An idol can be thought of as anything that serves as a substitute for an unreachable ideal. In ancient times, they were the physical manifestations of otherwise inaccessible deities. Today, our idols are more human and personal: pop idols conjure up impossible dreams of fame and stardom, and porn idols offer artificial intimacy when the real thing is unavailable or dissatisfying.
The paintings in this series are all based on screenshots taken from censored Japanese AV (Adult Video) DVDs. They focus on a single AV idol, Minori Aoi, who had a short career in the industry before her final retirement in 2004. Minori’s acting, in the fake sex scenes and the intercut story segments, isn’t realistic at all, her gestures and expressions looking artificial and exaggerated. Her videos are a kind of theater in which the production’s artifice is conceded from the start. The viewer knows he isn’t watching a real person having sex, but rather a performer playing a character who is playing a role in which she pretends to have sex. The viewer cannot catch a glimpse of a “genuine” moment because everything in the production is fake: the acting, the character, the sexual act; everything is artificial, floating untethered from the real world it imitates. It’s impossible to see anything beyond the idol’s artifice, and that impossibility creates a desire to catch a glimpse of the human being portraying and channeling it. This desire is ultimately unfulfillable by design, as this missing piece, and the quest to find it, drives further consumption of idol media. We know that the idol is a poor stand-in for something we cannot obtain, yet we bow our heads because we can’t have, nor do we truly want to have, anything else.
This body of work, PORNOHAGIOGRAPHY, synthesizes the seemingly opposing concepts of the sacred and the profane/pornographic using historical and contemporary idolatry as a point of fusion. The media culture of contemporary Japan is constructed around such “idols:” versatile performers who jump between media, never remaining confined to one in particular. While use of the term “idol” is not limited to Japan (celebrities are idolized the world over), its meaning in Japan’s media culture specifically references performers with public personas that are manufactured to appeal to particular audiences. These idols appear in advertising, pop music, television, and pornography. They don’t exist apart from the videos, magazines, and ephemera that depict them: there may be a human performer, but she is simply a conduit who channels the idol’s affective charisma.
These concepts are engaged using baroque imagery and methods. The intertextuality and theatricality of the historical baroque parallels the transmediality and artificiality of the contemporary idol. This installation serves to facilitate the perpetual adoration of Minori Aoi, an idol whose performer retired in 2004, by constantly maintaining her real presence in the gallery throughout the entire run of the exhibition.
Hatsune Miku is an international pop star who has played concerts across the world. She is also a piece of software, the public face of Yamaha's Vocaloid speech synthesis software. Her voice can be purchased and used to sing any kind of song imaginable, and her body can be downloaded and used in digitally-choreographed dance routines. Drawing on these notions of posthuman celebrity, "Miku Forever" is a media artwork featuring an endlessly iterating pop song perpetually performed by this virtual idol. The song's lyrics are randomly generated from a corpus of words from past songs she has performed, rearranging her old material to create something new. Her body, whether projected into the performance space (as in her official live concerts) or streamed over the internet, is one of thousands of fan-made 3D models publically available for download. Similarly, her dance routines are randomly pieced together from fragments of open-licensed choreography created with “MikuMiku Dance,” an animation program originally designed specifically to allow fans to choreograph Miku’s movements. “Miku Forever” manifests the infinite iterability of digital processes and the endless potential, malleability, and reach of Miku’s image and voice as mediated through countless official and fan-created interpretations. It presents Miku as a new brand of idol: hers is a kind of distributed celebrity that doesn’t emerge from a singular human subject but is instead collaboratively created, perpetuated, and reinvented by her global fanbase.
Concept and Program: Roman Kalinovski
Original Music Composition and Arrangement: Christopher Palmer
Vocals, Performance, Lyrics, and Choreography: Hatsune Miku
The Endless Days of Sodom Featuring Hatsune Miku is a work of electronic literature in which Vocaloid speech synthesis software (specifically, the world-famous Hatsune Miku singer library and its visual personification) is used for the oral/aural narration of stories randomly generated from The 120 Days of Sodom by the Marquis de Sade. Sade's original text consisted of a frame story that contained six hundred brief "passion" stories within its framework. In the frame story, a group of wealthy libertines embarked on a four-month long orgy in a remote castle. To inspire their crimes and perversions, the libertines employed storytellers, who each day would narrate five of these "passions" to them. Because only a quarter of the manuscript was completed, most of these passions are simple, brief outlines. Even so, these bare-bones summaries make up a database of perversion as imagined by Sade, an 18th century aristocrat, prisoner, and supposed madman. The Endless Days of Sodom takes these outlines and scrambles their content, maintaining the sentence structures but substituting words from elsewhere in Sade's text. These new "passions" are, like the passions within the frame story, read aloud to the listener. Hatsune Miku, a virtual pop star whose voice and image can be purchased and downloaded, is the narrator for this nearly infinite set of passions. She is herself a database: her voice consists of randomly-accessible microtemporal voice samples, and her image has been collaboratively constructed by her corporate owners and a global fanbase that endlessly outputs creative Miku-related content. She is a database reading a database; through her synthetic voice she makes accessible to the listener a tiny fraction of the trillions of possible arrangements and variations of the Miku and Sade databases.