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Yuri Suzuki: Red Stripe Make Something from Nothing

Posted by Rob Alderson,

In Medieval times, Yuri Suzuki would probably have been run out of his village suspected of being a wizard, because of his ability to turn everyday objects into something completely different. Remember the vinyl Scalectrix, the goldfish theremin and the electric kettle flute? Now Yuri and collaborator Mathew Kneebone have teamed up with Red Stripe to create this unbelievable lager-can sound sculpture as part of the company’s Make Something From Nothing project, which commissions cutting-edge creatives to make work which reflects the DIY culture of Red Stripe’s Jamaican roots.

With Yuri in his Stockholm studio and Mathew at home in Australia, the idea came together via a number of Skype sessions, and “improvising many things, like concept, construction and aesthetic.”

The sculpture was inspired by the towering, bass-driven stereo systems which provide much of the rhythm of Jamaican street life. Many of the cans used in the sculpture were collected at this year’s Notting Hill Carnival, but now they will be born again, coming full circle from fueling August’s street party to fueling next week’s dubstep launch event in east London.

Yuri said: “In Jamaica they had to make all instruments and sound systems from scratch, as there are not so many materials. However that made some great inventions, and the reggae music culture has been made by a DIY, frontier spirit.

“From the sound systems that started in the ghettos of Kingston to the attitude of the Jamaican people, it’s a place where if you don’t do it yourself, it isn’t going to happen.”

“The steel drum in particular is a great example of our inspiration as it was an innovation from a pre-defined object,” Mathew adds. “As Yuri mentioned, Jamaican musical culture has been defined by finding a new purpose for an object. Take steel drums – they were oil drums left behind by US forces after the war. In our case, the beer cans were also left behind for us to find a musical purpose. Reggae sound systems are quite ramshackle in nature, but are designed for maximum volume and bass, so this is what we wanted to make.”

In total, nearly 5,000 cans were used in the final piece, which measures an astonishing 2.5 metres high and 2.5 metres across. With speakers hidden inside the cans, both artists were delighted with the sound quality produced and the sheer physical scale of the final sculpture.

The launch event takes place tomorrow night at the Village Underground in Shoreditch and will see top DJs Spencer (NMBERS), Ben UFO and MC Chunky on the decks, putting their creation through some serious paces.

It’s Nice That is a media partner of the Make Something from Nothing project and this article was produced in collaboration with Red Stripe.

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Posted by Rob Alderson

Editor-in-Chief Rob oversees editorial across all three It’s Nice That platforms; online, print and events. He has a background in newspaper journalism and a particular interest in art, advertising and photography. He is the main host of the Studio Audience podcast.