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Carsten Nicolai Lights Up ICC

The Berlin-based artist is poised to work his imagination on the facade of the ICC Tower during the second edition of Art Basel in Hong Kong, Christie Lee reports.

Carsten Nicolai


BY Janice Seow

May 2nd, 2014


Carsten Nicolai, cyclo, Alva Noto… the 48-year-old German artist is a man of many identities. As Carsten Nicolai, he’s a visual-audio artist reputed for working at the intersection of art and technology. As one half of experimental art outfit cyclo, he’s a fervent experimenter of sounds with Ryoji Ikeda. As Alva Noto, he’s part of maverick electronic duo Diamond Version with Byetone.

For three days during the second edition of Art Basel in Hong Kong, the artist would be famous for being the guy to smother the facade of the ICC Tower, Hong Kong’s tallest skyscraper, in rhythmically glowing lights. A continuation of the German artist’ obsession with the interplay between light and sound, α (alpha) pulse will see a barrage of light impulses beat to a synchronised frequency. It’s a study of the effects that such high-powered audio-visual stimulation has on the “mood, relaxation, attention and creativity of viewers.” A mobile app conceived by the artist will provide the audio for the installation.

Carsten Nicolai
Carsten Nicolai

It’s not the first time that the multi-disciplinary artist has experimented with the interplay between sound, light and human perception. With an educational background in landscape architecture, Nicolai decided to become an artist after graduation and his repertoire has since expanded to encompass technology, sound, light and science. Besides having shown at such prestigious festivals as Documenta X and the Venice Biennale, he has also performed at MoMA, the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, Centre Pompidou in Paris, and Tate Modern in the UK.

The Berlin-based artist’s obsession with the visual manifestation of light can be traced back to the early days of cyclo. Both Nicolai and Ikeda were obsessed with the Lissajour figures generated by their music. For the duo, there is as much artistic as mathematical beauty in the various compositions that these figures take on.

Parallels can perhaps be drawn between α (alpha) pulse at Nicolai’s Syn chron installation at the New National Gallery in Berlin in 2005. Described to be a symbosis of architecture, light and sound, particle-like images were blasted onto a polyhedron, their frequency synchronised with electronic music composed by Nicolai.

Catch α (alpha) pulse from 15 – 17 May, 8.30pm – 9.20pm. Recommended public places to watch the show include Tamar Park, Sun Yat Sen Memorial Park and the terrace on Podium 3 and 4 of the IFC Mall. For more information, visit www.artbasel.com/hongkong/special-event.