Erkki Kurenniemi b. 1941
Dawn of Dimi (2002)
The DVD entitled The Dawn of DIMI is a tribute to the work of the Finnish artist Erkki Kurenniemi (b. 1941). Over the last 40 years, he has been experimental filmmaker, scientist, composer, inventor of instruments, artificial intelligence researcher, visionary, and unsung pioneer of electronic art. This multimedia work reflects his interests in the relation between science and nature: robotics, nuclear science, computer’s architecture, biotechnology, nanoscience, ubiquitous computing, alternative physical interfaces, computer games, computer’s memory, life on the space, and prosthetic technologies.
The Dawn of DIMI includes a brilliant documentary, directed by Mike Taanila, about his life, originally released as The Future Is Not what it Used to Be; in this documentary you can find a chronological description of Kurenniemi’s life, ideas, experimental films, and self-documenting manias.
The movie discusses metaphors in which the soul can be compared with software, and therefore cannot die. On the contrary, the body is an ephemeral hardware product of evolution, in the future quantum computers will be able to store our personalities and liberate us of our fragile bodies to be uploaded into a machine, hence his obsession about storing images, sounds, video or text about his life on a daily basis. Turning life into a database, the preparation of such databody, is the first step towards immortality.
Kurenniemi also founded the Music studio at the University of Helsinki in the 1960’s. This studio is detailed in the extras section of the DVD. You can see interviews when he was young and concerned about the future of electronic music, its virtues in front of traditional music, and the fact that compositions are no longer unique because the musicians will resemble industrial designers and trendsetters. And in the funny film Computer Music (1966), he explains how computers will generate "hyperpersonas" and how electronic music arose from hacking technology built for other purposes. In the documentary you can also find the experimental films Winterreise (1963), Flora and Fauna (1965), On—Off (1963), Andromatic (1968), Feel it Exhibition (1968), Carnaby Street (1968), Florence (1970), Sex Show (1971), DIMI Ballet (1971), Act Without Words (1972), University of Oslo: Study of Technological Impact on Cohesion, Dissolution, and Innovation of Multimedia Expressions in the Theatre (1972), and if you see the ones entitled Electronics in the World of Tomorrow (1964), Computers at Our Service (1964), and Frozen Foods (1969) you can infer why The Future Is Not What It Used To Be is a great title.
As an inventor, he built various instruments that are all in action in the section "Pan Sonic plays Kurenniemi," and documented in extras/instruments: Electric Quartet (1968), an instrument who should be played by four people simultaneously. It is a combination of a drum machine, violin machine, voice machine, and melody machine. His first synthesizer, called the Andromatic, was followed by the DIMI-A (Digital Music Instrument, Associative Memory 1969), which had the special ability to retrieve audio-data based in the content of the memory rather than its address number. It was able to recall about 500 actions. The DIMI-S (sexophone, 1972) a group of three to four people with sensors in their hands created music by touching each other’s skin, the harder the touch the higher the sound. It could be considered one of the original cybersex works that at the same time was an experiment in physical interfaces alternative to keyboards.
Another interesting instrument was DIMI\—O (Digital Music Instrument, optical input 1971) is a video organ that uses a camera as an input device for an organ so that dancers can perform while they create music. This work preceded David Rokeby’s interactive installation works as Reflection (1983), and Very Nervous System (1986). Hence, he can be counted in the select group of electronic arts pioneers, such as Myron Krueger’s Videoplace (1969).
Kurenniemi is fascinated with the unsolved and open questions about memory, evolution, and immortality in regard to technological advances that will change life, as we know it. Some of his ideas might seem eccentric but are originated from his strong scientific background that gives rise to his imagination. No wonder he is an inventor and visionary——he is a dreamer that likes to think that utopias are possible even though he is well ware of the limitations of science.