Around the time I was completing my studies at Tsukuba, however, I got a surprise not unlike the one I had received from my father on getting my master’s degree. My very traditional-minded instructor in typography, Professor Kiyoshi Nishikawa, pulled me aside and advised me to stop studying the classics. “Do something young,” he said. “The classics will never change; they will be there to honor when you are old.” The time to make a significant contribution to the design of our times is now, he told me.
Liberated again, I returned to the computer, and, after the traditional discipline I had experienced for four years at Tsukuba, I was amazed by the feats I was capable of. I could make lines that move, change color and stretch in all directions; I could make a million lines, duplicate them twicefold and delete all of them in a single command stroke. When I was at MIT, this was all a very natural thing to do at the computer; however, having been away from computers in a very different environment, I had become so accustomed to a rule and pen that I was bewildered by the possibilities posed by the computer. I had a new sense of respect for the potential of the medium and set out to explore the expressive gamut, creating a series of images for my first exhibition “Design Machines”. The images exercised the computer’s ability to create complex imagery.
In the development of my key image, I was interested in enscribing an image of “infinity” as a series of loops that never terminate, and created a self-terminating shape of linked splines. Reviewing my work, Dr. Edward David (former science advisor to President Richard Nixon and a person with close ties to MIT) referred me to work created in a similar spirit during the 1960s at Bell Laboratories, the birthplace of computer art. I discovered that many of my techniques, such as making pictures out of small pictures, endless textures of lines and noise-based images, had already been used by the pioneers at Bell Labs.
At first I was discouraged and considered early retirement from the field, returning to studying the classics. However, after many hours of staring at work by my predecessors, I realized that although the concepts employed were similar in spirit, there was considerable room for improvement. It was as if a visual sleight of hand had been performed, but the trick had not been perfected. The computer had simply been used as a substitute for paint brush and paper, rather than being explored as a medium in its own right. As a result, there had been no opportunity for technologists to develop into true digital artists. With this conclusion, I set out to develop myself as a true artist-engineer, with the computer as my medium. And I also have dedicated myself to nurturing a generation of people with this same potential as both engineers and artists.
In my own creative work, I pursue this art form both in print and in the digital displays on the computer screen. In print, I search for the simplest means for realizing visual complexities that carry an orderly theme; in digital, I spin complex weaves of temporal graphics that appear simple because all of the details have been hidden along the axis of time. Five years ago, I began to create a mixture of print/digital work that emerged as a popular series called “Reactive Books.” In this endeavor, I focused on developing not just “interactive” media, but “reactive” media, where the interaction hits at a more sensorial level.