Perceptual Mutation as Environmental Sonic Chemistry
Sabina Hyoju Ahn and Yussef Agbo-Ola
Edited by Sabina Hyoju Ahn
+42.60 is an artistic reading of an architectural project by Lucas Gutierrez and Robert Lippok. Digital artist Lucas Gutierrez and sound artist Robert Lippok imagine further mutations and transformations of a tower that used to house the former GDR graphite factory, EB Elektrokohle Lichtenberg. Parts of this building complex have already been transformed by the architect Arno Brandlhuber in collaboration with Georg Diez, Nikolai von Rosen, and Christopher Roth. Their project San Gimignano Lichtenberg converts the remaining industrial towers into studios to generate an architectural catalyst for the surrounding urban fabric.
Artwork: Lucas Gutierrez and Robert Lippok, Text: Natalie P. Koerner
Edited by Clara Jo — Jun 15, 2021
Apparently, graphite has a greasy feel. Greasy like billions of years of history, whose traces you cannot quite wash off. Graphite is literally used in lubricants. It’s one of the three most ancient minerals in the universe. Far beyond our temporal horizon, graphite emerged from the explosion cloud of a supernova or from the discarded outer layers of near-death, small- to average-sized stars. Then at some point it must have been swirling about in a giant interstellar molecular cloud out of which, following gravitational collapse, our solar system formed 4.6 billion years ago. During the Big Bang and its aftermath, graphite made its way onto Planet Earth, and more recently settled into pencils and electrodes. Under high pressure and exposure to heat, the mineral transforms into diamond. So, if some of the epic energy events that shaped our planet had mutated in slightly alternate ways, our (now) blue planet might have been – or maybe it is still becoming – a sparkling one. Or, thinking in the opposite direction of minimum pressure, it might have been an interstellar cloud.
As we traverse the tower unhindered by walls or spatial obstacles, I think of these molecular, outer-space clouds. Like here, in this point cloud, particles in interstellar clouds form clusters of higher density. These are the so-called clumps, where more dust and gas cores congregate. From the clumps, stars can form if the gravitational forces are strong enough to cause the dust and gas to collapse.
I imagine myself inside the space in these clouds. It’s moving around me, more than I’m moving through it. Sometimes the cloud is denser, like wafts of mist passing by. Maybe it’s like the weather that shifts and transforms: clouds darken the sky, and the wind picks up. A sense of foreboding. A ray of light breaks through the sticky clouds.
In space that’s like the weather, all boundaries are temporary. Configurations are infinite. Thresholds are endless. With every shift, the atmosphere adjusts, and the new situation seems unprecedented and familiar at once.
Now the soundscape changes and begins to rush through the void like a waterfall. Spatially, this tower could contain a waterfall. Around forty meters is also the height of the world’s tallest indoor waterfall at Singapore airport, the Rain Vortex. It looks like a rain hurricane stopped in its tracks, forced to stand still. The space taken up by a waterfall is as inaccessible as a void (or an empty tower), unless
you can defy gravity, like a salmon with its unstoppable reproduction instincts. For the salmon, the river is a kind of extended threshold: the ocean at one end, and at the other, the place where the salmon hatched, will spawn, and will die. It’s not a threshold that begins in one place and ends in another. Instead, it’s rather like a loop.
Similarly, as I am immersing myself further in the digital tower, I am guided along several loops–up- and downward, past coils of neon light, through foliage, and into a grassy patch with thin long leaves that emerge from the black bottom of the void in looping squiggles.
There it is, the tower object, closed up and complete, as if it were finished and final. Just like the beech leaves we encountered on our way down through the void, which were absolute and sealed, in contrast to the permeable point cloud perimeters. The tower’s inner life of light tails, surreally tall beech trees and grass breaking through mossy rock, now seems like an imaginary memory. From this new distant view, the tower might be like a ghost coagulating around a point cloud of phantom graphite particles, workers, political realities, objects we no longer know, and unimaginable energy events billions of years ago. Some of these traces leave persistent marks, like graphite powder that nestles firmly into the finest pores.
Lucas Gutierrez is a digital artist and industrial designer based in Berlin. He has been engaged in various disciplines, from lectures, workshops, and audiovisual performances to video art projects focused on digital culture’s new paradigms.
Natalie P. Koerner is a researcher and an architect based in Copenhagen. Besides running her architectural practice, she is assistant professor in architecture at Copenhagen University and the Royal Danish Academy.
Robert Lippok is a musician, visual artist, and set designer based in Berlin. Since 2017, he has taught at New York University Berlin. He is a member of the curatorial board at the Spatial Sound Institute Budapest and the Institut für Raumexperimente e.V.
© 2023 Akademie Schloss Solitude and the author