The Chinese martial art of t’ai chi ch’uan, or tai chi, as it’s been shortened in the West, can be translated in a few ways, including "supreme ultimate fist" and "great extremes boxing." Matt Pyke, founder of the digital art group Universal Everything, saw the martial art as something a bit different: the inspiration for a series of abstract video sculptures.
To create his five "impossible sculptures," currently on view at the Framed Gallery in Tokyo, Pyke did a motion-capture session with a tai chi master, turning his movements into data. "We then 'dressed’ this data with a series of physical costumes," the artist explains, resulting in a series of works that look nothing alike, though they were all based on the very same motions. One of the sculptures turns the tai chi master into a Transformer-esque mass of blocks, another shows him as a series of wispy lines, and yet another as a sort of protozoan blob.
"The costumes were inspired by a combination of modern urban architecture and LED lighting," Pyke told me. "This feeling of living architecture gave a grand sense of scale to the bodies." But at the same time, the sculptures’ source material gives audiences a way to connect back to them. "By using body movements," Pyke continued, "you can sense the human spirit within these abstract forms, bringing warmth, empathy, and life to [them]."
Each of the five sculptures was given its own unique soundtrack--an ambient accompaniment tailored to the visual style of the piece. But the sounds were also designed to serve as layers of a single, more complex piece, which is how they’ll be experienced by visitors to the exhibition in Tokyo.
All in all, it’s a novel way to look at the timeless practice of tai chi. Now when does Zumba get the video art treatment?