Carsten Nicolai's crt mgn Explores The Invisible Using TVs And Magnets

The German artist's latest work visualizes the magnetic field.

German artist Carsten Nicolai's work often involves mathematical patterns and phenomena. In new work crt mgn showing at the EIGEN + ART gallery in Berlin he uses cathode ray TVs and pendulums to visualize the magnetic field—something which is usually invisible to human perception. 

The work features four neon tubes mounted on a wall, whose light is recorded by a camera and transmitted onto two TVs. The image this produces is then distorted by a magnet attached to a pendulum, moving over the screens to create interference and make manifest the mysterious presence of the magnetic field. You can also hear the fluctuations of the field in the space, as they're transformed into audio signals. Some of the images were also documented (see below) to collect in an archive.

Nicolai cites the main inspiration for the installation as Nam June Paik and specifically his piece Magnet TV, which involved putting a magnet on top of a TV to distort the image. The simplicity of the idea, along with the ghostly beauty of the images, is what appealed to Nicolai. He first explored the idea in a performance in Japan in 2006 for a memorial night dedicated to Paik a few months after his death. The performance involved putting a strong magnet on top of a TV hooked up to speaker to manipulate the magnetic field, which created both visuals and a low hum. This eventually evolved into crt mgn. Adding in the pendulum allowed the artist to involve another unseen force: gravity. 

Nicolai sees the piece as almost a "thank you" to Paik, a nod to his trailblazing and visionary ways with regards technology and art, as well an acknowledgement of their shared ideas and values.

Learn more about Nicolai and his work in our short doc, below...

Photos courtesy of Carsten Nicolai