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Isabelle Liu

Critique: Ryoji Ikedas superposition


If I were to review Ryoji Ikedas superposition in one word, it would easily be the word
confusion. The mechanical sounds and the intense graphics confused my senses and the
unexplained bits confused by mindbut perhaps that confusion was exactly what Ryoji Ikeda
engineered. Ikeda defines superposition through quantum information, in which sub-atomic
particles are observed to be located at all possible positions simultaneously. Superposition
refers to reality as an unobservable continuum on an atomic scale. This concept is difficult for
humans to digest because we tend to think discretely, organizing reality into categories by
measurable characteristics.
The different beats in superposition often deal with defining the random and
unpredictable. Measurements were defined for newly appearing dots, moving marbles, and
constructive waves. As the show continued, there were times I wanted to pause to observe
what was displayed on the screens, but it never stopped; it only continued. I became
confusedand understanding. superposition juxtaposes the human tendency to define and
control with the natural continuum of life. While humans are concerned with using information
to our advantage, we become short-sighted and unable to pinpoint and predict all of existence.
This became especially clear to me near the climax of the show, when the two
performers had left and all the audiences attention was focused on the main screen. The
screen was black, with a cluster of white dots arranged in a galaxy-like formation. The camera
zoomed in and out, through and around clusters, with the music pulling me in and pushing me

out at a steady rhythm, as well. But suddenly, everything exploded. The colors inverted and the
sounds were suddenly loud. I literally had chills run down my spine and felt terror and
heartbreakbut for what?
It was through that specific moment it became clear how foreign superposition is to
humans. Our knowledge is limited, discrete, while the world continues on its own, sometimes
with rhythm and other times not.
Though insightful, one experience of superposition was enough for me. The use of
Morse code, white noise, and beeping sounds as music was unusual for me, and the flashy
visuals were too intense for me. The audience of young adults was largely amazed by the
experience and, like me, confused. When the first bit ended, there was applause. But after that,
the audience was awestruck into silence until the end of the performance. The effects of
superposition went beyond the performance, and beyond human comprehension.