We are very excited to share our interview with Cosmic Lab!

We learnt about this collective of multimedia artists based in Osaka, Japan when we saw them taking part in the Athens Digital Arts Festival (ADAF 2020) last year.

We were amazed by their fearless attitude to mix tradition, modern underground culture and technology, as we highlighted when we wrote about some art works of their audiovisual portfolio.

Here’s more about their past, present and future…

(Japanese below 日本語下記)

Audiovisual City: We would love to start the interview with you telling us a bit about Cosmic Lab and its origin…

Cosmic Lab: Cosmic Lab is a laboratory that pursues the expansion of cognition through unknown audio-visual experiences. It is a project that I (VJ Colo Muller) started, rooted in the activities within the underground culture scene of Osaka. While focusing on the live visuals system that we continue to develop independently and the content and live performances that are born from it, we are also engaged in artwork production, branding of companies and regions, and projects related to the live entertainment industry.

Especially recently, we are speeding up the development of the COSMIC LAB XR Live System to try to create a new live experience for this era.

COSMIC LAB new XR System

AVC: The project Quasar really caught our attention. We are very interested in this innovative tool to produce audiovisual in a very intuitive way.
Can you share the creative process behind the development and design of the QUASAR machine?

CL: I have been wanting to play “video/visuals” in a musical and improvised way since those days where I started VJing using VHS and LaserDisc. I was amazed by the incredibly innovative live A/V performance of EBN (Emergency Broadcasting Network) I encountered in New York around 1998. Then a few years later in Japan, I went to a A/V live show of COLD CUT (Timber may be a referential song), who were strongly influenced by EBN, and this experience was crucial for the project. I think they (COLD CUT) were the first ones to extend hiphop’s sampling methods to AV.

Finally, meeting Hifana and Kireek, who had been evolving their AV performances in Japan in an original manner, was a decisive fact for QUASAR to be born. More specifically, Hifana’s “Skipless Loop” song with Locked Groove as a concept, and the marking tapes used by turntablists were a great inspiration in terms of logic. With Locked Groove, the loop length for 133 BPM will be 4 beats, that is, one round will be one bar (in the case of 33rpm). I wondered what kind of world we could get to create if we used this mechanism when composing a sequence with sampled one-shot and loop images. This is how QUASAR’s prototyping began and how it lead to today.

COSMIC LAB  | QUASAR version 2

Regarding the creativity of Quasar, there is the word “chanpuruu” in the dialect of the Okinawa region of Japan, and the word “chanpuuru” which has a similar sound in Indonesian. They both mean the same: “to mix, blend in”. 

This example suggests that there can be similarities in things that seem unrelated and completely unconnected at first, but when you put them side by side, you may be able to see the bigger picture and discover a better outline that you couldn’t quite appreciate until then. By intuitively and visually mixing in various sound and image fragments using Quasar, new grooves can arise unexpectedly, or a mysterious ritual space might be created. I think that this is a futuristic and primitive sensation brought about by the high degree of freedom unique to the digital world.

AVC: We feel there is a connection with the Reactable machine. Did you get inspired by the machine developed in Barcelona back in 2003?

CL: I got to make great use of my knowledge of “reacTIVision” through the device created for the installation “Space Echo” that Cosmic Lab worked on before Quasar. The installation was a 360-degree omnidirectional projection mapping on a circular ancient tomb created nearly 1300 years ago. We made the device to continuously change sound and images, creating a reminiscent effect of the ancient world.

AVC: What is the future of Quasar in terms of applications and creative outputs?

CL: I would love to visit diverse cultural areas, record and film local sounds and dances of the people living there, do some field recordings of the natural and environmental sounds, and build on collaborations with local artists. We want to continue the audio-visual cross-breeding sessions within the world of QUASAR, and create an AV ritual space that evolves independently.

There are only two devices at the moment, but I think it would be interesting to release a design that allows an environment where everyone can play or to use it as a game.

AVC: Your artwork features limitless experimentation and fusion among different cultures. In “Magnetic” we can see a fusion with the hip-hop culture while in the Koyasan’s 1200th Anniversary, audiovisual meets the tradition of Japanese Buddhism.

