The problem of how to incorporate unsightly speakers into a room is one that is almost as old as stereo audio itself. But Japanese design studio Nendo have contributed a stunning option to the offer of solutions to the problem.
Their ceramic high-end audio speakers have come about through a somewhat –excuse the pun- circuitous route. In 2009, former footballer Hidetoshi Nakata launched his Revalue Nippon project through his Take Action Foundation. It aimed to provide high-profile opportunities for reinvigorating traditional Japanese arts and crafts. Part of the programme’s process was to invite five curators to each, in turn, ask an artist or designer to collaborate with a traditional ceramicist on the realisation of a collaborative piece. Curator Akimoto Yuji, director of the 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art in Kanazawa brought Nendo together with Mitsuke Masayasu. The result was the stunning high-end ceramic speakers.
Taking Mitsuke’s striking red line designs, based in the tradition of Kutani ware, Nendo took things in a decidedly sci-fi direction. Opting for ceramic substrate –which has a high heat resistance and is used for LED bulbs and other heat-emitting internal components buried within everyday technology- the production process was completed entirely by a robot arm, untouched by human hands. The idea was that a new form of expression would emerge: nothing could be more reliant on the human hand than traditional ceramics and nothing could be further removed from the limitations of the human hand than precision robot arm manufacturing. In effect the robot arm takes Mitsuke Masayasu’s designs to a level of precision not possible by hand and yet, without instruction, the robot is incapable of dreaming up such beautiful designs.
The resulting speakers are a stunning, abstracted objects that acts as a kind of riddle, challenging the onlooker to work out the connection between form and function. Yet, at once they conjure up traditional Japanese ceramic craft and the high-tech imagery of the circuit board, which, in itself, proves an apt metaphor for contemporary Japan.