Carsten Nicolai: Hangarbicocca

By Pioselli, Alessandra | Artforum International, December 2012 | Go to article overview

Carsten Nicolai: Hangarbicocca


Pioselli, Alessandra, Artforum International


Carsten Nicolai's unidisplay, 2012, is a monumental visual and sound landscape that extends horizontally for about 160 feet, infinitely multiplied by mirrored walls at both ends. Twenty-four visual modules follow sequentially on a screen, where the combinatory possibilities of lines and black-and-white two-dimensional geometric shapes produce changing visual stimuli. The sounds, both sampled and created, that accompany the sequences are mutable vibrations that reach the ear while on the screen they are translated into optical pulsations. The minimalist graphic clarity of Nicolai's typical imagery, the reduction of drawing to basic elements, and the negation of color in favor of a black/white binary all work to counteract unidisplay's spatial grandiosity.

The optical effects and graphic solutions can bring to mind experiments in kinetic and optical art from the 1960s and even earlier, with which the artist is quite familiar. Beyond visual affinities, and taking into account differences resulting from the availability today of more sophisticated technologies, correspondences between historical precursors and Nicolai's work are found in a shared humanistic vision. In both cases, technological devices are investigated and exploited to give shape and substance to time, to expand and dilate human experience.

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

The palpitating wall of unidisplay is an organism in symbiosis with its viewers, who find themselves beating time with the flow of images and sounds--a pace that is expanded, suspended, accelerated, compressed, yet remains fundamentally unchanging. The projection lasts fifty-four minutes, and while the sequence of the modules is always identical, their duration varies every time it starts over again, thanks to software that calibrates them and establishes a real-time dialogue with the software that operates the sound. …

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