November 3 – December 27, 2020
Dimensionism 2.02.0 is a grand vision that continues the lineage of dimensional art for the new space age of the 21st century. In freeing dimensional art from the medium of painting, Dimensionism 2.02.0 aims to elicit physical sensations and spatial perspectives that the genre was previously incapable of capturing. The first iteration of Dimensionism—which we might call Dimensionism 1.0—was created in 1936 by the Hungarian poet Charles Sirató, who was inspired by Albert Einstein’s theory of relativity. In his Dimensionist Manifesto, Sirató pointed the way toward what he called a “cosmic art” which would meld technological innovation with aesthetic revolutions to allow entirely new experiences for lovers of art. His statement was endorsed by some of the greatest artists of the era including Marcel Duchamp, the father of modern art, along with Wassily Kandinsky, Joan Miró, Alexander Calder, and more. In the years since then, the world has made groundbreaking scientific and technological leaps in the face of many social challenges. At long last, in the year 2020, humans are being sent into space by private companies. By the end of the year NASA will, for the first time, send astronauts to the International Space Station using a Space-X-made Falcon rocket. This will radically accelerate our exploration of space—not only for resources, but also in expanding the physical limitations of living things. The possibilities of pure 3-D space will open up, liberating us from our gravity-biased mindset—and even triggering new steps in evolution. This exhibition presents Pion, an installation that uses optical phenomena to allow viewers to experience a new way of perceiving dimension. Through the peculiar effect that takes place inside a large cube of about six feet per side, one’s perception of the workings of space can be indelibly altered. NowHere, in a serendipitous instance of synchronicity, might also be written as TimeSpace. This makes it the perfect place to mark the first chapter of this newly born narrative—a story of the evolution of perception itself.
Feeling Gravity’s Pull
Life on Earth evolved under the force of the planet’s gravitational field. It has shaped our bodies and our reality. It is an inarguable fact of our terrestrial existence. But humankind, unique among Earth’s life forms, is able to tell stories, to produce narratives. Humans became earthly royalty through this ability to conjure mythology from the sun, moon, and stars. Our ancestors created the world of God in heaven. Ancient wisdom thought that the world we live in is a three-dimensional space in which the most meaningful distinction is between up and down.
The Evolution of Dimension
Just as humanity evolved physically, our understanding of dimensions has journeyed through the handprints seen in ancient cave paintings, the pyramids of pharaonic Egypt, the Pythagorean group of Ancient Greece, Plato’s regular polyhedron, Euclid’s Elements, the linear perspective and the golden ratio in the hands of Leonardo da Vinci during the Renaissance, and then onward into 20th century modernism, where it reached a climax in Einstein’s theory of relativity and cubism as pioneered by Picasso and Braque.
Dimension’s Modern Age
Marcel Duchamp began as a cubist, but he soon progressed to conceptual art, where he grappled with four-dimensions in his iconic work The Bride Stripped Bare by Her Bachelors, Even—a.k.a The Large Glass—and his obsessive mastery of chess. Lesser known is his concept of the inframince, a slippery idea that presaged our current understanding of higher dimensions. This, along with the original Dimensionism of Charles Sirató, failed to gain much traction in the turbulence of the 20th century.
Cartesian coordinates, the invention of their namesake René Descartes, were introduced in the murky past when the earth was still thought to be flat. Descartes corresponded his findings intuitively with our existing perceptions and unintentionally reinforced the gravitational bias. But Buckminster Fuller, who predicted the arrival of the space age in the 20th century, expressed doubts about Descartes’ cubic lattice system and strongly argued the validity of the tetrahedral system as the minimum stable structure in zero gravity. He named this system synergetics.
Freedom From Gravity
surrounding our planet. It was there that we found pure three-dimensional space, where the distinctions between up and down, left and right, and back and front mean nothing. We are now stepping into this world, and by updating our experience, we will develop a completely new physicality that is not dependent on gravitational bias—a reality which has never been acquired by any organism before.
Capturing Higher Dimensions — An interview with Yasuo Nomura
Art throughout history has either been representational of three dimensions or has been rendered directly in two dimensions. But you aim to move beyond those dimensional boundaries altogether.
