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SKALAR in Berlin

by Louise Stickland • in
  • Focus on Design
  • March 2018
• Created: March 12, 2018

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    A Kinetic Work of Light Art Fills a Vast Industrial Space with the Full Range of Human Emotion

For Skalar, a large-scale art installation that invites visitors to explore light and sound in an environment that combines the raw industrial beauty of a derelict power station with the scale that brings to mind the soaring interior space of a cathedral, light artist Christopher Bauder and musician/composer Kangding Ray made use of lighting fixtures from Robe. Bauder also leveraged his two companies — Kinetic Lights, a supplier of automation solutions; and creative design practice WHITEvoid, which produced the event within Kraftwerk Berlin during the month of February, for the project.

 

‡‡         An Ambitious Project

Skalar is ambitious in terms of its scale — it fills the 100-by-40-by-25-meter (WxLxH) interior space of Kraftwerk Berlin’s third-floor turbine hall with light and sound. It also aims to address the full scale of human emotion, using psychologist Robert Plutchik’s “Wheel of Emotions” — Anticipation, Anger, Disgust, Fear, Joy, Sadness, Surprise, Trust — as its conceptual starting point. And it was also ambitious in terms of scheduling and timing — Bauder and David Letellier (Kangding Ray) first found out in November 2017 that the space would be available during the month of February.
Skalar’s launch coincided with the week-long CTM Festival for Adventurous Music and Art 2018.

The overall theme of the 2018 CTM Festival was “Turmoil,” making Skalar, an independent exploration of radiant light vector drawings and multi-dimensional sound inside a pitch-dark industrial space, all the more compelling. “By combining a vast array of kinetic mirrors, perfectly synchronized moving lights and a sophisticated multi-channel sound system, Skalar reflects on the fundamental nature and essence of basic human emotions,” Bauder notes on his website, whitevoid.com.

To achieve his vision, Bauder incorporates 90 Robe Pointes and 65 double-sided mirrors suspended on 195 special motors, each with a perimeter ring of 180 addressable pixels.

For its part, Robe was eager to serve as a technical partner. But even with Robe’s help, Bauder and Letellier found the space somewhat forbidding. “It’s not a place you negotiate with,” explains Bauder. “The deal is that you take it on-board and treat it with the respect it deserves, find solutions for issues like reverb times and the special rigging required,” noting that it was more like a privilege being able to work there.

With Skalar, Bauder wanted audiences to immerse themselves in the sonic and visual world created by the installation — and feel direct emotional responses to the work — bearing in mind that each of these would be completely unique depending on the set and the setting — the essential personality attributes brought to the equation by each individual in attendance.

The mirror system is rigged in the roof of the space with the lights positioned all around on three sides. The 90 Pointes are divided between 75 fixtures attached to the walls on ladders and 15 on three totem trusses on the floor in the center.

This dynamic setup allowed Bauder to blend and bend the lighting in numerous different directions. He was particularly interested in the relationship between the real beams coming from the fixtures onto the mirror and the “virtual,” secondary beams being bounced between the mirror and the end points. The different resonance and quality of the beams affects the perception and, therefore, everyone’s reactions and resulting sensory experiences.

Each mirror is controlled by three winches which give seven meters of up/down movement plus pan/tilt, so they can move incredibly smoothly on X, Y and Z axes, making their kinesis three dimensional and fluid. The mirror movement is controlled via Art-Net by Kinetic Lights’ proprietary KLC software platform, and the whole system is networked.

‡‡         Leveraging Fixture Features

When it came to selecting a light source, Bauder wanted something bright, precise and intense in output. He also wanted a dynamic fixture with many options to modify the beam as well as something small and accurate in terms of cue repeatability across the vast space.

When he designed the closing party at trendy new super club Hï Ibiza last fall, he was very impressed with the Pointes that Romain Pissenem and the Hï Scream team had used for the season. So when the Kraftwerk installation project started to evolve, this was his number one choice of beam light. “In addition to the accuracy of the lighting cues, we needed a light with highly calibrated colors that matched perfectly,” Bauder says. “It had to be quick moving, easy to handle and program and be readily available. That, and the crispness and clarity of the light emitted by the Pointe, made it perfect for this installation.”

The frost and the strobing function, with its adjustable frame rate, are also present in Skalar, and in fact, most of the functions of the Pointes are utilized across the looped Skalar show plus the four special concerts. You can even spot some gobos in there – although they are not used in the conventional way, but instead, more “incidentally” to create volume in the space.

The DMX data signals of the Pointes are converted from Art-Net and integrated into the KLC computer, where Bauder and his team programmed a series of lighting treatments — from being heart-opening, playful, joyful on one end of the scale to dark, fragmented and angry on the other. That range of emotive lighting is rendered as cues in real-time during playback, triggered by MIDI keys from the Ableton Live system running the master track.

‡‡         Looped and Live Shows

A storyline for the main 45-minute looped show moves through multiple textures and grades of emotional engagement. Only four of the eight emotions are actually involved in this show at any one time, and they are expressed in changes, lifts, drops and intensity shifts in the melody.

During the exhibition, Bauder and Letellier also performed four special Skalar live shows where they are manipulating the sounds and visuals. These performances are more intense and use the expanded range of all eight emotions and the associated lighting and sound treatments.

The results have been overwhelming. News of the installation initially spread virally via social media and word-of-mouth both internationally and locally around the city — a communication MO that appealed greatly to Bauder’s underground performance roots — and have also received plenty of attention in the mainstream media as people have flocked to Kraftwerk to experience the show which runs daily, sometimes for up to 10 hours.

The concerts all sold out, and Skalar served as another expression of the way light can be used to communicate positively with people in an entertaining, if slightly abstract, way.

Rental company Motion from Feurth supplied the 90 Pointes to Kinetic Lights. Germany-based Look Solutions provided the hazers, and the powerful L-Acoustics KARA/ARCS sound system came from Complete Audio. The roof flying detail was completed by Kraftwerk house riggers Satis & Fy, and the trussing to support the winch system was sourced from Lichtblick in Berlin.

With Skalar being such a success, Bauder would love to tour the work internationally, and he’s not daunted at all by the prospect of scouring the world for awesome industrial spaces in which to present it; in fact, that would be just one of many elements he’d relish in sharing with a wider audience.

‡‡         A Prolific Artist/Designer

Bauder studied visual design at the Berlin University of the Arts, and is a prolific artist, designer and engineer working in the fields of light and installation art, media design and scenography. He focuses on the translation of bits and bytes into objects and environments, and vice versa. Space, objects, sound, light and interaction are key elements of his work. In 2004 he founded multi-disciplinary art and design studio WHITEvoid, which specializes in interactivity, media, interior architecture and electronic engineering.

Bauder’s work has been seen at many international events and spaces worldwide, including the Pompidou Centre in Paris, Mutek Montreal, the Fete des Lumieres in Lyon, The National Museum of Fine Arts in Taiwan and the National Centre for the Performing Arts in Beijing.

He is particularly well known for his city-wide light art installation, Lichtgrenze, which lit up Berlin with 8,000 light balloons in 2014, on the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. That project, completed with Christopher Bauder’s brother, Marc, used helium filled light-balloons to map out 15 kilometers of the wall’s former footprint through the city. The balloons were then released in a choreographed sequence to celebrate freedom, unity and the power of human spirit.

For more information on Scalar, please visit www.whitevoid.com.

 

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