2013.04.27 Sat, by
Berlin Postcard: Carsten Nicolai “crt mgn” at Galerie EIGEN+ART

“crt mgn”, Carsten Nicolai solo show

Galerie EIGEN + ART (August Strasse 26, 10117 Berlin) April 11 – May 18, 2013

Can you read the title? Can you say it? It is perfect for Twitter and SMS-text, if your public knows what it means. And it is the title of Carsten Nicolai’s new theatrical installation. It starts as a homage to Nam Jun Paik and his Magnet TV, 1965 (re-performed in Paris at Fondation Cartier in 2001), Nicolai’s new work “crt mgn” at Galerie Eigen+Art in Berlin, reworks his 2007 performance at the Watari-Um Museum of Contemporary Art Tokyo. Re-performance here is key. The title refers to cathode-ray-tube, i.e. TV (crt) and magnet (mgn). Thus, nostalgic experimentation with nostalgic technology regarding nostalgia for an artist famous for his use of the now nostalgic technology. Re-performance, and circularity.

Let me describe it (but pay attention – this machine has a lot of parts).

On Eigen+Art’s new white wall are four white, parallel, Judd-like neon tubes. They are mounted evenly and horizontally, at the end of the gallery. The glowing lines are recorded by a video camera and transmitted onto an upward-facing TV screen on the floor. The viewer – that’s you – can interrupt the light but walking between tubes and camera. The television image is distorted by a magnet attached to a swinging pendulum, which moves irregularly courtesy of a programmed motor. The swinging magnet creates an electrical field with an electric coil, causing modulations within the electric circuit, which in turn are processed into audible signals.

Some of the distorted images have been documented (packaged?), to be presented on Duratrans prints in light boxes. “They are the beginning of a potentially endless picture archive of form and colour with the title crt mgn pict.” (ah, so yes, packaged!)

And the effect on the viewer? Disturbingly Damoclean.

Carsten Nicolai “crt mgn” 2013, Installation: neon light, cameras, television, permanent magnets, motorized pendulum system, sound receiver, sound system, size variable (courtesy Galerie EIGEN + ART Leipzig/Berlin)

The electrical field is strong, the sound a hum. The room is a glistening white. There is a polite notice on the wall warning about potential damage to mobile phones and pacemakers during the executioner’s steady work. The magnets interrupt the transmission, guillotine the connection, creating transient images, which are recorded, and some of which will be reified in plastic, like Laura Palmer in Twin Peaks.

But it is all so clean, so efficient, so well designed and presented. This is a Kubrickian future, that is, a future where 2001 has already been digitized and digested, memorialized and turned into fantasy. Put this metro-nome in the bedroom of a child in a housing estate. Put it in our favorite shopping centers, above the beer and tampax. Or hang it above the “Walk/Don’t Walk” light. Or the toilet at work. And let it fail. Let it fail in the places we fail, every day. Make it more dangerous. Really dangerous. A constant threat. Because it is not just art.