How do you achieve a cohesive project narrative when approaching such different art forms?

CL: During my career as a VJ, I had the chance to come across different youth cultures and communities. As an artist expressing oneself as an outsider in a sense, I kept seeking the feelings and expressions on the spot where personal interests and the committing core converged. I believe pursuing your own personal interests without being trapped by common sense is important in the process of integrating different concepts in new ways.

LivePaintShowcase “MAGNETIC”

AVC: In “Magnetic”, what is the main artistic concept behind the implementation of projection mapping as an artistic layer for the live graffiti?

CL: Together with live paint duo Doppel, we have been aiming to establish a highly improvised showcase combining real-time video expression, live paint, and DJ / turntablist, all three as one. With the use of projection mapping we control the timescale and sequence until the mural painting is completed, and this way the process itself was constructed as a musical performance.

高野山1200年の光  | Koyasan 1200 Year Anniversary

AVC: In the Koyasan 1200th Anniversary, how did you orchestrate the entire performance involving buddhist chants, Japanese drums and Audiovisual?

CL: The mission given to COSMIC LAB for this project was just a visualization of the chanting, but I tried to imagine over and over what sorts of phenomena would happen in that space, and what kind of experiences the present people (audience) would share. When it actually happened, the amazing reality that I had in front of my eyes was beyond my imagination. 

We achieved to recreate a meditative and profound dance floor that I had not encountered too many times in my life before. 

Moreover, there was not a limited number of generations, but a wide variety of people, from the elderly likely to be over 80 years old to small children, who gathered and shared their experiences. After the performance, an old couple came up to us and told us: “Thank you, that was a good meido no miyage (literally: “a souvenir of the darkness*).
*something that makes you feel you can die in peace, such as a very pleasant memory to take to the afterlife.

That was the best compliment ever. 

It was incredibly respectful to see the monks’ ability to invite the thousands of women and men of all ages who were gathered there to a different dimension, and to return to reality and land their bodies and minds firmly at the end of the performance. The chanting has the meaning of a requiescat, and it is a prayer for the repose of a dead person. It was an experience that allowed us to feel closer to that afterlife world. I also believe it was a stage set to expand human cognition. You could get a glimpse of the boundary between this world and the other world, melting together at times, which would make you feel a bit strange. However, it was a spatial art that made you feel humble and positive after all.

Technically speaking, this performance was about 30 minutes long, but it was impossible to follow the fixed scale every time, and we presented improvisational fragments at key points. Therefore, we implemented some necessary functions in the VJ system built with a real-time rendering engine as the basis, such as 3D projection mapping, live operation on the timeline, or interaction with the lasers.

Although we had a few months to produce the performance, we only had one rehearsal at the place. The total number of monks who participated was about 100, and the pre-rehearsal with them was also only once, which was a hard condition. 

Koyasan rehearsal

In order to make it happen even under such restrictions, we started visualising it with our own simulator at an early stage, and repeated the virtual run-through many times to make the necessary adjustments in advance.

I would say this project was a big step for COSMIC LAB towards establishing a live visual system.

Audiovisual City: When I met you online and we had our first chat regarding your work you mentioned you would like to keep growing internationally, too. How would you say you get inspired by other cultures, and how would you like to integrate it in your work?

Cosmic Lab: I am interested in sharing experiences that are born beyond the language barrier. COSMICLAB also has members with a cultural background that isn’t rooted in Japan, making it difficult to communicate with each other at times but we are enjoying this situation. The process of sharing concepts and images using non verbal means is dynamic. In fact, the Buddhist chanting at the Koyasan Anniversary was uttered in Sanskrit, and it was extremely mesmerizing despite the fact that many of us as modern Japanese could not understand the language at all.

It is actually very fresh to see that the reaction to our work varies from culture to culture. Quasar was presented in Kazakhstan and Reunion Island, but in the end, a scene that went beyond the image and concept of the creator appeared. I think the scale of QUASAR’s potential was expanded especially in Reunion Island, where there is a Creole culture.

We participated in Greek ADAF, which was an online event, so we would like to go there someday. I think Quasar is a piece of work that changes and grows with the reaction of the land and people that it interacts with.

