By Eden Jang
Light, Carsten Nicolai’s collaborator, doesn’t easily conform to the artist’s intention. Still, he uses it along with sound to blend rigid structure and improvisation when exploring the blurred lines between music, media art and science.
Fade Stills — taken from a video installation Nicolai created by allowing light to react to sound — aims to display a progression of light waves with a carefully structured exhibition that works as a single composition.
This photo exhibition by Nicolai, a sound artist and electronic musician also known by the pseudonym Alva Noto, is showing at Goethe-Institut concurrently with Art Basel Hong Kong from March 25 to 30.
Five years ago, α (alpha) plus — his performance of pulsed light patterns synchronised with sound frequency on the façade of International Commerce Centre, or ICC — was visible across the city on the opening night of Art Basel Hong Kong.
Fades Stills is made up of 40 shots from the video installation Fades, which he filmed and produced, and showcases yet another of his artistic identities. Eighteen shots were selected for the exhibition in Hong Kong.
In the video, Nicolai created light gradients based on linear and logarithmic wave modulations that moved to create different shapes and patterns. He paired it with high-pitched hissing sounds in a specific room setting.
In a dialogue with Magnus Renfrew, former director Asia of Art Basel, Nicolai shared his inclination towards polarity in his work.
“When I create art, I always think of opposite extremes, the polarity between rigid structure and chaos incurred by elements of improvisation,” Nicolai said.
He also noted his emphasis on colour contrast, calling it a principle of Fades Stills. The images manifest a constant shift between opposite colours — black and white — allowing both colours to act as dominant forces.
Nicolai is interested in exploring the theme of controlling the uncontrollable. We all are based in the universe as tiny existences, he said, yet at the same time accidental encounters and coincidences are experienced as significant.