “every intuition contains in itself a manifold: for each representation, as it is contained in a single moment, can never be anything but absolute unity”. Mikami’s media installations transmit a parallel universe that recontextualise Kant’s philosophies of cognitive science. 

 “We know very little, if not nothing, of the human body and it workings…
My role as an artist is not to express an idea or opinions about a certain thing (or the world), but to construct an alternative environment where the human body and technology can interact.”

- Seiko Mikami (Molecular Informatics, 2004) 

Mikami subverts philosophical constructs by decoding the mind: showing how it puts new information into context. She describes this state of mind as a ghost or double of humans, known as a Geist, which is experienced through “a virtual apperception, namely a mechanism of feedback or self-reference of communicating with the I” (Mikami, 2004). 

Her work explores the uncharted space that lies between the conscious and unconscious mind. The cerebral links of our brains are reexamined as we enter a new state and our perceptions of reality are transformed. Mikami (2004) expresses that our individual senses “are very much blurred and their peripheries vague…it is possible for the ear to see, for the nose to hear, and for the eye to touch”.

Seiko Mikami sadly passed away last year after she suddenly became ill with cancer. Sota Ichikawa expresses his deepest respect for her: 

“I've been a big fan of Seiko Mikami's later work since Molecular Informatics. Those are of a modest minimal look, which have complexity, technology and meaning behind. They define one kind of beauty. My contribution was just a small role, but it was an irreplaceable experience and remains part of my creative viewpoint. She is the one, the artist who has magnetic field with strong gravity to make unique events happen. That field: her influence, is still there, and sustains.”

In Berlin, the ‘Gravicells’ exhibit was housed in a large room, in which some participants observed from afar and likened the space to a temple. This moment elucidates Kant’s Transcendental Aesthetic in which “the mind-independent world does not come located in a spatial or a temporal matrix: it is the mind that organizes this ‘manifold of raw intuition’ spatially and temporally” (Stanford, 2013). Here, the metaphysical space provides an insight into the invisible forces and interactions that create our everyday existence. Seiko Mikami’s legacy lies within her composition of subliminal realms that bestow the complex beauty of the human condition.

A special thank you to Sota Ichikawa at doubleNegatives Architecture and Emiko Akasaka at the InterCommunication Center in Tokyo – for all your assistance and for your kind spirit.

Text by Luke O'Neill | S/TUDIO