Carsten Nicolai: unidisplay (2012), Copenhagen Contemporary, 2016. Photo: Anders Sune Berg
Carsten Nicolai is a German artist and musician who works at the intersection of art, music and science. He is known all over the world for his minimalistic and digital works – both on the international art scene with his conceptual installations and on the electronic music scene, where he has also aroused attention under the name Alva Noto with his precise, subtle sounds and visual codes.
The more than 30-metre-long light and audio installation unidisplay, which CC presented at Papirøen, consists of a long wall on which changing light patterns are projected which, by way of mirrors on both sides of the projection, make up an endless universe. The undulating patterns affect our eyes with optical illusions, flickering and after-images. At the same time the various visual impressions are grounded by a soundtrack that is propagated through the body via speakers placed beneath a long bench on which you can sit in the installation.
Carsten Nicolai originally trained as a landscape architect and his knowledge of among other subjects geology, biology and architecture is reflected in his works, which combine sound, light and space. The work unidisplay is inspired by among other things the organic and systematic spaces of Japanese garden architecture, and as in Japanese gardens you can sit in the installation on a bench and observe the endless digital landscape.
The shifting light patterns of the work and its continuous soundtrack create a dynamic aspect. Carsten Nicolai is preoccupied by the way time is always dependent on our perspective and rooted in our body and being. Besides issues of time and space Carsten Nicolai is also interested in all the ‘invisible’ sounds with which we are constantly surrounded in everyday life, and the sounds we construct through language and music, and which have a strong influence on us.
Although unidisplay is a complex digital work, it has been made on the basis of drawings that Carsten Nicolai has done by hand, and which have subsequently been transformed into the digital, visual patterns. Behind most of Carsten Nicolai’s works lies an exploration of the difference between the organic and the inorganic, the human and the machine. In general, unidisplay is about the way we sense our surrounding world, and how our surroundings react back on us. Carsten Nicolai himself calls his practice an investigation of semiotics – how meaning, with the aid of signs, is produced, conveyed, received and interpreted, both non-linguistically in our bodies and as a scanning of information processes in the world around us.
About Carsten Nicolai
Carsten Nicolai (b.1965) lives and works in Berlin. He has participated in important international exhibitions like Documenta and the 49th and 50th Venice Biennales, and has had a long succession of solo and group exhibitions all over the world. In his music projects he has collaborated with among others Ryuichi Sakamoto, Ryoji Ikeda (cyclo.), Blixa Bargeld and Mika Vainio. Under the name Alva Noto he has mounted performances at among other places the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, Centre Pompidou in Paris and Tate Modern in London.