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Transmediale/CTM interview: Robert Henke

Just two more days until Transmediale and CTM come to a close with Robert Henke's "Lumiere". Read our interview with the Berlin electronic music luminary before experiencing the laser-packed performance at HKW on Sun, Feb 2 at 9:30pm.

Image for Transmediale/CTM interview: Robert Henke
Photo by Robert Henke

This Sunday, the Transmediale/CTM digital art and music explosion closes out with Robert Henke’s laser-tastic Lumiére, presented at HKW at 9:30pm. Fridey Mickel got the chance to talk to the Berlin electronic music icon.

Like a modern version of the laser shows of our teenage years, Lumiére offers a fusion of laser visuals and electronic sounds to make up a wonderful symphony for the senses.

Lumiére explores space, both virtual and physical, the laser beams projecting seemingly simple shapes like circles and digits dancing across a huge screen to a soundtrack of multiple-channel audio on the edge of contemporary club culture. The laser machines are run from computer programs he designs himself. A worshiped member of the electronic scene, Henke is best known for the long-term musical project Monolake, one of the key icons of the new club culture that emerged in post-Wall Berlin in 1995. The core of Henke’s work focuses on the beauty of technical objects.

You’re practically a demigod in the electronic music scene. How do you want to be presented?

I think as a curious human being who is trying to make sense out of all this stuff. The curiosity is the most important part for me. That’s the reason why I do it. I want to figure out things. I want to figure out what I can do with this stuff.

Is there still stuff for you to figure out?

My working method is that I want to understand the technology; I want to dive really deep into my tools. Everything you see here is the result of myself working on this project for over a year, and really understanding the details of everything. As much as I am happy with what I see here, I also admire those (laser) machines, which for me are pieces of art. The machines are beautiful and allow me to interact with it in a way that is beautiful for me. It’s a dialogue between these machines and me.

I don’t know how to a laser machine works, but it seems so simple at first. Your eyes slowly adjust to all the details projected into the manifested shapes…

Everything you see, all the complex shapes, is nothing but one beam of light moving. The principle is really amazing. When you see a circle, it seems to be a very basic thing. But there is just one beam of light in this machine, so in order to draw the circle, I need to move two mirrors to make the image. And then move them so fast you don’t see them anymore.

And the faster it moves, the more solid it is…

Yes. If I make the movements slower, you suddenly notice that it’s moving, and if I make it much slower, you see the circle as just one beam of light. I find this absolutely amazing.

Where do you see yourself moving with this in the future?

My vision for the next few years is to use the experience I gain from this project and continue working on it. So it’s not Oh, Lumiére” and it’s finished. No, after the presentation at HKW and another three, four, five shows I go back to a rehearsal stage for two weeks and I try to improve it and try to find new shapes. I am always finding new shapes and new details. For instance, right now, with these connections, it looks great. This is a shape I would immediately make part of my next show. Because I like it.