When we last wrote about Austrian-born, Berlin-based digital artist and designer Rainer Kohlberger back in 2012, we noted (astutely) that his work was “not only technically proficient, but visually and intellectually arresting”.
Rainer’s deeply complex audio-visual compositions are born out of algorithms, meaning that they have “little in common with conventional film and video”.
“Visually my film and installation works can be understood as pure light, created by algorithms out of nothing,” Rainer tells It’s Nice That. Preferring the term “noise” over “generative art”, Rainer explains: “I have always been fascinated by noise. When I was a kid, there was an old television set at my grandma’s house where I used to stay a lot. That cathode-ray tube-TV didn’t have any reception for what was coming over the ether, but I turned it on anyways to look into the snow. I played around with it by turning the knobs that were modulating the static noise on the screen, so in some way it was kind of my first instrument. Noise for me is not a negative, unwanted principle, as it is often understood. It is rather the idea of everything new that comes into this world, as everything new is noisy and unsharp at the beginning. It is a promise of maximal uncertainty, it stands for the sea, as the opposite of us being addressed in our cities, as the state between being and non-being. My work is noise through and through.”
We asked the fiercely intelligent artist to lead us through five pieces of his own work, in doing so unravelling both his process, and our perceptions of what might be considered art.
Not even nothing can be free of ghosts
Visually my film and installation works can be understood as pure light, created by algorithms out of ›nothing‹. Broadly speaking, quantum field theory tells us that all material is vibrating and the differentiation between light and material is in flux. In cinemas today, almost all signs of the old understanding the materiality of 35mm film stands for is gone. But there are still 24 images per second that touch us like a ghost. Although purely digital, not even nothing can be free of ghosts is quite materialistic in a sense that our brains are altered by stroboscopic effects, therefore every spectator is completing the film individually in between the senses and her brain.
My films and installations are audiovisual in general, where I create everything myself, including the sound. Film and music are both disciplines where one has to work with time and come up with a composition and think about narratives. Therefore I often refer to Visual Music as a term that I really like. In this project the approach was different, as I followed already finished music. I was asked by Native Instruments to visualize several tracks for their campaign where a diverse group of artists created small tracks with their music software. So I came up with a visual concept that can be quite versatile and works for all different kind of music. The visuals have their own movement but are audio reactive, so the distinct quality of the sound of each track triggers what you can see. NI’s software is vastly based on the concept of modular synthesis that is abstracted as software, which technically is the very same way I create lots of my visual output in my process.
Colors of Noise
Colors of Noise is a series of several works from 2012 to 2014 in multiple formats. In physics, noise got applied colors that refer to different properties of signals. The most famous one is White Noise, which is just a theoretical construct as it would need infinite energy to generate, therefore what we experience most often in nature is Pink Noise. This series shows that I am interested in the overall aesthetic principles behind noise, the movement, the self-similarity, the absence of objects.
Like not even nothing can be free of ghosts and humming, fast and slow before, this work challenges the human perception apparatus. It is focused and blurry simultaneously, constantly shifting between those states, allowing you to lose yourself in a condition of unconsciousness and having a sense of self awareness at the same time. Some people tell me, it has quite a meditative quality, too. In an historical context, my work is bound to drone music, a centuries old cultural technique of sustaining sounds for very long periods and providing an idea of the infinite. A music that has always been there, and will go on forever.
Never Comes Tomorrow
Not only in the time domain my work can be endless, its flatness allows that it can also be stretched spatially, without constraints. In cinema I mainly use the standard format with an aspect ratio of usually 1:1.85, but in installations I use several projectors to form big, immersive screens. Never Comes Tomorrow has been shown indoors on two projectors, but also in Hamburg as an outdoor installation on a 80m x 5m wall.