Nicodama – put your eyes everywhere

February 19, 2010

Nicodama is one of the latest project by Japanese media artist Ryota Kuwakubo that was exhibited during Device_art 3.009 in October.

Nicodama by Ryoto Kuwakubo
Photo bellow by centralasian (cc)

Ryota Kuwakubo is a media artist based in Tokyo. Since 1998, after studying contemporary art and media art, he has made art works mainly by means of electronics, focusing topics appear on borders such as analog / digital, human beings / machineries or senders / recipients.

He is best known for his works Bitman (collaborated with Maywa Denki), VideoBulb, PLX, Block Jam (as a collaborating member of the project lead by Sony CSL) and loopScape. He wins honorary mention in the interactive art category at Ars Electronica 2002 & 2003, also the grand prize of art division at Japan Media Arts Festival 2003. (Kuwakubo’s bio from


‘Nicodama (2009): Affix a pair of Nicodama, and a face appears. I remember an experience from my early childhood; my mother once decorated the top of my lunch she packed in a lunchbox, to make it look like a face. I could not eat it. A face is a shape, of which we have a particular perception. Even a manmade object can look like a face depending on the arrangement of certain patterns. Once something starts to look like a face, one develops certain feelings towards it. If objects around us that we don’t usually pay much attention to suddenly started growing faces, what would they try to tell us?

Nicodama at Ars Electronica, video by leonardo.bonanni (cc)

Nicodama is an ‘eyeball’ equipped with an infrared transceiver and a magnetic mechanism. When you put two Nicodamas on an object which you would like to turn into a face, they start communicating with each other to make a pair. Then they start blinking together at random intervals. No external condition influences the blinking behaviour; the aspect you will find on the ‘face’ solely depends on the object you have chosen

Nicodama by Ryoto Kuwakubo
Photo bellow by emikoog (c)

The idea of this project is to draw attention to our surroundings by empathizing with ordinary objects around us. Ideally Nicodama should be applied to objects with personal contexts such as one’s own belongings or familiar objects in one’s room or neighborhood. The idea is derived from Japanese traditional thinking.

People felt each of the objects around them had a spirit, and treated them with respect and care. Today we share a more objective and scientific approach in seeing things. While there is no doubt that it is important to maintain this attitude, the capacity for empathy is equally important. These two attitudes complement each other. I believe my project will help in an understanding of this.’ ( from the catalogue of the exhibition Device_art 3.009)

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