Yuri Suzuki has a knack for creating sound experiences that everyone wants to be part of. Fun, intriguing, relatable and inventive, his works carry a unique charm. For his solo show, opening today at the Design Museum and the museum’s first dedicated to sound design, Suzuki has brought together some of his best pieces, and some new ones too, to bring people further into his universe and immerse them in all kinds of sound environments. We spoke to the Pentagram partner ahead of the opening about why sound design is being given increased attention and his favourite pieces from the show.
It’s Nice That: It’s the museum’s first exhibition dedicated to sound design – why do you think the discipline is receiving (much overdue) attention now?
Yuri Suzuki: Most people have probably noticed we have increased opportunities to communicate with machines these days, such as mobile phones or IoT devices, but also the development of voice recognition, usually more for convenience. Audible communication is more directly comparable with other communication methods.
We’re also missing physicality – sound is the key. For example with an electronic car, we’re used to having gasolined motors which require real physical friction to drive a car. That makes a subtle sound which people are used to, but now electronic cars do not have any sound. Therefore we are required to redesign our new soundscape. That is a big challenge but a very exciting opportunity because actually, we can make the ideal soundscape. I think these facts definitely drive people to pay more attention to sound design.
It’s Nice That: What role does sound have on our environments and our engagement with more physical design products?
Yuri Suzuki: Sound could be used as a strong communication tool to communicate with objects. As mentioned, now we have to commutate with machines with audio. As this is the natural behaviour for humans to communicate with each other through verbal expressions. Compared with typing, it’s more quick and direct.
It’s Nice That: What are some of the projects in the show that are most meaningful to you and why?
Yuri Suzuki: I had the great opportunity to talk with Japanese poet Shuntaro Tanikawa one time, and he told me that the human brain receives audible information rather than visual. Basically the human brain translates words into phonetics to make it understandable. A series of objects to sort out social matter or a problem. Such as Sonic Playground which I created in 2018, the playground looked at objects which help people to communicate and create new communication with someone you don’t know. This is based on the social issue around how we can create opportunities to connect and start conversations. Also Colour Chaser, which is based on my subjective experience of how we can create musical notation for people who have dyslexia. The works are always connected to inconvenience or improvement, or can provoke something.
It’s Nice That: Can you tell us a bit more about how the exhibition has been designed and structured and why?
Yuri Suzuki: The exhibition has around four components. Cabinet of curiosities: the inspiration and research material. Social engagement: how sound connects people. Interactivity: experimenting with some of the objects to make the concept. Technology: as I use a lot of technical mediums.
It’s Nice That: You have other shows coming up – where are they and what is their focus?
Yuri Suzuki: We have three other installations and exhibitions coming up. One project is Welcome Choir for Turner Contemporary Margate beside the Turner Prize. We will create an AI base installation to which people in Kent can contribute lyrics and melody, to create a new anthem/choir music piece during the installation. This is also related to social engagement, how we can merge people to start moving to Margate/Kent and the local community. And use the power of music to connect together.
The second project is Furniture Music at Lighthouse Glasgow, which is a touring exhibition that I have showed previously in Stanley Picker gallery. It is all about recreating domestic soundscapes that enhance harmony and comfort within the surrounding environment with designed objects.
And finally the Speechless exhibition in Dallas Museum of Art, Texas. It will be an interactive sound installation, integrating audio clips sourced from across the world. You hear the sound from the huge sphere.
Sound in Mind opens today at the Design Museum until January 2020, and in case you missed it, you can watch Suzuki’s Nicer Tuesdays talk here.