In the middle of the 19th century German scientist and explorer Alexander von Humboldt presented to the world his “Kosmos. A Sketch of the Physical Description of the Universe” with intention to summarise the work of his life and reach “a point of view from which all the organisms and forces of nature may be seen as one living active whole, animated by one sole impulse.” The struggle to “recognise unity in diversity” and “to grasp Nature’s essence under the cover of outer appearances” resulted in a 5 volume treatise that coined the term “cosmos” used today and insisted on the notion that universal laws are as well applicable to the apparent chaos of the terrestrial world.
In the beginning of the 21st century Japanese artist Macoto Murayama, working in the field of new media art, recognises in Humboldt one of the sources of inspiration. Uniting science and art he uses the latest computer technologies to create botanical illustrations that follow scientific traditions while giving new images to the architecture, mechanics and general laws of organic forms. The precision and “correct” depiction of the object meets in his works with the aesthetics and enjoyment of the plant in analysis. Murayama dissects and researches the flowers, makes numerous sketches and photographs of the details studding their structure and then, moving into digital dimension, recreates the plant body with the help of 3D computer graphics software. He applies indications of measurements, names of parts, scales and other descriptive elements with excessive details, creating a “blueprint of nature” where the mechanics and the general laws of nature come to the surface entering a fascinating relationship with its beauty and elegancy. Yet limited and experimental, his approach replays the struggle of the great scientist Alexander von Humboldt and searches for a way to reveal the “general connection in one great whole, moved and animated by inner force,” having as the final aim the creation of a “sketch” that reveals the harmony in the base of the ordered universe.
Macoto Murayama’s solo show Kosmos, while presenting a large selection of prints and several video works, strives to define and research the possibility of the “Humboldtian Artist.” For Humboldt, the scientific approach was not separable from the fascination with Nature, and his “Kosmos” signified both “order of the world, and adornment of this universal order,” while on the other hand Humboldt believed that Art could incorporate and surpass science in conveying the perceptual truth of the whole if the artist painted the (natural historical) truth of particulars. Could Murayama, with his original synthetic approach, shed a light on or even give us an idea of the “Humboldtian Artist”? While basing his art works on struct rules of evidence and revealing patterns and principles in a fascinating manner that does not just overcome the limits of the species but the organic world itself, Murayama’s images give us access to the creation which overcomes a distinct separation line between “subjective” and “objective,” fantasy and meticulous observation, artistic inspiration and scientific research. Doesn’t the impact of Murayama’s works reveal the force of “Kosmos,” which is “nature as a whole” inseparable from the fascinated mind that observes it?
The return of interest in the work of Humboldt in scholar society, the new edition of “Kosmos” in 2004 and the consequent formation of this scientist’s image as cosmopolitan ambassador of German culture and civilisation for the 21st century give a firm ground to raise these questions and along with these recent movements present Macoto Murayama’s perspective on the “Humboldtian” manner of studying and representing nature as well as his original image of the cosmos. The body of works by Murayama will be presented in three sections, each of which tries to recognise the unity in the diversity and investment of The Laws into Beauty.
1. The Cosmic Movement: Vortex
The movement itself that is traced in the journey of the planets, generated by temperature and humidity in Earth’s atmosphere or produced by tides in the ocean will become the introductory section. Researching the development and related motion of plants, Murayama shows how the vortex structure in organic forms follows its strict patterns, working at the same time on the elegance and elevated image of Nature. The artist combines three different types of flowers in one digital image to illustrate this principle while underlining the particularities of the forms.
2. Mathematics and Geometry of Organic Forms
The arrangement of leaves on a plant stem, the position of seeds or the distribution of petals in flowers follow not yet fully discovered patterns of mathematics and geometry that go beyond flora and “code” the universe. The spirals of seeds/petals for example form a distinctive class of patterns in nature and are often related to Fibonacci numbers in formation of a plant. The sunflower head is the most famous example. Its patterns create an optical effect of criss-crossing counter-clockwise and clockwise spirals that are also related to the golden section, which is crucial for both classical geometry and fine art. This part of the exhibition illustrates the variety of geometrical patterns and mathematical links in self-organised machines of organic nature.
3. Bio-Clusters: Inflorescence
Bringing the visitor closer to the morphology of a flower we dedicate the last section of the show to the formation of flowers on a stem, the inflorescence. Murayama shows how the structure of flower clusters is formed by organic matter and hiding infinite links and being related to such phenomena as blooming process and its order, access for pollinating insects and alike. In this part of the show the form of a flower opens to the viewer revealing the tiniest details of its construction.
