Carsten Nicolai: Future Past Perfect

An Artist's HD Vision of Life Above the Clouds

Conceived from an ongoing fascination with the motions and textures of clouds, this short film by Carsten Nicolai is the result of 12 years of footage taken during commercial flights. During this period he has taken over 3,000 photographs and created original compositions to accompany the images. “One of my biggest inspirations is nature,” says Nicolai.  “I am very interested in natural science and models that try to help us understand what we are surrounded by.” Originally trained as a landscape architect, the Berlin-based artist’s creative process evolved to involve science, technology and sound, and has seen him exhibit in the likes of Pace and MoMA, as well as become a legend among techno-heads under his alias Alvo Noto and as part of the maverick electronic duo Diamond Version with Byetone. Today’s short inspired Skywalk, the first Closed capsule collection from conceptual designer, Kostas Murkudis. As Nicolai’s large-scale film project forms part of this week’s Art Basel film program, we asked him to sit down with fellow Berliner Murkudis to talk synesthesia, nature and flight tags. 

Carsten Nicolai: We have known and followed each other’s work for quite some time now. If there are options to connect our work, we take chances and try to emphasize each other’s work but at the same time mark our close relation.

Kostas Murkudis: We talk a lot about concepts and how we see the development of the world around us. It’s this mix of things, the serious and the jovial, which leads to results.

CN: Exactly. More than ten years ago I started to engage myself with micro and macro structures and their visual manifestations. I had already used a ready-made object called cloud chamber for an exhibition in Tokyo and I looked for a macroscopic equivalent. During this period I experienced a very homogeneous cloud 'landscape' during a flight to Italy and I photographed it. This series of photographs was the starting point of a long and continuous project of filming and taking photos of these kinds of stratus clouds. 

KM: You want to create a context. This context exists prior to the creation of clothes as much as in their presentation. I often have ideas for projects I want to conduct outside fashion and more and more so, I am able to do this, so I also create my own context. This is really wonderful. What science is to you, the raw, initial material is to me. We have a similar sensuality; our approach to the essence of our respective discipline is similar. Your work, like mine, is reduced to the necessary and yet complex. Sometimes we just joke around, we find things on the street or in a magazine, which we pick at random and use: once it was a number on a flight tag.

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