May 05 - June 13, 2021
CHiKA’s project GO02 comprises a series of five virtual sculptures arrayed across Manhattan at some of the city’s liveliest sites: Times Square, the High Line, the 9/11 Memorial, Columbus Park in Chinatown, and Tompkins Square Park. From a bird’s-eye view, an astute observer would see that these five locations are the five points of a star, the center of which is NowHere, the heart of this exhibition. By traveling to each of the locations and utilizing your smartphone, you can see the sculptures via either QR code or Instagram filter. In this way, CHiKA adds a layer of ephemeral vibrancy to the city and encourages us to experience each location in the uncanny space between real and virtual. And now, as we emerge from a year in lockdown, is a uniquely opportune time to explore the world with fresh eyes.
CHiKA’s goal is to reveal the latent meanings that arbitrate humanity’s rules of structure. She finds inspiration in one of the most foundational of such systems—the Five Elements of Chinese philosophy and medicine: wood, fire, earth, metal, and water. CHiKA then links each element to one of the five Platonic solids—the fundamental shapes of the tetrahedron, cube, octahedron, icosahedron, and dodecahedron, which have been a source of fascination for thinkers, mathematicians, and artists since Ancient Greece.
The virtual sculptures are based on the shapes of the five Platonic solids, and the locations of the sculptures—south, middle, west, north, and east—are determined by the theory of Five Elements. Audience members can use their smartphones to reveal the invisible work in front of each of the five vantage points. All five sculptures can also be viewed at NowHere, which is located in the geographical center of the five viewpoints.
Columbus Park in Chinatown
High Line park in Chelsea
Tompkins Square Park in East Village
This installation deployed various shapes and light patterns to explore the word EN, a Japanese homophone that, when written using Chinese characters, can mean “circle,” “connection,” or “feast.”
MI01 was a site-specific LED-light installation at World of Light, Los Angeles. When the visitors walked through the installation, they reinvented their reality through the relationship between objects and light. Utilizing the Japanese aesthetic of wabi-sabi, MI01 featured another Japanese homophone as a central concept. “Mi” can mean either “three,” “body,” or “charm.”
Between the visible and the invisible
— An interview with CHiKA
I’m curious about the origin of your name, which you style as CHiKA.
I just like the way it looks instead of “Chika.” It looks ordered, balanced, and clean. My name in Japanese looks like this: 千加. 千, or “Chi,” means “a thousand.” 加, or “Ka,” means “addition.” But I do not know exactly what they mean together. My parents hired a professional namer, and according to that person this name is supposed to bring me happiness and success. So I like to say that I bring one thousand happinesses to everybody.
That’s great! So this name was arrived at using onomancy, or the idea that one can foretell a child’s life by the name they’re given?
That’s right. In Japan, onomancy is known as seimei handan. It can take several forms, but the most popular is based on the character strokes in the subject’s written name. A person is hired to find the best moniker for a child by calculating the balance of Chinese characters in the first and last name.
What an interesting job. And then of course your name is also a homophone for the Spanish word for “girl.”
Spanish speakers never forget my name! I always enjoy seeing their surprise when they hear it for the first time.
The Platonic solids are the underpinning for the sculptures of GO. Those shapes have been invested with a lot of meaning throughout history. What is their personal significance for you?
I have been practicing Qigong for a decade with the great Grand Master Nan Lu. In Qigong, these shapes are related to the Chinese conception of the five elements found in nature. For me, they connect what we find in nature, the visible, with that which we do not really see, the invisible. I will be gratified if my audience sees this connection in my work.
The five Chinese elements as in water, wood, fire, earth, and metal?
Yes. And in this system, each element corresponds with a direction—south, middle, west, north, and east. The locations of my sculptures were determined this way.
What was it about these sculptures that compelled you to create them virtually rather than physically?
It was an urge I’d never felt before, and it came when we were locked down in the pandemic last year. I saw that our future will somehow be a fusion of physical and nonphysical structures acting in harmony with each other.
Do you recall your family exposing you to culture at an early age?
My mother was an art lover, so she took me to dance performances, movie theaters, and classical concerts when I was growing up. I love these things, but I don’t recall feeling the urge to create in those mediums.
I see. So what are your earliest memories of being compelled by a specific form of expression?
What really wowed me was seeing music videos from the U.S. and England. They were broadcast on a Japanese TV show that played on the weekend, late at night when everybody else was asleep.
What was the first medium you worked in? You deploy very advanced technology now, but I imagine you began with materials that are more tactile.
Washi—rice paper—and sumi, the black ink that’s used for Japanese calligraphy. I easily lost track of time while engaged in this practice. It was like a meditation to me. What I love about it is that while you are drawing a character, you are also creating a balanced shape.
Speaking of shapes, it seems there’s a desire in your work to explore the structural underpinnings of… well, everything! Is this a cosmological urge, or would that be making the subject of your pursuits too macro?
It does seem like I am creating a mini cosmos at the gallery. [laughs] And one of the intentions for this body of work was to create artworks that fuse physical reality with augmented reality. So, yes, you could call that my own little cosmos.
Born in Ichikawa, Japan
Lives and Works in New York City
CHiKA is a multifaceted artist who works with augmented reality, light sculptures, audiovisual performances, and emerging technology. Her experience working as a real-time visual artist—VJing with sound composers, 8-bit musicians, and club DJs, and experimenting with improvisational communication with an audience—influences her desire to connect directly with the public via interactive technology. She received her BFA from the School of Visual Arts and her Masters from the Interactive Telecommunications Program at New York University, Tisch School of the Arts. As an educator, she is the founder of the projection-mapping and LED pixel-mapping workshop, Mappathon™. Since 2017, she has been part of the PASEO Project’s advisory council, and she took part in the Designers-in-Residence program at the New York Hall of Science in 2020. She is also the recipient of numerous other residencies and fellowships. CHiKA’s work has been shown globally, including exhibitions at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the New York Hall of Science, the Bronx Museum, the Centre d’Art Contemporain, the Museo Regional de Guadalajara, Mapping Festival, MUTEK, the DUMBO Arts Festival, Arcadia Earth, and more.