Following Murayama’s approach which combines digital with organic, electronic musician Claudio PRC was invited to perform on the opening day of the show in the centre of the jungles, which were recreated in The Main Tropical Greenhouse of the Botanic Garden and Botanical Museum Berlin. The performance, titled From the Nebular Stars to the Mosses on the Granite Rocks, uses the context of a visual art exhibition inside a natural history museum to share ideas on “Kosmos,” thus extending the “harmonious whole” from image to sound. It is the artist’s techno music that will allow visitors to reflect differently on Humboldt’s ideas of inseparable interplay of harmony and strictness: as Humboldt said, “the stars as they sparkle in firmament fill us with delight and ecstasy, and yet they all move in orbit marked out with mathematical precision.”
The structure of many of Claudio’s electronic music sets – the journey he proposes to the listeners – extensively repeats the way Humboldt leads his readers into the “Kosmos.” With ambient and endlessly expanding cosmic sounds, Claudio PRC shoots into deep and infinite, free flow space making us first lose the grounds and get the distance, as well as the larger picture that surpasses the individual or a moment. Then, after we reach “the nebular stars,” he leads us gradually back to “earth,” connecting the universal with the local, uniting the echoing and running into shade of endless tones with hypnotic ethnic sounds of shaman’s drums for instance. The journey continues with its pulsing and swirling energy, but the variety and development of rhythm and tones are strongly consistent and keep organic coherence in their unstoppable growth, as if led by one universal principle hidden behind it. The endless variations of Claudio’s audio-“Kosmos” are infinitely interconnected. The surface and multiplicity in this sonar Nature are united by virtue of their very diversity into the “one great whole… animated by the breath of life.” Like the path of Humboldt’s “Kosmos” the journey to the outer world in Claudio PRC’s musical compositions brings the audience to a subjective trip: through mind and spirit and yet undiscovered orders of it.
The title of the performance is the way Humboldt himself was describing his project and this ambition will be recreated in the audio form and after its presentation to the visitors of the show during the opening reception will accompany the exhibition as a recorded set with free access on social networks and official sites of the exhibition.
Macoto Murayama was born in 1984 in Kanagawa, Japan. In 2007 he graduated the Information Design Department at Miyagi University, with a B.A. in Spatial Design. In 2009 he completed the courses at the Institute of Advanced Media Art and Sciences (IAMAS), Media Expression Department. In between 2009 and 2010 he has been a researcher at IAMAS. His work has been part of several group shows, including OGAKI BIENNALE 2008 (Takaya-cho Underpass, Gifu, Japan, 2008), IAMAS 2009 (Softopia Japan Center Builiding, Gifu, Japan, 2009), PLAYING BACK SURFACE Ⅱ – digital images of contemporary art – (Toyota Municipal Museum of Art Civic Gallery, Aichi, Japan, 2009), Art Award Tokyo Marunouchi 2009 (Gyoko-dori Underground Gallery, Tokyo, 2009), My Favorite Things (Unseal Contemporary and art project frantic Joint Exhibition, Tokyo, 2009), Exhibition of Objects Under Observation (with Toshitaka Mochizuki) (art project frantic, Tokyo, 2009), 2010 FRANTIC UNDERLINES (Frantic, Gallery, Tokyo, 2010), and OUT of FLAT! (Galerie Hengevoss Duerkop, Hamburg, Germany, 2012). His solo exhibition Inorganic Flora opened at Frantic Gallery in Tokyo in 2011. Macoto Murayama has been awarded with the Asia Digital Art Award for his works. More information: Web | Video works on Frantic YouTube Channel | Creation method.
Claudio PRC, real name Claudio Porceddu, was born in 1987 in Sardinia, Italy. His experimental approach to techno and his knowledge on history of electronic music are the basis for a constant flow of productions since he first started releasing on the Berlin based netlabel Intoxik in 2007. After several EPs, he received attention from the German label Prologue Music, which not only became his home base for nearly 5 years but also gave him the space to put out his widely recognised first album Inner State in 2012. With his friend and production partner Ness he started his own label based on and named after their side project “The Gods Planet” in 2010, releasing their own productions and giving a little “Extra” room for releases of befriended artists. With his background in experimental and electro-acoustic music and performance, his DJ sets besides energetic bit provide intellectual stimulation. More information: Soundcloud | Web | Full discography.