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Yurika Higashikawa
Fire Watching in Four Movements

The artist and writer Yurika Higashikawa operates against restrictive, governing modes of knowledge production, using practices of resistance to explore themes such as the present state of neoliberalism, environmental change and precarity. Their films, performances and texts mobilise voices of dissent that reverberate within, and confront, systems of power. They are often situated within institutional frameworks – places of employment, universities, and the like – so as to critique their embedded procedures of social and personal control. Recent works include a collaborative writing event that took place in secret at their previous place of employment in Dublin and a spoken-word piece that was presented at A4 Sounds, Dublin, as part of its Locale #3 showcase

Fire Watching in Four Movements 2021

The film Fire Watching in Four Movements (2021) engages with multiple spatial and temporal narratives found in Western philosophy, current modes of techno-solutionist narratives, and the brink of ecological catastrophe. Collectively fusing matters of ‘progress’, these ideas have become historical and contemporary illusions that actively fabricate our understandings of reality. Higashikawa draws on the Parrhasius myth recorded by Pliny the Elder, in which the greatest aesthetic achievement is the fooling of human perception – but here, rather than the ultimate trompe l’oeil, the aim is to expose concealed modes of technocratic trickery that manufacture (in)visible representations of digital infrastructures. An example are data centres, which are often hidden or non-locatable, even though they organise society. Another example is the ‘cloud’, an image/word that misleadingly creates an affinity between data and condensed vapour in the atmosphere.

Higashikawa renders an alternative imagining of technology through the phenomenon of fire, likening data centres to furnaces, as they use endless amounts of energy. However, unlike in industrial revolutions, the heat of this technology remains enclosed and concealed. Set alight within Blender, a free, open-source 3D computer graphics software, the film consists of a depiction of fire that combusts in the form of the programmed dimensions of a square. This image references the shape of tiles used in data centres to monitor the temperature, which in turn begin to resemble flammable-hazard warning signs.

Glitches caused by restrictions in the RAM capabilities of the Higashikawa’s laptop throw into question the integrity of the filmic material. The work challenges the dominant envisioning of the ‘cloud’ as pristine, and brings us closer to the dizzying unknown of the vast technological field.

Yurika Higashikawa is based between County Wicklow and Dublin. They studied at the National College of Art and Design and Ballyfermot College of Further Education, both in Dublin. They are supported by the Wicklow County Council Artist Award Scheme (2021) and the Arts Council through the Agility Award (2021). They are employed by Mermaid Arts Centre Bray as an associate artist as part of their Transform Scheme (2021–22).

Fire Watching in Four Movements is part of SIRIUS Digital, a series featuring work commissioned by SIRIUS that is permanently accessible for free viewing on the SIRIUS Vimeo channel. Other artists who have been or are currently being commissioned include Ofri Cnaani, Aikaterini Gegisian, Salomé Lamas, Levack Lewandowski, Gina Peyran Tan and Softday.

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