German artist Mischa Kuball recreated the universe with a light installation
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German artist Mischa Kuball recreated the universe with a light installation

STIR speaks to the German artist about five planets, his recent light installation that represented the universe at the Museum der Moderne Salzburg, Austria.

by Sukanya Garg Oct 23, 2019

German artist Mischa Kuball works with light as a medium to explore architectural spaces and the socio-political discourses around public and institutional spheres. His immersive light installation five planets was recently presented by the Museum der Moderne Salzburg in Austria for the ORF Lange Nacht der Museen, from October 4-6, 2019.

Five rotating disco lights representing the planets of our solar system reflected light projected onto them across the space the installation was displayed in. The result was a tryst with the cosmos, pushing the audience outside of their individual consciousness stream into an experience of universality, both on the physical and metaphysical levels. The installation was visited by thousands of people in its short duration of display.

Here, STIR gets in conversation with the artist…

Mischa Kuball, five planets, Museum der Moderne Salzburg, Austria, installation shot 2 | Five Planets | Mischa Kuball | STIRworld
Mischa Kuball, five planets, Museum der Moderne Salzburg, Austria, installation shot 2 Image Credit: Kai Kuss, Salzburg, Austria; courtesy Daniel Marzona, Berlin, Germany

Sukanya Garg (SG): Why “five” planets?

Mischa Kuball (MK): Five is a selection of a countless number of planets - the selection of five - just as Mars, Saturn, Venus, Mercury and Jupiter are representing a pars pro Toto universe. It’s creating a reference system, also the number five representing power, in this case the ‘power’ of observation and interpretation.

Mischa Kuball, five planets, Museum der Moderne Salzburg, Austria, installation shot 3 | Five Planets | Mischa Kuball | STIRworld
Mischa Kuball, five planets, Museum der Moderne Salzburg, Austria, installation shot 3 Image Credit: Kai Kuss, Salzburg, Austria; courtesy Daniel Marzona, Berlin, Germany

SG: Your works evoke feelings that often oscillate between emptiness and immersion. What response did this work evoke amongst the viewers? How was it different from the response to other light projection works?

MK: In this particular installation, most people experience moments of vertigo and disorientation in the first place - the speed and rotation of legible letters are overwhelming. My first installation of the German word ‘fragen’ (ask), when it was shown in Korea and Japan, caused some injuries, some people fell on their knees. For me it is about creating an immersive space experience, which opens all minds. I heard people saying they heard sounds, but there is no sound coming with this installation.

Mischa Kuball, five planets, Museum der Moderne Salzburg, Austria, installation shot 4 | Five Planets | Mischa Kuball | STIRworld
Mischa Kuball, five planets, Museum der Moderne Salzburg, Austria, installation shot 4 Image Credit: Kai Kuss, Salzburg, Austria; courtesy Daniel Marzona, Berlin, Germany

SG: There is a feeling of other-worldliness in this installation, and also of connecting with the cosmos. What inspired you to work on this theme? What is the concept behind it?

MK: My interest and idea goes back to the holy book, as it says in the first place, there was light and there was the word, both light and logos/language are essential to us to explore and explain the world around us.

Mischa Kuball, five planets, Museum der Moderne Salzburg, Austria, installation shot 5 | Five Planets | Mischa Kuball | STIRworld
Mischa Kuball, five planets, Museum der Moderne Salzburg, Austria, installation shot 5 Image Credit: Kai Kuss, Salzburg, Austria; courtesy Daniel Marzona, Berlin, Germany

SG: Your works meld into architecture and space they are created and exhibited in. How do you develop this intimacy with the space you work with?

MK: Through the process of elaborating on this idea, I found out about the ultimate presentation of this work: avoid any rectangular structure to ignore any spatial reference system of what we know about a ‘room’ - the corona around the mirror balls creating dynamic notions to the viewer’s reception. This work interacts between human neuro-physics and what we know about space.

Mischa Kuball, five planets, Museum der Moderne Salzburg, Austria, installation shot 6 | Five Planets | Mischa Kuball | STIRworld
Mischa Kuball, five planets, Museum der Moderne Salzburg, Austria, installation shot 6 Image Credit: Kai Kuss, Salzburg, Austria; courtesy Daniel Marzona, Berlin, Germany

SG: As someone who works with light as a medium, what are some key aspects of light that you play with, whether it is in terms of aesthetics, process, installation, or perception that you play with? Could you explain the creative process of working with light?

MK: Since 1977, I am heavily involved with experimenting with the medium of light, but it’s not the same intention since I started to work as an artist. It’s more loaded these days, based on the fact that using light involves taking benefit from resources. It causes environmental effects. So today, to operate with this knowledge at the back of my mind, has increased my interest to also use energy-friendly sources or even establish a closed circuit solution to run a light installation by wind power, as I did for another installation MetaLight in Wuppertal.

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About Author

Sukanya Garg

Sukanya Garg

Garg is an artist and writer with a Masters degree in Public Policy from Duke University, USA. She has been involved in research, planning and execution of gallery exhibitions and external projects in collaboration with curators. Her writing has been published in several art magazines, journals and as part of curatorial notes and catalogues, and her work has been showcased in multiple exhibitions.

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