Ryoji Ikeda

The night sky over London
04 August 2014 - 11 August 2014

Video: A crowd sourced video documenting spectra in London

8 minutes 13 seconds
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Unannounced, spectra appeared in the sky over London at dusk Monday 4 August and for seven nights only it was visible across the city between sunset and sunrise.

One hundred years after Germany declared war on Russia, thereby putting into motion events that would devastate Europe during the decades that followed, the UK commemorated this day with a nationwide black out.

As lights across the country were extinguished, a single source remained on the tomb of the Unknown Warrior at Westminster Abbey. Simultaneously a column of white light soared into the sky over London.

If they ventured to the source of this beacon, people could walk within the grid of 49 lights, experiencing a specially composed soundtrack by Ikeda.

This crowd sourced video documenting Ryoji Ikeda's spectra is also available to watch on Vimeo and YouTube.  Edited and directed by Sam Blair.

Image: Ryoji Ikeda's spectra as seen from Primrose Hill, 4 August 2014. Photograph: William Eckersley

Seven Nights, Seven Photographers

John Roberts, Norbert Schoerner, Matilda Temperley, Sarah Pickering, Julian Abrams and Guy Gormley.
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Seven Nights, Seven Photographers

As a co-commission with the Guardian, a different photographer responded to spectra each night of its run, including John Roberts, Norbert Schoerner, Matilda Temperley, Sarah Pickering, Julian Abrams and Guy Gormley.

For the last image in this series a photograph of spectra published on networks like Twitter and Instagram was selected by the Guardian picture editor.

Images: (above) View of spectra from the Metropolitan Police Helicopter, high above London. Photograph: John Roberts; (left) View of spectra in the rain at Victoria Tower Gardens, Tuesday 5th August 2014. Photograph: Matilda Temperley

at Victoria Tower Gardens

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Image: spectra at Victoria Tower Gardens 4 August 2014. Photograph: William Eckersley

From Millbank Tower

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Image: spectra from Millbank Tower, August 2014. Photograph: William Eckersley 

The audience

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Image: The audience at Victoria Tower Gardens, Monday 4 August 2014. Photograph: William Eckersley

The fatalities

Photograph by Guy Gormley
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Image: the light source of spectra at Victoria Tower Gardens, 9 August 2014. Photographer: Guy Gormley, part of the Seven Photographers, Seven Nights series.


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Ikeda has also created an ambient soundtrack to enhance the experience: waves of subsonic sound punctuated by beeps and hisses, emanating from four sets of speakers pointing inwards towards the light. It's as if an alien craft is beaming down to a soundtrack by Brian Eno. — Sean O'Hagan, The Guardian, 5 August 2014

Selected Press

While from afar the beams rise majestically to the heavens - part celestial body, part Bat-Signal - the effect at ground level is far from serene. Here at the business end of the artwork, the custom-made Xenon searchlights, arranged in a seven-by-seven grid, are almost blindingly white. You're invited to walk among them but, as Ikeda explains: 'You receive information into your eyes instantly and so intensely that you cannot see anything. The installation, therefore, becomes almost invisible.' — Martin Coomer, Time Out, 3 July 2014


It is at once bone-chilling and awe- inspiring, like a search light from a space ship in films such as Close Encounters of the Third Kind, or a half- remembered Bible illustration depicting the angry Jehovah smiting Gomorrah. — Richard Dorment, The Telegraph, 11 August, 2014


The power of the piece is partly due to the convergence of the 49 beams. The number 49 has a resonance in many spiritual traditions – in Tibetan Buddhism, the soul is supposed to spend 49 days in the bardo state between existences; the Virgin Mary was by legend 49 years old when her son ascended to heaven; and for mystics like Boehme the number 49 represented, as the square of 7, the number of Paradise. — Peter Culshaw, The Arts Desk, 9 August, 2014

About Ryoji Ikeda

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Ryoji Ikeda

Ikeda was born in Gifu, Japan in 1966 and now lives and works in Paris.

A leading electronic composer and visual artist, his work focuses on the essential characteristics of sound itself and that of visuals as light by means of both mathematical precision and mathematical aesthetics. Ikeda has gained a reputation as one of the few international artists working convincingly across both visual and sonic media. He elaborately orchestrates sound, visuals, materials, physical phenomena and mathematical notions into immersive live performances and installations.

Alongside pure musical activity, Ikeda has been working on a number of long-term projects since 2001. The spectra series is iterations of a large-scale installation employing intense white light as a sculptural material and so transforming public locations in Amsterdam, Paris, Barcelona, Buenos Aires and Nagoya prior to Artangel's presentation in London.

Ikeda has performed and exhibited internationally including at MIT, Boston; Centre Pompidou, Paris; Sónar Festival Barcelona; Tate Modern, London; Armory Park Avenue, New York and Hamburger Bahnhof, Berlin. His albums +/- (1996), 0°C (1998), matrix (2000), dataplex (2005) and test pattern (2008) - pioneered a new minimal world of electronic music and his work matrix won the Golden Nica Award at Ars Electronica in 2001.


Images: (left) Ryoji Ikeda's spectra as photographed by Norbert Schoerner, 10 August 2014, part of the Seven Nights, Seven Photographers series; (above) A work by Ryoji Ikeda (2014)

Production Credits

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Production Credits

Technical partner: Skylight (Paris)
Production partner: Unusual Services Limited (UK)
Co-produced by Museum of Old and New Art (MONA) Hobart (AU), Sharjah Art Foundation (UAE) and Ryoji Ikeda Studio (Paris). Originally commissioned by Dream Amsterdam Foundation and Forma, 2008. 

Image: Still from footage shot by Kate Mcdonough


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Who made this possible?


Produced and presented by Artangel, co-commissioned by Mayor of London and 14-18 NOW, WW1 Centenary Art Commissions. Presented with the kind support of The Royal Parks. Technical partner: Skylight (Paris), production partner: Unusual Services Limited (UK), co-produced by Museum of Old and New Art (MONA), Hobart (AU), Sharjah Art Foundation (UAE), and Ryoji Ikeda Studio (Paris). Originally commissioned by Dream Amsterdam Foundation and Forma, 2008. With thanks to the Daiwa Anglo-Japanese Foundation, The Great Britain Sasakawa Foundation and Gallery Koyanagi (Tokyo).

Artangel is generously supported by Arts Council England and the private patronage of the Artangel International Circle, Special Angels and The Company of Angels.