exonemo: The Border Is Blurred Between Media And Art

New media art, meet your champion.


exonemo, Body Paint (2016). Courtesy the artists.

With the advent of technology serving as platforms for the numerous intersections of everyday life, the peripheries between the virtual and the actual are beginning to dissipate. The artist unit exonemo, composed of Akaiwa Yae and Sembo Kensuke, investigates this phenomenon through playful methods, reflecting on the complex relationship between technology and its users.

Since 1996, the duo has facilitated several experimental projects that explore the paradoxes between digital and analog computer-networked environments in both a humorous and innovative fashion. One of their ongoing projects, the "Internet Yama-Ichi" (or Black Market), is an internet-inspired flea market that transforms virtual elements and icons into physical existence. In a manner that mimics the versatile, whimsical nature of the internet, their artworks span the digital and physical spheres in the form of mixed media art, performances, and installations.

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Their upcoming exhibition, "Milk on the Edge," at hpgrp GALLERY delves into how technology has recently distorted their own perceptions of reality. As they said in a statement: “In crossing the national borders, from Japan to New York, even the borderlines between ‘fresh and rotten’—something we should have instinctively sensed—became confused.”

exonemo expands on the blurring of digital in our interview below.


exonemo, Heavy Body Paint Series (2017). Courtesy the artists.

1. Where does the name 'exonemo' come from?

In the 90's, when we tried to make our group name, we wrote many words and combined them. But we couldn't find a proper one. After several days, Yae suddenly made the noise, "e-x-o-ne-mo----" and we decided that that is our name. There is no meaning. But we thought it would fit the anonymity on the Internet.

2. How did you start working on the internet?

Just after graduating from art university, the internet became popular. The internet brought us to a special place with the new rules of time and space. It seemed the ideal tool for us as ordinary students and we soon became addicted to it.

3. How has your global experience influenced your practice and perspective?

We have participated in exhibitions in more than twenty countries. But after living here in New York City for two years, we changed our mind. Visiting and living are two different things. We found that some important information (like smelling, taste, or more unconsciousness level things) are never transported via the Internet and these are important for the human experience.


exonemo, The Frame (2017). Courtesy the artists.

4. How was your relationship with technology changed over the years of making art?

We started our career from the "media art" side, and at the first moment, none of the "contemporary art" artists we encountered were using new technology. But recently, many contemporary artists have started using technology. Now we feel the border is more blurred between media art and contemporary art. New media is not new at all. We should use new and old media together in the same way. I believe that would make art more interesting and exciting.

5. What type of intersections between the virtual and real do you foresee? How will it impact communication internationally?

Visual communications like GIFs and memes in social media like Instagram, Tumblr, Twitter, Facebook or Shapchat became bigger these past several years. It seems like everything is going back to the square frame in the timeline of social media. In spite of this, experiments in software art and interactive art have tried to go beyond the frame itself. I think the frame or the border of the frame is the intersection of the recent reality. That's why we are trying to paint on the monitor to test what we can feel from it. That boundary is the edge of the recent sense of reality.


Editor: Rain Embuscado

Rachel LimStream 1