Magazine article Art Monthly

Carsten Nicolai: Observatory

Magazine article Art Monthly

Carsten Nicolai: Observatory

Article excerpt

Ibid Projects London 28 February to 20 April

Carsten Nicolai's exhibition 'Observatory' offers up a series of revelations which are firmly earthbound in nature. A collection of experiments with scale, the works here move from the microscopic a group of prints showing dust particles to a video work of cloud formations that are too vast to be captured on camera and appear as rolling seas of white foam, filling the screen. Each piece aims to reveal aspects of our natural world that are usually invisible or unnoticed, but which have been exposed here by the use of science or technology.

Nicolai is renowned for his interest in the crossover between science and art, and theories and systems from physics and mathematics have long informed his practice, both in art and in music (which he releases under the pseudonym Alva Noto). The resulting works invariably take on a minimalist form, though while their content is usually stripped back to its simplest presentation, they are rarely cold; rather, Nicolai reveals the beauty and depth that can be found within codes or patterns.

While previous exhibitions and installations have been expansive as part of a show titled 'Pionier' that was displayed in galleries in Vilnius, Leipzig and New York in 2011, for example, Nicolai exhibited a large parachute inflated by a wind machine - 'Observatory' is more modest in its approach and is also focused on exploring the natural world, which adds a particular richness and warmth to the work. The aforementioned prints of dust particles, shown in microscopic close-up, appear delicate and almost gleaming, far removed from our usual perception of such material as detritus or waste. Similarly, a second series of photographs titled 'traces', and described in the gallery information as documenting 'the numerous traces of cosmic and terrestrial radiation, which ionise the gaseous ethanol steam inside a cloud chamber', take on a surprising form, appearing to feature dense fur or the hide of an animal.

This kind of unexpected discovery in science is not a new idea - any kid who has looked through a microscope will have experienced a similar sense of wonder at the magical world that lies beyond the limits of our vision - but Nicolai's images remain compelling in their exposure of matter that surrounds us every day but goes virtually unnoticed. …

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