Akio Suzuki: Howling Objects

Symposium Feedback, sound performance
Plasy Monastery, 1994

"I first got the idea for "Howling Objects" when I attached a microphone to the Analapos stand and played with it. It made a howling "wooo" sound when I put the microphone close to the box on the stand, which surprised me, and actually made me jump back. It happened in 1976 just at the time I was doing a sound installation at the Minami Gallery in Nihombashi in Tokyo. Not only was it an Analapos installation, but "Howling Objects" became the first step in developing my floor-based sound performances. I made ten tin cylinders thirty-five centimeters high and from fifteen centimeters to eighty centimeters in diameter. And I painted them black. When I put a wireless microphone in them, I was able to line them up on the floor like a musical scale: do-re-mi-fa-so- la-ti-do. Then by placing the microphone in the center of the space, I got a lot of interesting sound variations by sticking the cylinders inside each other and moving them around. Listening to those unpredictable sounds emerge from them was kind of like performing a ceremony. For that performance, my tools were two tunable FM radio receivers designed for karaoke, which was just starting to become popular about that time, two wireless microphones, and ten cylinders. Later, when I was invited to New York, I started thinking about doing this performance again. Since the metal cylinders were too heavy to carry, I tried using large sheets of black paper cut in half to get an idea what kind of materials I would need there. As it turned out, I was able to get the same effect from paper as I did from metal. And besides that, I figured out that by just rolling the paper without gluing it, there was an even greater diversity of sound available." (SHIMODA Nobuhisa, interview with Akio Suzuki, Sa Sound Arts vol. 5, 1993)

Akio Suzuki is known as a pioneer of sound art, but the breadth of his activities and the form of his works far exceeds the normal boundaries of sound art. It is perhaps more as a "quester after sound and space" that he has received the most attention from artists in many fields.  Suzuki's artistic work started in 1963 with a performance at Nagoya station, in which he threw a bucket full of junk down a staircase. 
During the sixties, Suzuki's sense of playfulness led him to undertake a series of Self-Study Events, where he explored the processes of "throwing" and "following", taking the natural world as his collaborator. The experiences he gained in these events led him in the seventies to invent an echo instrument he named Analapos. The instrument's structure resembles that of two mirrors facing each other, reflecting into infinity. As an extension of the principles underlying Analapos, Suzuki constructed the Hinatabokko no kukan (Space in the Sun) in 1988. This space consists of two huge parallel walls, in between which the artist can sit all day and purify his hearing by listening to the reflected sounds of nature. This space leads the artist to discover a new method of listening. Suzuki himself comments, "Sound, which had been conceptually imprisoned in various spaces, is freed to circle the world." 
From the late seventies and through the eighties, Suzuki also developed a form of performance he refers to as Conceptual Soundwork. Applying a number of self-imposed, simple and austere rules, he uses objects close at hand in a mode of "intellectual play". While these events do on the one hand express a critique of meaningless improvised performance, at the same time Suzuki is constantly aware of the audience's process of listening and he attempts to create contemporaneous connections with the site of performance. It was around this time that Suzuki began to travel frequently to the US and Europe, and his performances at leading music festivals, Festival d'Automne (Paris, 1978) and Documenta 8 (Kassel, 1987) were rapturously received. 
As sound art enjoyed a period of prosperity in the nineties, Suzuki was given the chance to create many installations, particularly in Berlin. Worthy of special note were his soundless installations, such as Otodate (Echo point, 1996) in Berlin, Enghien-les-Bains (since 1997) and Strasbourg; Hana (Flower, 1997) at the Stadtgalarie Saarbrucken; and Pyramid (1999) which involved people excavating sounds. These soundless pieces were not designed to critique the old perceptual theories of music, rather they questioned the very location of music. Through their encounter with these works, the past experiences and memories of viewers were reconstructed as new experiences. This process was fundamental to the action of "listening" to the works. In recent years, the insights he gained from the Turbridge (1999-2000) installation at the Daad Gallery in Berlin have opened up new avenues of development for his future work. By recording and creating sound sources himself, and by using electric amplification with Suzuki's own self-designed output devices, he was able to reconstruct sounds and experiment with listening to the "factors of place". These experiments were followed up by the sound-drawing Mowe (Seagull, 2002) for the Berlin radio station SFB, and Nagekake & Tadori (Throwing and Following, 2002) which included some suggestions towards the construction of place. Visitors to the latter were able to experience a "place established by the artist as a wholly different space and time axis." 

To run simultaneously with these experiments, Suzuki has started the Mogari series since 2002 at the Brunei Gallery at the School of Oriental & African Studies in London. This series centres around unbelievably powerful performances on iwabue - ancient and naturally-sculpted stone flutes which have been handed down in Suzuki's family. Using these ancient instruments Suzuki sculpts time and place, and through their music he searches for his own end.