Yes. The Western concept of space in art has, since the Renaissance, been a representation of three-dimensions. In the Impressionist period, oil painting began to emphasize a three-dimensional effect by using a technique of heightened texture. On the other hand, the Japanese picture scrolls and ukiyo-e [woodblock prints] that are the roots of anime and manga were not imitations of three-dimensional space, but rather they were concerned with two-dimensional flatness, which had been the primary focus in Japan since long before the Edo era. This difference between western and eastern concepts of space provides a very interesting framework for thinking about Dimensionism.
How has living in New York City influenced your work and ideas?
After World War II, the world’s economic and cultural center shifted from Paris to New York. Marcel Duchamp was a pioneer in reinforcing that structure, and his importance was revived after the war by young artists in New York. I believe that this time and place—2020 in New York, the center of the coronavirus pandemic in America—will be the stage for a further update of this story.
And, like you, Duchamp brought a global perspective to art in New York.
When I encountered the theories of modern physics and envisioned that painting could be updated by targeting higher dimensions, the word “dimensionism” naturally arose in my mind. Coincidentally, when I landed in New York, the nexus of contemporary art, with that concept in tow at the end of 2018, I learned that the early-twentieth century iteration of Dimensionism had recently been unearthed in America for the first time in half a century. To my surprise, Marcel Duchamp was involved in that original project. What I am doing now is an attempt to carry on the genealogy of contemporary art that emerged in New York then—to inherit it! It’s as if I have received a challenge from my predecessors.
What is your favorite science fiction film, and why?
2001: A Space Odyssey is a truly epochal film, especially when considering the year of its release. It was very much ahead of its time. The film’s iconic monolith that triggers the development of human intelligence will be on display in a museum in a thousand years as a symbol of humanity’s not-yet-updated spatial concepts.
Can you talk a little more about that?
The monolith is depicted in a Cartesian cubic lattice system with a mathematical ratio of 1:4:9 in the third dimension. But the cube is an old spatial concept, made standard under the conditions of Earth’s gravity. In the standard that will develop under zero gravity in the 21st century, it would be more of a Fullerian tetrahedral system.
This is somewhat complex stuff. Are you able to put it into layman’s terms?
Put more simply, if a monolith is to appear before humanity in the 21st century and evolve our intellects, it is expected to be a tetrahedron, not a cube. Interestingly, Kubrick’s early proposal for the monolith was supposed to be a tetrahedron, but it was rejected. He really could have come from the 21st century!
What would be the most exciting technological breakthrough that you believe could happen in your lifetime?
There are a couple. One is a general-purpose AI. Since they are not inherently corporeal, they may be able to capture higher dimensions visually. That’s why I think the day is coming when AI will teach us how to approach newly discovered dimensions. The second is the physical observation of extra dimensions, which is the next target of the Large Hadron Collider at CERN, which discovered the Higgs boson particle. If the day comes when dimensions other than the ones we know become observable to us, this will be the moment that will be looked back upon as fundamentally revolutionizing our concept of space.
Born 1979 Shimane, Japan
Lives and Works in New York City
Yasuo Nomura received a B.A. in Oil Painting from Tokyo’s Musashino Art University in 2004. Following a desire to transcend the essential two-dimensional nature of painting, Nomura began looking to the worlds of contemporary physics and mathematics for inspiration. A special attraction to the complex workings of superstring theory led Nomura to his concept of Dimensionism, which has become the dominant theme of his art since 2017. As a movement that intends to reach beyond our current perceptions of art and science, Dimensionism is particularly relevant in these early years of the 21st century. In 2018, Nomura traveled to New York City as the recipient of a grant for overseas study from the Japanese Agency for Cultural Affairs. He has been a resident of New York since then. As his thematic concerns have developed, Nomura’s work has come to be based on his interactions with researchers from disparate fields—in 2019, for example, he visualized a new battery storage system in collaboration with Associate Professor Taketoshi Minato of Kyoto University. Pion, the new work on display in this exhibition, delivers on Nomura’s promise to offer his audience tantalizing glimpses at what the lived experience of undiscovered dimensions might entail.