AVC: What are you working on at the moment? Can you give us a preview of what we will see from you this year?

CL: Under the influence of the COVID-19 situation, at COSMIC LAB we are speeding up the process of developing the XR (Expanded Reality) Live System “Anti Matter” in order to explore how communities in this era should be. We aim to represent the area where the visible and invisible worlds are mixed.

COSMIC LAB will host a XR audiovisual showcase event on 7th February 2021 using this XR Live system, with the support of the grant we have received from the Agency of Cultural Affairs*. There will be a live stream from the augmented reality space that will be generated in the underground sanctuary of Osaka. The lineup includes QUASAR’s new XR performance, Japan’s leading artist EYE (BOREDOMS), and BackSpace Tokyo’s audiovisual showcase.
*a special body of the Japanese Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology set up to promote Japanese arts and culture.

upcoming event EXPANDED | 07.02.2021

On the 22nd of January, we will be presenting an evolved version of the live paint showcase with DOPPEL at an art festival in Okinawa. It will be a virtual production and the platform that will be used for the online streaming has not been confirmed yet but please do check it out!

One of the orientations that COSMIC LAB’s works share is accessing and deciphering the memories and deep layers hidden in a particular place / land, and rebooting and revealing it by the fusion of art and technology.

We have two projects that we are currently working on following this idea:

One of them is a light and sound installation at a mysterious shrine where the torii gates* meet the stunning views of the Sea of Japan, in Yamaguchi/Motonosumi. It is planned to be open to the public in April.
*A traditional Japanese gate that is usually found at the entrance of a Shinto shrine.

Motonosumi Inari Shrine

The second one is a project set in Daishoin in Hiroshima / Miyajima, a temple whose deity is the Misen mountain (the sacred place of Shugendo), and keeps protecting the “fire that never goes out” that has been burning continuously for 1200 years. It will be a session with a musician who works with the inaudible, and we are planning an exhibition and online presentation around February.


Thank you! Finally, COSMIC LAB have a message to all readers of audiovisual culture… 

Please feel free to contact us if you are interested, let’s exchange information and chat! There are many experimental VJs and a big AV culture in Japan as well. Check out the activities of COSMIC LAB!

Thank you very much.

All images are courtesy of Cosmic Lab
Translation from Japanese to English by Sumire Moncholi

Original in Japanese 日本語

Audiovisual City: お時間ありがとうございます!

まずはCosmic Labの始まり、最近の活躍など自己紹介をお願いします。

Cosmic Lab: 僕(VJ Colo Muller)が発起人となって立ち上げた、未知なるオーディオ・ヴィジュアルの体験を通じて、認知の拡張を追及するラボラトリーです。源流には大阪のアンダーグラウンドカルチャーでの活動が存在します。


特に最近は、COSMIC LAB XR Live Systemの開発を加速させて、この時代の新たなライブ体験の創出を試みています。

AVC:「映像」と「音」を同時に奏でる次世代の楽器、QUASAR。直感的にクリエイティブなオーディオビジュアルが生み出せると言う可能性にとても興味を持ちました。QUASAR のアイディアはどのようにして生まれ、デザインや創作を考える時の創造性について聞きたいです。

CL: VHSやLaserDiscを用いてVJを始めた時代からずっと「映像」を音楽的かつ即興的にプレイしたいという願望があります。98年頃にN.Yで遭遇したEBN(Emergency Broadcasting Network)の斬新過ぎるA/Vライブに衝撃を受け、その数年後、EBNの影響を色濃く受けた COLD CUT(Timberなどが代表曲)のA/Vライブを日本で体験したのが決定打でした。彼らは、HIPHOPのサンプリング手法をいち早くA/Vまで拡張させたように思います。

その流れに呼応する形で、日本で独自にA/Vパフォーマンスを進化させたHifanaやKireekたちとの邂逅は、QUASAR誕生の大きなきっかけとなりました。特に、Locked GrooveをコンセプトにしたHifanaの「SkiplessLoop」という楽曲や、ターンテーブリストが使うマーキングテープはロジック面でも大いなるインスピレーションになりました。Locked Grooveだとループの長さは、33rpmの場合、BPM133で4拍、つまり一周が一小節になります。その仕組みを使って、サンプリングしたワンショットやループの映像でシーケンスを構成していけば、どんな世界が生まれるんだろうと。そこからQUASARのプロトタイピングが始まり、今に至ります。



AVC: 2003年、バルセロナで発表されたReactable machineとは何か関係してますか?インスピレーションを得たのでしょうか? 

