Blog / So this is what they mean by ephemeral beauty


By Wendy

The video work by Japanese artist Lyota Yagi in “The Record: Contemporary Art and Vinyl” is simple and beautiful. He pressed a record of the songs “Clair de Lune” and “Moon River” in ice and played it on a turntable until it melted. You can see the work here.
It would be quite a feat to present “Vinyl (Clair de Lune + Moon River)” in person. I am not sure how that would work, actually. I suppose, in a perfect world, an attendant would stand by a record player all day long in the gallery, replacing records of ice on the turntable as soon as each one melted.
So we were thrilled when Lyota came to visit the Nasher Museum last week for the opening of “The Record” and  mentioned that he brought a silicone mold to create a record of ice. He filled the mold with water and froze it overnight in his hotel room. Next morning, I took him to pick up dry ice at Kroger and we carefully transported the ice record to the museum.
The artist promised that the ice record would not harm the record player I borrowed from a friend. (Peter, if you are reading this, your record player is totally fine!)
On the night of the exhibition opening, some of us gathered upstairs in the administrative offices to listen to Lyota’s record. Shyly, he told us he did not know whether it would work. He picked some loose change out of his pocket and stacked coins on the base of the stylus to weigh it down. Then he moved the needle over to the record. The needle travelled along real grooves in the ice and actually played Chopin!
Two people shed tears.
After about five minutes, the music began to warble and disintegrate as the grooves in the record melted.
We all felt as if we had witnessed something very special. See more pictures here.
Lyota, who is 30 years old, told me he is too young to have grown up with records but began listening to records in high school. He likes using vinyl in his work, he told me, because a record on a turntable has movement, sound and visual components. He is finishing up his artist residency in New York with the Asian Cultural Council and we can’t wait to see his new work.

IMAGE: The artist Lyota Yagi demonstrates playing his record of ice. Photo by Dr. J Caldwell.

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