Carsten Nicolai

Crossing genres with ease

Text: Kunisaki Susumu

Carsten Nicolai came to Japan in December on a live tour for his label raster-noton. 2008 also saw his installation invertone put on display at ICC, and Nicolai himself readily acknowledges his affection for Japan, joking that visiting the country ‘has become a habit’. So for this trip, as a gift of sorts for his Japanese fans, he has released a book of visuals titled aiff-tiff in the form of a special supplement in IDEA magazine.

invertone 2007
Photo Kioku Keizo
Courtesy NTT InterCommunication Center [ICC]

The book features geometric graphics by Carsten and his label mates, almost all generated from audio, with the original sound recordings contained on an accompanying CD. It is intriguing that someone specializing in works exhibiting such a superb command of sound and images has a strong interest in a static medium such as the book.

“I’m very interested in something you can hold, in physical products if you like, and especially in books. While printing techniques interest me too, mainly I like the idea that paper has been around for so long, and is still with us,” he says, hinting at a personal dissatisfaction with the way so much of the digital media relies on computer operating systems and such.

“Books don’t require electricity, and have a true independence. You can put them on a bookshelf, and take them out 20 years later and probably still access them readily. I find physical objects more trustworthy…because they won’t disappear.”

While drawn to books, on this trip to Japan Nicolai also did some shooting for a film, that most temporal of arts. A self-described ‘narrative story’ complete with actors and a cameraman, it’s quite a departure from the artist’s previous video offerings.

“It’s a film project designed to progress over the very long term; shooting five minutes every year for the next ten years or so. Basically, rather than having a script, I look at what I shoot, and then make a decision about what to shoot the following year. Usually, making a movie involves getting lots of footage and editing it down. But the movie we’re starting to make now is the reverse: it will get longer.”

Sound, graphics, film: crossing genres with ease, stretching and compressing time from an instant to infinity. By the time his movie is completed ten years hence, what medium will Carsten Nicolai be choosing to present his work?

Carsten Nicolai
Born 1965 in Karl-Marx-Stadt (now Chemnitz) in the former East Germany. Currently based in Berlin and Chemnitz. Fusing visual art and electronic sound, he has formed creative units with artists such as Ikeda Ryoji and Sakamoto Ryuichi. His installation invertone appeared in Open Space 2008 (NTT InterCommunication Center [ICC], Tokyo). In April he unveiled the public sculpture poly stella at the Kasumigaseki Building (Tokyo), and is currently participating in The Kaleidoscopic Eye: Thyssen- Bornemisza Art Contemporary Collection (Through 7.5 Mori Art Museum, Tokyo).

Mori Art Museum

Originally printed in ART iT 23 Spring 2009

Kunisaki Susumu is editor-in-chief of Sound & Recording Magazine)

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