Carsten Nicolai, unitxt. / Chromatologies.

Last week I went to the opening of Chromatologies, a new digital art/music festival curated by .snd in Rotherham. I’ve never been to that part of South Yorkshire before, it always seemed rough as hell. It is. The first thing you will see after arriving in Rotherham Central train station is a disused nightclub. A disused boat that hosts a disused nightclub.

I was nervous heading into Rotherham, and rounded up the muscle of a contemporary artist. Someone who could help me if hands were scrunched and shoulders haunched.

A short walk and we arrived at Rotherham Central Library & Arts Centre:

A massive slab of Brutalist architecture in a spill-over town that has been around since the Medieval period. Really. These places are in every run-down town across the country. Purpose built spaces for the depressed natives to get their culture, if they want to.

The brute above hosted the Carsten Nicolai installation in its bowels. I vaguely knew what to expect, having done brief YouTube research: minimalist computer-based visuals with very hard algorithmic electronic music. Mostly beats and pulses.

Here is a piece by Nicolai from Sheffield’s own Lovebytes festival (2003):

I like the above piece. I enjoy it when sound and vision are interlocked and relative to each other. The installation at Chromatologies was in the same vein, but so much better. I’ve seen enough digital art and heard enough modern electronic composition to know what I do and don’t like. I’ve read too much of The Wire, but still don’t have the vocabulary for criticising this stuff. That’s probably best.

Taking your shoes off, you walk into a purpose-built white box in the middle of the room. Take a seat on the white bench. Mirrored walls to your right and left, one dead ahead with a projection on:

The strips of colour are constantly changing, based on a Max/MSP patched audio loop and pushed through the video’s RGB. It’s like watching a city’s lights as you fly past in a train. Here is a long-exposure photograph I took of a city’s lights as I flew past in a train:
Long exposure / Taxi / Nørrebro » Vesterbrø

The changing colours occupy your entire field of vision, your periphery is dominated by the mirrors on either wall extending and diminishing the image. The more you stare, the more tired your eyes get.

They relax and suddenly you slide under the glass: the three walls cease to exist and your entire visual field is occupied by these shifting images. It’s the best Magic Eye I ever experienced. Transcendent. Musically, it’s not the most amazing piece. It’s pretty good, but nothing too new. It sounded like this.

I drank some tart wine, had cheese on a cracker, said hellos, goodbyes and jumped in a car back to Sheffield.

It is well worth experiencing, and runs until 2nd October. There are a lot of excellent things coming up at Chromatologies over the next month. I intend to go to Rotherham again and encourage other people to.


8 thoughts on “Carsten Nicolai, unitxt. / Chromatologies.

  1. Tweets that mention Carsten Nicolai, unitxt. / Chromatologies. « Mount Analogue --

  2. Very nice. Think I’ll head over, I spent many an hour in Rotherham library as a teen (yes, really) and it’d be good to go back for something other than nostalgia. I like the picture you took, it’s like a digital cross section of the Earth. Sea to core.

  3. There’s nothing to be afraid of in Rotherham. Try the Bridge, the nearest pub to the train station. Very progressive music pub full of young people and good beer. They’ll even probably do you a cuppa if you like. I understand people even come from Sheffield for the bands there.

    For a cuppa the cafe in the arts centre is great and does a marvellous fry up and the cafes in the indoor market will do you a builders strength tea also.

    There’s also a superb Italian restaurant called E’Lupo about five minutes walk from the Arts Centre.

    It’s far from sophisticated but progress is happening. Just slowly because people are skint.


    • It’s not a real fear. It’s just a mild fear of the unknown, and walking into a town at drinking time on a Friday night. I’ll be back.

  4. dont be scared about coming to rotherham, its actually a pretty safe place. probably less street violence than most places i know. also the arts centre architecture is utterly amazing i think. the interior spaces are brilliant. shame they are going to demolish it i think.

    • I agree, the Arts Centre is amazing. I forgot to get a photograph of the entrance, which is suitably chunky and hard with imagined turrets. I still miss the egg-box building in Sheffield so it would be a great shame to tear something like that down.

      I got over my pointless fear of Rotherham and am aiming to make at least the defunct school show. (Impossibly tied on the 24th otherwise I’d be at CM von Hausswolff in a flash).

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