Since their inception in 2006, the Tokyo-based collective Rhizomatiks have been pursuing new possibilities at the intersection of technology and artistic expression. The name of the group is taken from Gilles Deleuze’s concept of the rhizome: as the name suggests, their artistic activities embody a rhizome-like multiplicity that spans “media art,” research and development pertaining to the visual design of data, architecture, design, as well as business-related ventures such as advertising and entertainment. Rhizomatiks’ work is sharply distinguished from that of other designers in terms of the significant impact it has on society, achieved through their hyperactive and febrile aesthetic and innovative appropriations, applications, and optimizations of existing cutting-edge technologies.
Whereas artists working with media technology often formulate the concept themselves but collaborate with specialists on the hardware and engineering, Rhizomatiks is a “full stack” group whose members work as a team from the ideation stage through hardware and software development and operations. The team comprises artists, programmers and engineers, designers, and architectural experts. Through research and development for corporations, and the development of systems for staging and presenting large scale ceremonies, Rhizomatiks have steadily evolved their own language (system) of artistic expression by channeling information and data from the advertising and entertainment businesses and massive budgets towards their own R&D processes.
By infiltrating capitalism and engaging with the inside of this system in what Karen Barad calls an “intra-active” way, Rhizomatiks’ practice as a whole has generated a complexity of multiple creative processes where it is not only the objective that dictates the means, but also vice versa—a characteristic that leads to the deconstruction of existing values and systems. At a time when the internet and AI are undermining the foundations of individualistic and anthropocentric human activity, and the very notions of art and creative cultural enterprise are undergoing major changes, the appearance of Rhizomatiks may be a something of a sign of the times.
Our bodies oscillate between the virtual and the real, and what is now needed is a vital inquiry into the real points of contact that will permit us to access these troves of invisible big data. In response to these rapidly changing circumstances, Rhizomatiks attempt to update our bodily sensations, perceptual awareness, and critical-analytical abilities from various angles. Rhizomatiks’ trilogy of data visualization works that make visible our participation in sites governed by the invisible power of economic transactions, shifting from the stock market (traders) to the automated trading systems used to trade Bitcoin (chains) and the live situation of cyber-attacks that constitute another war (invisible war), infused with a brilliantly apocalyptic aesthetic, is a highlight of this exhibition.
This exhibition, titled Rhizomatiks, Multiplex, is the collective’s first major solo exhibition at a museum, encompassing an archive of their cross-disciplinary creation to date, as well as new projects that are critically synchronized with the present. Rhizomatiks, Multiplex will develop and unfold in a hybrid way both online and offline: its large-scale installations will offer us new propositions in relation to the boundaries and linkages between the virtual and the physical. It will also examine the question of how personal data circulates within these networks, and establish a critical platform to investigate the pros and cons of the cryptographic art being constructed from the blockchains and non-fungible tokens (NFTs) that will become the social infrastructure of the next generation, in an attempt to define a new kind of humanity and ethics that can thrive in a digital networked society.