Nobumichi Tosa on making nonsense machines

Nobumichi Tosa’s interactive work is difficult to classify. Speaking at Design Indaba 2009 he says, “We make many many nonsense machines.”

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Japanese designer and performance artist Nobumichi Tosa is the founder of design firm Maywa Denki, which creates a variety of machines and devices that aid interactions that include music, art, outer space, animals and embryos, among others.

In a most entertaining presentation Tosa explains that he started Maywa Denki with his brother in 1993, creating “many many nonsense machines”. When his brother retired in 2000 Maywa Denki had “50% manpower cut off”. Tosa created various “NASA instruments”, often with the underlying question “what am I?”

Tosa's “Naki" series includes alternative electronic products like a vehicle controlled by a fish or the Sava-O product, a ventricular doll that has the face of an embryo. The Sava-O, Tosa explains, allows you to have an absurd conversation with yourself.

Using things like flower arrangements and tea ceremonies, Tosa considers the difference between art and product. Other “nonsense instruments” he demonstrates include the “Ultra Folk”, a folk guitar remote-controlled to play music and the “Voice Vibrator” that sees the user attaching a massager to their chest.

There is also the Knockman, a character representing instruments that use the act of knocking to make sounds. Tosa then introduces Knockman’s family – characters that include a knocking chime and cymbal.

Tosa’s ABCDEFG Scheme explains the scope of his work, thus:

A = Art

B = Book

C = CD

D = DVD/Video

E = Expo

F = Fashion

G = Goods

Through sharing his creative philosophy Tosa considers that constitutes a work of art. 

Watch the Interview with Nobumichi Tosa