The Fusion of Information Technology and Art

The Opening of the NTT Inter Communication Center

KUNIEDA Manabu (ICC staff)


On April 19, the NTT Inter Communication Center (ICC) opened on the 4-6th floors of the Tokyo Opera City Tower in Tokyo's Nishi-Shinjuku. ICC was founded by NTT (Nippon Telephone and Telegraph) as part of the 100th anniversary of the telephone in Japan, and is a museum that deals with the theme of communication. In this article, ICC staff member KUNIEDA Manabu provides an outline of this unique facility.

The Founding of ICC

ICC is a cultural facility that began to be planned in 1990 to commemorate the first 100 years of telephone service in Japan. At the time, words like "philanthropy" had at last arrived in Japan, and corporate cultural projects had become quite popular. It was against this backdrop that the anniversary was suggested as the basis for cultural activity. Rather than simply supporting an already existing form of culture, the choice was made to highlight the distinctive features of NTT, and a plan was made to create a cultural facility that would focus on new art and culture originating with advances made in digital technology.


The Concept Behind the Center


Advances in information technology such as the written word, printing, photography, film, television, the telephone, and the computer have exerted a strong influence not only on industry and the economy, but also on art, culture, and human knowledge. ICC focuses its attention on new forms of communication as well as changes occurring in related areas of culture in an attempt to fuse scientific and technology with art and culture. Through this dialogue between the two disciplines, it is our objective to help create a richer society for the future.


Outline of the Center


ICC is located in Tokyo Opera City, the largest cultural zone in Japan. The building consists of the New National Theater (to open in October 1997) with small, medium, and large halls, and a concert hall (to open in September 1997); and an art museum (to open in 1999). ICC is located on the 4-6th floors of the tower of the building, and is divided into two main parts: the fourth floor, and a breezeway leading up to the fifth and sixth floors. On the fourth floor, there is a lobby, shop, cafe, a workshop space (Gallery D) that can be used as a display area, a theater, and an area that is not open to the public that includes studios, a machine room, and an office. The open area that leads up to the fifth floor is the main display area, and the fifth floor also houses a special exhibition room (Gallery A), and the permanent exhibition rooms (Gallery B, C). The sixth floor acts mainly as the ceiling of the breezeway, but in this rather small area an electronic library has been built. With a total floor space of roughly 5,200m2, it was created under the design direction of the American architect Brent SAVILLE with the cooperation of G. Planning and Steven J. LEACH Jr. + Associates. The actual construction was carried out by the NTT Facilities Urban Architectural Design Department. From an architectural perspective, the building carries on the traditional art museum design scheme of wooden floors and white walls; however, to meet the demands of the variety of programs that will be held (more on these later), the entire structure has a two-layered floor. On one layer, the computer network that acts as the facility's central nervous system is located. Measures have also been taken to absorb and block out sound in the space.


Brief Descriptions of Each Area

ICC 1

 

 

1. Art and Science Chronology(5F lobby)

This display traces the history of exchange between art and science in the 20th century through works from each period and illustrated displays.

2. Permanent Exhibition Rooms (Gallery B, C)

Using experiential works, such as a 3-D virtual reality system* and an anechoic room, unlike those found in other museums, these galleries feature a permanent exhibition of media and technological art works.

3. Special Exhibition Room (Gallery A)

Large-scale exhibitions will be held here about four times each year. As an extension of the permanent exhibition area, this space will be used for exhibitions with new themes that have previously not been dealt with by past genres. These will include solo exhibitions by the latest artists, retrospectives on trends of other eras, and the introduction of experimental works. Plans are also being made to present concerts and performances.

4. Workshop Space (Gallery D)

This experimental space includes studios with sound and visual equipment and computers, and besides workshops and small-scale exhibitions, symposiums on special topics and educational programs aimed at students and children will be held. In all, there are three studios: Studio A, for the production of CD-ROMs and documents using DTP (desktop publishing); Studio B, for sound production and editing; and Studio C, for film editing and computer graphics production.

5. Theater

In addition to original ICC works such as the "Art & Science Journey," which traces the history of various issues in art and science, and "Art & Science Now," which features interviews with contemporary artists, scientists, and philosophers, video art and experimental films will be screened.

6. Electronic Library

Using the VOD (Video On Demand) system, an ICC-created database, the Internet can be freely accessed, and in the video booths, video art works can be viewed. There is also a display documenting the events leading up to the opening of the ICC.

7. Shop/Cafe

In the shop, exhibition catalogs, art- and science-related books, CD-ROMs, and other arts goods are on sale. In the cafe, visitors can enjoy using CD-ROMs and the Internet as they drink coffee.

 


Outline of Other Activities

Besides the educational activities such as exhibitions and workshops listed above, the ICC is involved in a variety of other projects.

1. Database and Research Development

This project includes development of the database for the electronic library and new computer interfaces as well as holding study groups dealing with the theme of communication. At present, the ICC database includes the "20th Century Matrix," which presents information related to 20th century art and culture, and science and technology; and the "Artist Database," which includes profiles of Japanese and foreign media artists.

2. Computer Network

The computer network is not only a channel for the transmission of information, it was designed with an emphasis on "community organization," "collaboration," and "expression," in order to create a "place" that is no less fulfilling than an actual physical space.

3. Publishing

Through the publication of our company magazine, Intercommunication, books, and exhibition catalogs, we are attempting to faithfully document our work at ICC. In this manner, we can supersede the activities confined to a physical space, and in a distinctive form of print media available to a larger portion of society can raise a variety of issues and disseminate information.


Conclusion


The advances that are currently being made due to the digital revolution have led to a dramatic transformation of human communications comparable to Gutenberg's invention of movable type. In particular, artists, who might be thought of the pioneer users of new information technology, have created a variety of new expressions through novel uses of technology. It is our great hope that visitors to the ICC will experience the fruits of the dialogue between science and technology, and art and culture, and will leave with stronger impressions of the possibilities inherent in new communications methods.


NTT Inter Communication Center (ICC)

Hours: 10:00am-6:00pm (9:00pm on Fridays)

(Entrance allowed up to thirty minutes prior to closing.)

Closed on Mondays (Or on the following day, if Monday is a national holiday.)

Location: Three minutes from Hatsudai Station on the Keio Shinsen



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