12.13 Wed 19:00 START
On December 13th and December 14th, 2017, LEXUS partnered with digital magazine HEAPS to host Creators Experience – INTERSECT BY LEXUS & MEET HEAPS. The special guest was sonochromatic artist Neil Harbisson, a unique creative force who is officially recognized by the British government as a cyborg. The event brought together a range of collaborators to explore the theme of designing innovative visions of people and society in the future.
The first day’s event was the Experience Studio, a music session at INTERSECT BY LEXUS – TOKYO, while the second day was the Public Interview Studio, an open Q&A-style talk.
The Experience Studio event was kicked off by Jun Hirayama, editor-in-chief of HEAPS partner publication Be iNSPiRED!, and Kazuo Okino of Lexus International. Hirayama began by asking Okino why he chose Neil Harbisson as the special guest for the two days. “Neil Harbisson perceives colors as sound. I wanted to understand the way he saw the world and so I wondered if there was something we could do together,” Okino explained. “As he shows us, technology expands the human senses; it stimulates us. LEXUS also wants to harness technology like this.”
Cyborg artist Harbisson uses an antenna implanted in his skull to receive the frequencies of colors and “hear” them as sounds through bone conduction. In this way, he can intuitively distinguish color from sound, and sound from color. “As someone who is completely color blind, I was interested in the senses of animals from a young age,” he said. “I was also interested in colors that humans cannot perceive. For example, I wanted to see ultraviolet. Since 2003, I have used a sensor in order to hear the light frequencies of color hues as sound frequencies.” His unique antenna is, as Harbisson notes, a “wearable device” but conceptually takes things further: “I am myself now a piece of technology. I am fully integrated with my color detection sensor.” He then demonstrated his incredible antenna, which extends out from the top of his head, by holding various different colors in front of it and letting the audience hear how the sound changes.
Following Harbisson’s presentation, it was time for the live music session with five members from dance music DJ crew unit CLAT as well as KAIRI, the human beatbox renowned for his superhuman sounds. Beginning with Harbisson’s performance, the session captivated the venue with sampling that incorporated the engine and blinker sounds of the LEXUS flagship coupe LC500.
Harbisson chose five colors from the body colors of the LC500, which he used to create a rhythm with the frequencies they generated. The experience of actually driving in a LEXUS vehicle also helped to inspire him. “Today I’m making sounds out of the colors of a car, but cars generally have only one color. However, I can feel how there are many layers in the colors of a LEXUS car. It sounds very harmonious.” Moreover, by converting the sounds into images, it was possible to compare the different visual look of the LC500 engine sound and a regular car engine sound. “The sound of the LEXUS engine is richly layered and looks like a rainbow when it’s converted into an image.”
The Public Interview Studio event on the second day saw Harbisson joined by Takashi Ikegami, a professor at the University of Tokyo’s Interfaculty Initiative in Information Studies, and the artist Ei Wada. Community designer Ryuta Aoki served as moderator for the talk.
Ikegami first explained his involvement with artificial life projects, such as the android Alter, which he developed with Osaka University professor Hiroshi Ishiguro and is now exhibited at the National Museum of Emerging Science and Innovation in Tokyo. “I work in the field between music and art,” said Wada. “I create installations with recording equipment that predates cassette tapes. I also use cathode ray tube TV sets like musical instruments. In this way, I make music with objects whose original functions are essentially finished.” Aoki then asked Harbisson what it felt like to use a sensor to perceive the world so differently to other people, almost like his actual sense organs had been changed. “At first it was confusing,” he admitted. “There was a time when my brain was unable to keep up with all the colors I was trying to decode. But gradually I became able to develop a sense for it without any outside information.”
The guests raised various topics during the roughly hour-long discussion. “I’m sure that in the future we will no longer distinguish between cyborgs and cells,” said Wada. “And when we stop distinguishing between man and machine, it will then lead to all kinds of questions about the self.” Ikegami, meanwhile, cited future dimensional possibilities. “Humans exist in the third dimension from the moment they are born. The human brain is attuned to this third-dimensional world. But sensors help us control the world so that we can see the fourth or fifth dimensions. Completely new things will become visible through our network of nerve cells.”
“Neil is a living example of art and technology itself,” Aoki said, closing the talk. “He is pioneering new questions and ideas, which will lead to changes in human actions and behavior, and usher in a whole new age. Ten or 100 years from now, people will look back on the kind of discussion we could have here tonight.”
Guests then moved on to INTERSECT for a vibrant afterparty. Truly living up to its name as an intersection of people and ideas, it was the perfect venue to mark the end of the two days of creavity, art, and technology.
LEXUS LC Sound Design (Japanese Only)
Neil Harbisson Website
Neil Harbisson TED Talk
HEAPS website (Japanese Only)
MEET HEAPS Concept Video
Born in the UK and now based in New York, Neil Harbisson is a sonochromatic cyborg artist. Fully color blind since birth, he had an antenna implanted in his skull at the age of 21 that allows him to receive the frequency of colors and through bone conduction hear the colors as sound. He became able to distinguish color from sound, and sound from color, and expand his senses. The first officially recognized cyborg in the world, he became a Guinness World Record Holder in September 2017 for his implanted antenna. He established the Cyborg Foundation in 2010 and works to promote cyborgism in art and society.
With a mission that aspires to change the world, HEAPS is a media company that provides content for readers spotlighting people around the globe today who create unique projects and movements. Run by a team of editors with an average age of 25, its publications HEAPS (launched in 2013), a counterculture magazine based in New York, and Be inspired! (launched in 2015), a magazine based in Tokyo about socially engaged creativity, count among their fans numerous influencers such as entrepreneurs, creatives, and social entrepreneurs. It also runs MEET HEAPS, an event series serving as a platform for readers to meet and interact with the remarkable people featured in HEAPS and Be inspired!
MEET HEAPS was launched in September 2017 as an extension of the HEAPS media outlets, offering opportunities for readers to meet the people featured in the magazines and experience their stories directly. Comprising Experience Studio, which recreates experiences for readers, and Public Interview Studio, an open talk event, readers are proactively involved in the creation of the events, allowing them to disseminate their own messages by coming into contact with new concepts and diverse views. The first edition of MEET HEAPS featured the freelance chef Jonah Reider, who has a waiting list of 4,000 reservations. Approximately 90 people applied to be contributors and 200 people to participate in the Social Dining and Public Interview events. HEAPS continues to discover incredible things and stories happening around the globe, creating ways for readers to encounter them and helping to change the world.