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Thursday, October 2, 2014

BAM Blog Questionnaire: Julius von Bismarck of QUANTUM

Julius von Bismarck is a German artist known for harnessing technology in creative and thought-provoking ways. He has quickly gained attention for engaging art in public spaces, and won the top prize at the Ars Electronica festival in 2008 for a device he called the Image Fulgurator, a hacked camera that injected stealth images into other people’s photos. For Public Face I, he mounted a giant neon smiley face in Berlin that changed expressions based on an estimate of the city’s mood, drawn from algorithms that analyzed people's faces on the street.

In 2012, von Bismarck took part in Collide@CERN, a two-month artist residency at the CERN particle physics lab in Geneva, where he worked with theoretical physicist James Wells on his lumino-kinetic installation Versuch Unter Kreisen. Choreographer Gilles Jobin was also a resident artist at CERN at the time and collaborated with von Bismarck on QUANTUM (at BAM Fisher Oct 2—4), in which the lumino-kinetic installation interacts with the choreography.

Julius von Bismarck and Gilles Jobin by Grégory Batardon



How did you get involved with CERN?   

I heard about an open call for an artist in residence at CERN—while I was reading about it I knew that was going to apply.

What was the collaboration with Gilles Jobin like? Is this your first time working with a choreographer?

Yes, it is the first time for me to work with a choreographer, but I have worked with people from other fields of visual arts before and have always enjoyed it a lot, because it is the only way to get introduced into a complete different media and way of working, without changing your profession yourself. With Gilles it was very easy to work together, as we share a lot of the same interests.

Can you describe the lumino-kinetic installation and how it works in relationship to the dancers?

In the show there are moving dancers and moving lights. The lights follow precisely defined traces—the dancers follow a choreography. There are these two systems—sometimes it seems like the lights are influencing the dancers, sometimes the harmonic moves of the lights become more chaotic and hectic, seemingly stirred by the dancers. It is impossible to say what was first or who is guiding whom. You always think you understand the rules or law behind the movement after a while, but then it is already changing to another pattern.

QUANTUM by Grégory Batardon

How were you inspired to create it?

I don't remember, but I probably had a similar idea a long time ago and wrote it down. Then, while I was at CERN I went through my notes and got inspired by it. That’s normally how I make things; ideas need some time and a change of context to develop.

Which artist do you admire from a field other than your own?

Ah now I actually remember what inspired me in the first place to develop a piece dealing with interferences: the composer Steve Reich—his music influenced me definitely!

What's the biggest risk you've taken?

Well, actually everything I do is quite risky. My works are quite expensive to realize; I often have to cover the costs myself and then get the money back a couple of years later …if the piece was successful. As an artist you are always the one that has to take the risk. And then there are these other risks. For example, getting arrested for doing something I believe is important to do, but other people think is a crime. I have quite some trouble with this as you never know before what's going to happen. I got arrested on Liberty Island while I was doing a performance (for "possession of a weapon"), but luckily I am still allowed to come to the US.

Any advice you've gotten and ignored?

Yes, of course—a lot! Especially as teenager.

What are you looking forward to most about the run at BAM?

Since I know the piece already, I'm hoping to meeting interesting new people. But I am also looking forward to hanging out with Gilles and the dancers.

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