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Promotion of the Integration of Science Technology with Art to Propose a New Art Style


 Unit Name:
Research Unit for Art and Technology
Unit representative:
Professor Hiroo Iwata, Faculty of Engineering, Information and Systems

Unit members:
11 (9 faculty members, no postdoctoral fellows, 2 from other organizations)

Key words:
media technology, media art, virtual reality, device art, interactive art



Ars Electronica*1 is the world’s largest-scale media art festival. Our research unit held the University of Tsukuba Campus Exhibition at Ars Electronica 2011 (Figure 1). The exhibition aimed to conduct cross-sectional analysis of media art and introduce it to the world. From around the 1990’s, the University of Tsukuba, which is the only university in Japan that has art-related departments, has been playing a leading role in the field of media art in the world. Engineering and art researchers of the university collaborate with each other to integrate science technologies, culture, and art, exploring the world’s top-level art expressions.

Figure 1: Ars Electronica, the University of Tsukuba Campus Exhibition 2011

Figure 1: Ars Electronica, the University of Tsukuba Campus Exhibition 2011


The world of device art in which devices themselves are presented as works of art with a focus on the expression of the essence of technologies

Media art created in the University of Tsukuba has many unique features and has attracted attention from all over the world, including a number of Ars Electronica award-winning works since 1987. In the early period of Ars Electronica, the university exhibited many different works of art involving images (holographic) and devices as a pioneer. It is commonly believed that art only uses technologies as a means of expression. On the other hand, device art is a new form of art in which advanced technologies themselves are the essence of expression.


“What is the self?” “Walking on and on to arrive nowhere”: Themes pursued in Device Art

Figure 2 shows the “Floating Eye”. You enter the spherical display, and your viewpoint will be shifted to the blimp, looking down on yourself.

Figure 2: Floating Eye (created by Professor Hiroo Iwata)

Figure 2: Floating Eye (created by Professor Hiroo Iwata)

This piece of work, created under the theme of “What is the self?”, makes you feel as if you are having an out-of-body experience. The scenery you are looking at through the Tsukuba Scope (Figure 3) may appear to be ordinary. However, you are actually viewing an image full of illusions. An arrow painted on the road and other objects in this image move suddenly and strangely. The Torus Treadmill (shown in Figure 4) is markedly different from other treadmills. If you step onto it, you can walk in any direction. When combined with images, the treadmill allows you to walk freely in virtual space. However, another theme of this device is “Keep walking to arrive nowhere”, and you are bound to return to the starting point, regardless of the direction in which you started to walk. Device art is attractive in that technologies are interpreted and presented as works of art for researchers, engineers, and the general public.

Figure 3: Tsukuba Scope (created by Professor Fumiaki Murakami)

Figure 3: Tsukuba Scope (created by Professor Fumiaki Murakami)

Figure 4: Torus Treadmill (created by Professor Hiroo Iwata)

Figure 4: Torus Treadmill (created by Professor Hiroo Iwata)

*1: The Ars Electornica Festival is a festival for art, advanced technologies, and culture that has been held in Linz, Austria, since 1979. It is the world’s largest media art event.


Social contributions and achievements
● Creation of a new academic discipline through the integration of engineering with art and pursuit of an expression style unique to the University of Tsukuba
● Training of comprehensive-science-and- technology-oriented creators – “Device Art Tool Kit”, a basic technology, put into production
● Establishment of the “Tearoom of Zero/One: Device Art Collection” in the National Museum of Emerging Science and Innovation
● Ars Electornica 2011 (http://www.tsukuba.ac.jp/topics/20101216190034.html)
● Ars Electornica 2011 / Brochure of the University of Tsukuba Campus Exhibition

(Interviewed on July 19, 2013)

Research Administration/Management Office at U Tsukuba TEL 029-853-4434