Carsten Nicolai welcomes us on a warm summer day in front of his studio in Berlin Mitte. We take a seat in his backyard to learn more about the artist, musician and his work. Carsten Nicolai manages to combine art and science, at the same time his work often gains characteristics of a methodical experiment. He plays with the viewers sensual perception, crossing borders of various art forms and allegedly defined genres. He animates the audience to question their own cognitive processes and raises their awareness for sudden changes and unfamiliarities. His attraction towards science is a recurring element in his artwork, in which he ‘translates’ mathematical structures and physical-technical phenomena into an aesthetic form of expression.
After successfully completing his studies in landscape architecture he decided to work as an artist. Meanwhile Carsten Nicolai is known worldwide as an acknowledged visual artist and musician (performing under the name alva noto). His work has not only been part of major exhibitions such as documenta X and the 49th and 50th Biennale in Venice, but has also been on display in many solo exhibitions, among others at the Schirn Kunsthalle Frankfurt as well as the Neue Nationalgalerie in Berlin.
Carsten Nicolai’s interest and fascination with nature and science is very distinguished in his work. His approach often begins with a question, for example what sound is. While answering this question it is important to him to not only have an auditory approach but also make clear what sound is physically, how sound is perceived with our senses and what impact it has on our body. He seeks for the viewer to find a way to an intermediate zone in which installation and artistic form of expression meet and merge until all borders are blurred.
In his audiovisual performances sound and music are created before the visual concept of the performance is totally evolved. Even as a child the artist used to focus on little details, nuances and seemingly incidental sounds. He would watch birds and match them only by their specific song. Today his work shows an almost scientific complexity. He manages to make things visible or audible that our minds would not have been able to grasp otherwise, like in his latest body of work ‘crt mgn’ in which magnetic fields become tangible.
Images by Caroline Kurze