Light is the primary tool for seeing matter and experiencing the universe. Light is also the basic need for human existence, and it is how and where we use it - determines what reality we create for ourselves.
Christopher Gabriel and Arnout Hulskamp see the world in their own light, literally, because they engineer tools for projecting the electromagnetic spectrum on what they find beautiful. Music interfering with light is the essence of their performance, because it is the rhythm and melody that make their light creation organic and animate.
Atoms start bonding and things start making sense when you meet people who see the reality similarly to you. This is how these two guys became Children of the Light and how they later on connected with Darkside and HOWLING.
In the Blitzkickers feature the light artists become the main film characters, with Frank Wiedemann and Ry X telling us of how the commitment and creativity of these visionaries reflect on their common project.
Anna Bogomolova: You call yourself Children of the Light in opposition to darkness.
Children of the Light: As artists we play a lot with the opposition between the forces of light and darkness. As positive grown ups we try to have fun in the process and at our workspace. It’s a serious workplace, but there is a lot of action and liveliness around it. Children and chickens are running outside and now and then coming to our window to say hello. Being playful, childlike and naive is essential for us as artists.
Though being artists is also the grown-ups business…
That’s true. Like most artists we are 90% busy with “managing” to make things happen. There is only 10% when we actually think and talk to let ideas come, sketch things, etc.
Good thing is that we are together. So we always watch the balance. One of us can drift away from reality and ignore the constraints of the budget or time frame. Then the other naturally thinks practical in terms of logistics; for instance, besides the costs of the installation, you also need to think of the weight and the way to ship it.
A lot comes down to practicality.
Totally. We also realise that we cannot do everything ourselves. Probably it also relates to being grown-ups. We teamed up with Simon Downing as a manager who helps us with collaborations. He is also from the music industry, running own label Audio Culture. Danielle Boelling helps us immensely by facilitating funding grants to execute our artistic projects. We also collaborate with architects, engineers, product designers and light operators; like most of the art, ours has practical sides too.
How did you meet and for how long have you known each other?
We have so much in common, so it feels like we know each other for ages. In fact, just since 2012.
Our encounter actually started with a coalition, a mini big bang if you like. We were both residents at the Trouw club in Amsterdam. Christopher was creating analogue slide/dia- and video projections for an Audio Culture event at Trouw, which took him two weeks to prepare for… and Arnout was VJ-ing on a massive installation, which happened to be placed in the way of projections and made them nearly impossible. It wasn’t our fault anyway, and now we call it our first encounter.
Shortly after that Christopher was asked to do an identity design for a ensemble. He came to check out the rehearsal and it was Arnout who opened the door. This was when we got to know each other better and discover similarities in our vision and aesthetics.
Since 2012… it is enough time to reflect on the effect you have on each other…
It really feels like looking into a mirror, which is truly fascinating. You get an extra version of yourself. Together we feel as three. It feels like we can conquer the world.
That’s a great reflection! As great as your mirror installation during the Darkside show.
It was indeed a special collaboration with Nicolas Jaar and Dave Harrington on their Darkside show at Concertgebouw in Amsterdam. People in the audience were sited 360 degrees around the stage. And the central part of the stage was our installation — a large turning dual sided mirror, used for live video mapping. It was 1 cm thick and 2 m wide (watch the video).
We used two projectors for each side of the mirror. We placed a sensor to detect the position of mirrors at any time and map the projections to create an effect of a black hole or an eclipse. Some would say a wormhole or a portal — it was like cracking through to another dimension. Of course when we would project on the mirror, the effect would reflect on the other side of the concert hall and be seen by the audience in front. So the band and the audience would see two different things. But also the same thing at different times — a parallel experience.
We look at the light as an instrument and it can support the band, but it also can take over and live its own life. When we meet the band or collaborators, we I think we are same to them, we are invisible band members, yet very visible too.
Frank Wiedemann already told us that he was a fan of your installations from the time of Trouw and after seeing Darkside at Concertgebouw he wanted to collaborate with you on HOWLING…
We really like cross over music where two or more genres meet. With Darkside it was jazz and techno. With HOWLING it is folk of Ry X and techno of Frank Wiedemann. It is a new interesting combination. In our light concept we tried to incorporate those two influences visually. Sometimes it is really 'techno'; cold, hard and fast. Sometimes it is really warm and organic. Also analog elements combined with high tech stuff — we like that cross over and what happens in between.
It brings us to what we started with — the light and the darkness. With HOWLING it is the soft and the hard. The hard daylight and the soft warm folkish campfire light. We used the warmth of copper and brass for the folk influence. And the more coldish, modern white light from the LED for the techno side of HOWLING.
Could you tell a little more behind the concept of the installation?
They name themselves HOWLING. What does HOWLING mean and what does it say? It is something that reaches out, from an animal’s “howl” to a megaphone, it is an urge to reach out to communicate. It made us think of the Russian constructivist posters. We decided to focus on the outline that defines a perspective. Four minimal lines which would create a sort of horizon at one moment and at another moment transform into a hypnotic tunnel. When someone wants to say something, or wants something off their chest they scream it out. At the other instance you can drive towards it.
If you have a horizon, you need a parameter. So let’s say you’re near the sea, then you have lighthouses. Lighthouses are rotating to give you a signal and a relation of distance. Together with Arnout’s brother, Ivo Hulskamp, we created three mini (intelligent) lighthouses and programmed them with different behaviours. Sometimes they rotate the same pace and another time they can have their own rhythm too. We call them "Howlers", they are almost band members.
When you have the organic howlers next to the techno horizon of the LED, the sun is missing. We decided to use a very strong film lamp that would pulsate through the concert and give depth, a focal point to the ‘landscape’.
Every project brings some challenges... What was it for you?
We like to come up with certain rules to limit ourselves. People would say ‘With coloured LED the possibilities are endless”. But we actually like to restrict ourselves and see how we can push the boundaries as far as possible within the least possibilities. That also adds to the character of the performance. We started with two opposites — the warm and the cold, the systematic and the natural organic movement. Simple rules along the process allow us to discover the new.
a music and light film by Blitzkickers
directed by Anna Bogomolova
camera & edit by Dammes Kieft