CL: Quasar以前にCosmicLabが取り組んだ「SpaceEcho」というインスタレーションで制作したデバイスでは「reacTIVision」の知見を大いに活用させて貰いました。


AVC: 今後QUASARはどのようにして使われて創造性を伸ばして行けると思っていますか?

CL: 様々な文化圏を訪れ、そこに住む人々特有の音や踊り、その場所の自然・環境音等のフィールドレコーディングをして、現地のアーティストとのコラボレーションも重ねていきたいです。QUASARの世界の中で異種交配のセッションは続けられ、独自に進化するA/V祝祭空間を創造したいです。


AVC: COSMIC LABのプロジェクトには様々な文化の混ざりや実験的な遊び心があるような気がします。たとえば、Magnetic ではヒップホップカルチャーの影響。高野山の1200年の光では現代オーディオビジュアルが日本伝統文化・仏教と混じり合わせてあります。


CL: VJとしてのキャリアの中で、異なるユースカルチャーやコミュニティを横断する機会に恵まれました。ある意味で部外者である表現者として、その場でコミットすべきコアと個人的関心が重なる感覚や表現はどこにあるのか、というのを瞬間的に探り当てる作業の連続でした。個人的関心を究めることは、常識に囚われずに、異なるコンセプトを新たに統合していくプロセスで大事なことだと思います。

AVC: Magnetic ではどう言った目的でプロジェクションマッピングをライブグラフィティに重ねたのでしょうか?その芸術概念とは?


AVC: 高野山1200年の光ではどのようにして声明・映像・光をうまく取り入れたパフォーマンスを創り上げる事ができましたか?

CL: このプロジェクトでCOSMIC LABが与えられたミッションは声明の視覚化に他ならないのですが、その空間でどのような現象が起きて、居合わせた人々がどのような体験を共有するのかを何度もイメージしました。







このプロジェクトはCOSMIC LABのライブヴィジュアルシステム確立の大きな一歩となったと思います。

AVC: これから海外にも広めていきたいとお話ししましたが、海外の文化からどのようにインスピレーションをもらえてどのように取り入れたり混じり合っていきたいと思いますか?

CL: 言葉の壁を超えたところで生まれる体験の共有に興味があります。COSMICLABにも、日本とは違う文化的背景を持つメンバーが在籍していて、コミュニケーションに苦労することもありますが、その状況を楽しんでいます。非言語的にコンセプトやイメージを共有するプロセスはダイナミックです。実際、高野山での声明も全てサンスクリット語で唱えられて、現代の日本人である我々の多くは言語を理解出来ませんでしたが、物凄く揺さぶられるものがありました。



AVC: 他に今までの活躍・これからの活動について聞かせていただけるお話しがありましたらお願いします。

CL: COVID-19の影響下、COSMIC LABは可視と不可視の世界が混ざる領域を表現し、この時代のコミュニティの在り方を模索する為に、 XR(エクスパンデッド・リアリティー) Live System “Anti Matter” の開発を加速させています。


2021年2月7日、文化庁の助成を受けて、COSMIC LABのXR Live Systemを駆使したXR オーディオ・ヴィジュアルのショウケースイベントを主催します。大阪のアンダーグラウンドの聖地で生成される拡張現実空間からライブストリーミングします。

QUASARの新作XRパフォーマンスや、日本を代表するアーティスト、EYE ( BOREDOMS ) 、BackSpaceTokyoのオーディオヴィジュアルショーケースというラインアップです。


また、COSMIC LAB作品の特徴のひとつに、ある場所/土地に潜む記憶や深層にアクセスして解読し、アートとテクノロジーを融合した手法で、それをリブートし顕現させるという指向性があります。







COSMIC LABの活動も是非チェックしてみてください!


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