polar [m]

YCAM Center, Yamaguchi, Japan
13 November 2010 – 06 February 2011

If polar, that we have created in the year 2000 was concerned with the notion of the networks as an intelligent matrix, not unlike the matrix of cogintion of the Solaris*1 ocean and our interaction with them, the polarm landscape questions the relevance of the viewer, her/his existence within the space and her/his influence on it. the focus is on the work of art as an autonomous construction in a much larger, to a certain degree infinite structure enveloped in a radiating particles ocean.

Electromagnetic and visual radiance together with α, β, and γ radiation are the dynamic triggers of the polarm algorithms that sonify and visualise the measurements transmitted from the observatoria and instruments present in the landscape (Geiger counters, cloud chamber, high frequency receivers, granite radiation generators).

Perceptually immaterial processes of nature, both man made and cosmic on the micro and macro levels are projected onto a temporal human perception scale.

What we are asking the visitors is to question the edges of perception, to reflect the uncertainty principle and quantum relations in this system of systems, to test its limits and to generate new meaning and new relations through mere observation.

Carsten Nicolai + Marko Peljhan

*1 Solaris (1961), a novel by polish science fiction writer Stanislaw Lem. Solaris (1972), a film by Russian director Andrei Tarkovsky.


Arranged in the exhibition space are several devices related to radiation and electromagnetic waves, and in the back, two cubic structures measuring 7 x 7 meters in width and 4 meters in height. They function as self-sustaining creation systems, and illustrate the phenomenon of earth and cosmic radioactivity and electromagnetic waves, both man made and natural. The spatial transformations manifested in elaborate motion graphics and sounds disclose new views of earth and cosmic radiation and radiance data.

Invisible data made perceptible with devices related to radiation and electromagnetism

Placed in front of the cubes are so called observatoria, a set of 5 Geiger counters, three high-frequency receivers (receiving electromagnetic waves in the high frequency spectrum 0.1MHz – 30MHz), radiation generators in the form of a robotic arm that senses natural radiation from granite stones and whose behavior is determined by the measurements, and a cloud chamber (a physics device for visualizing radiation). The Geiger counters measure the level of radiation inside the venue and generated from the rocks, in response to which the robotic arm determines its movement and investigatory behavior. The cosmic, earth and granite generated radiation patterns are also visible in the cloud chamber. These interconnected devices work together as a system of systems that allows us to experience the characteristics and sequences of radioactive particles and electromagnetic waves through algorithms that are designed to drive the radiant and sonic events inside the cubes.

Two symmetrically interacting structures: The installation’s central elements and their question to the visitor

Two cube-shaped structures are arranged symmetrically on the left and right side. Visitors can enter one of them, while the other is completely enclosed by a projection membrane and cannot be entered. The latter, A’, is a mirror image of the former, A, where both interfere with each other while constantly striving to achieve a state of balance. Each of the two structures is flooded with images and sounds that ceaselessly transform in an elaborate, dynamic fashion, creating a relationship between the two cubes. But why are there two symmetrically interacting cubes? This is the question the artists ask the visitor and is the central theme of this exhibition.

Like its predecessor project, polar, that was created at the Canon Artlab in Tokyo in 2000 and that won the Prix Ars Electronica for Interactive Art in 2001, polar m [mirrored] was created by the German artist Carsten Nicolai and the Slovenian artist Marko Peljhan. The exhibition is curated by Yukiko Shikata (guest curator) and Kazunao Abe (YCAM).


Carsten Nicolai & Marko Peljhan: polarm [mirrored], 2010

Produced by: Yamaguchi Center for Arts and Media YCAM
Curated by: Yukiko Shikata & Kazunao Abe (YCAM)
Concept, setup and system: Carsten Nicolai & Marko Peljhan
Sound design and programming: nibo & Carsten Nicolai
Robotics and sensorics: Danny Bazo (MAT, UC Santa Barbara)
Visual programming: Wesley Smith (MAT, UC Santa Barbara)
Architecture and hardware: Rob Feigel Office, Vorschub, Projekt Atol & C-Astral Ltd.
Production support: Daniel Klemm, nibo, Media Arts and Technology program UCSB & Zavod Projekt Atol
Sponsor: Shiseido

Supported by Yamaguchi City Foundation for Cultural Promotion in association with the Yamaguchi city board of education, Ministry of Culture (Slovenia), University of California Institute for Research in the Arts – Integrative Methodologies.


Carsten Nicolai (1965) is an artist and musician based in Berlin. He is part of an artist generation who works intensively in the transitional area between music, art and science. In his work he seeks to overcome the separation of the sensory perceptions of man by making scientific phenomena like sound and light frequencies perceivable for both eyes and ears. Influenced by scientific reference systems, Nicolai often engages mathematic patterns such as grids and codes, as well as error, random and self-organizing structures. After his participation in important international exhibitions like documenta x and the 49th and 50th Venice Biennale, Nicolai’s works were shown worldwide in extensive solo and group exhibitions.

His artistic œuvre echoes in his work as a musician. For his musical outputs he uses the pseudonym alva noto. With a strong adherence to reductionism he leads his sound experiments into the field of electronic music creating his own code of signs, acoustics and visual symbols. Together with Olaf Bender and Frank Bretschneider he is co-founder of the label ‘raster-noton. archiv für ton und nichtton’. Diverse musical projects include remarkable collaborations with Ryuichi Sakamoto, Ryoji Ikeda (cyclo.), Blixa Bargeld or Mika Vainio. Among others, Nicolai performed at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York, the San Francisco Museum of Modern art, Centre Pompidou and Tate Modern. Nicolai scored the music for Alejandro González Iñárritu’s ‘the revenant’ which has been nominated for a Golden Globe, Bafta, and Critics Choice Award.

Carsten Nicolai

Marko Peljhan is a theatre and radio director, conceptual artist and researcher. He founded and co- founded several still active arts organizations in the 90’s such as Projekt Atol and one of the first media labs in Eastern Europe LJUDMILA. From 1994 on he worked on Makrolab, a project that focuses on telecommunications, migrations and weather systems research in an intersection of art/science/engineering; the Interpolar Transnational Art Science Constellation and the Arctic Perspective Initiative. He is the recipient of many prizes for his work, including the 2001 Golden Nica Prize at Ars Electronica with Carsten Nicolai and his work has been exhibited internationally at multiple biennales (Venice, Lyon, Istanbul, Gwangju…) and festivals, at documenta, ISEA, Ars Electronica and museums and art institutions worldwide (YCAM, ICC-NT, PS.1. MOMA, GARAGE…).

He serves as professor and director of the MAT Systemics Lab at the University of California Santa Barbara, the Chair of the Media Arts and Technology program at UCSB, the coordinator of international cooperation of the SPACE-SI Slovenian Centre for Space Sciences and Technologies and editor at large of the music label rx:tx. In the radio spectrum he is known as S54MX.

Marko Peljhan