Christina Kubisch

'What I like best are the twilight times of dawn and dusk ? the "interim periods" that seem so timeless that anything can become possible.'

(Christina Kubisch)


Born in Bremen in 1948, this musician, composer and visual artist was among the leading figures who combined visual and acoustical elements in time- and location-specific works during the 1970s and 1980s, thereby exerting a formative impact on the evolution of 'Klangkunst' in Germany. Many of these artists were initially active in performance art ? as was Christina Kubisch herself. After studying painting in Stuttgart and music in Hamburg and Graz she continued her studies of music and art in Zurich. In 1974 she moved to Milan, where she studied composition and electronic music with Franco Donatoni at the Conservatory. All these years were accompanied by a deep confrontation with traditional concepts of art and a constant search for new modes of expression.


From performance to sound-art

In the 1970s Kubisch composed pieces that not only critiqued traditional modes of musical performance but created entirely new sounds or interactions. One such piece was Identikit (1974), a divertimento for five pianists and pre-recorded tape in which pre-set rhythms were conveyed separately via headphones to the pianists seated at a piano. The acoustical performance instruction and the 'isolation' of the players formed the preconditions for their joint performance. In Emergency Solos (1975) Kubisch played the flute and other instruments with boxing gloves, gas mask and thimbles. Concert tours, artistic friendships and a meeting with John Cage formed way-stations on a career that soon transcended the boundary between music and the visual arts. At the latest it was Fabricio Plessi's video performances (1974-80) that induced her to attempt another level of musical 'abstraction', an open-ended experiment with concrete material. Form, colour and light, sound, space and time: all these parameters had to be redefined. Kubisch withdrew from the performance arena and focused her work on the sensory faculties of the listener and observer. To implement her artistic ideas, she became familiar with the latest advances in technology and studied electronics at Milan Institute of Technology. Around 1980 she began to create her first sound-art pieces, sound-sculptures, light spaces and electronic compositions.


Sound-spaces ? Works with electromagnetic induction

Kubisch needs 'open spaces': time-frames, interims, elbow room, architectural rooms, interior and exterior spaces, musical spaces, room for perception, association and impact, historical or present-day locations, situations and conditions. 'Space' is complex and multifarious in its many manifestations. Kubisch enters these 'spaces' and turns them into the protagonists of her works. Even her earliest installations made use of electromagnetic induction to create sound-spaces beyond the realm of acoustical reality, spaces in which listeners can move freely and which they themselves can shape. Electric cables, suspended in space and emitting sounds or snippets of music, generate interlocking electromagnetic fields. Specially developed receivers make it possible to hear these sounds, which overlap, drown out, isolate, reappear and vanish depending on the position and movements of the listener. The first such receivers were 'Kubisch Cubes' with loudspeakers held close to the ears. Later Kubisch developed cordless headphones allowing spectators to walk through her installations. Many of her sound installations since the 1980s have been based on this technological system. Modes of performance and types of sounds and sound-spaces form her 'compositions', which she invents afresh for each new venue, whether cellar vaults in Iter Magneticum for the Galerie Giannozzo in Berlin (1986), an underground garage in KlangFlussLichtQuelle for the Klangkunst Forum in Kolonnaden Park, Berlin (1999), open public areas in Electrical Walks (since 2003) or nature in Magnetischer Wald ('Magnetic forest', 1983).


LightTraces ? Works with luminescence

Kubisch often chooses unusual sites for her works ? dark, abandoned, empty or 'timeless' locations. There she searches for lost traces and grasps the defining features of the given locale. Using minimum resources and focusing on very few elements, she then creates an atmosphere in which the site enters what might be called a new and artificial temporal flux that impressively illustrates its history and recalls its former function. Minimalist sounds with a natural impetus, together with ultra-violet light and fluorescent colours and pigments, allow her to focus her 'gaze' and to bring out things that would otherwise remain hidden. What they reveal are 'light-traces' ? living traces and 'rhythms'. Old layers of dust, paint and debris become visible along with architectural structures and spatial proportions, as in consecutio temporum, held at various locations since 1993.

Since the mid-1980s Kubisch has used luminescence, 'cold light', as a creative resource. Her works with electromagnetic induction now took advantage of fluorescent devices to make cable tensions visible or to outline the architecture. Soon she began to include 'open-ended' sounds or loudspeakers. The result was her first 'sound-fields', usually with loudspeaker stands arranged as self-contained ensembles in darkened rooms, covered with fluorescent pigment and frequently playing sequences of bell-like sounds specially composed for the venue, as in Diapason for the Singuhr Hörgalerie in Berlin (2002). The clear vibrations of the bright, crystalline sounds superbly match the floating glow of the fluorescent light, often creating a magical impression and a feeling of timelessness.


Interim periods

Kubisch's work is of international stature. She has received many grants, prizes and visiting professorships at various universities. Since 1994 she has been professor of audio-visual art at the Saar School of the Visual Arts in Saarbrücken. She can be described as exemplifying a 'synthesis of the arts'. Her works are distinguished by the creation of new sound-spaces, the integration of time in the visual arts and an open-minded approach to material and form. It is no accident that they are often compared to German Romanticism, a period during which the utopian ideal of a Gesamtkunstwerk first brought forth 'interdisciplinary' projects. Moonlight, the cold light of darkness and the 'interim periods' of dawn and dusk are among her favourite motifs. The rhythm of nature ('the "interim periods" that seem so timeless') often form a substantive part of her sound sculptures and installations. In the 1990s, for example, she developed solar-driven techniques that influence the sounds and their sequence depending on the incidence of light, as in The True & The False for Tochoji Temple in Tokyo (1992) or 12 Klänge und ein Baum ('Twelve sounds and a tree') for the Berlin Academy of the Arts (1994). Her works for outdoor locations offer a fascinating dialogue between art and nature, electronic sounds and the sounds of the natural environment. Here Kubisch creates a framework in which, indeed, 'anything can become possible'.


Melanie Uerlings


produced by

Deutscher Musikrat gemeinnützige Projekt-
gesellschaft mbH


Zeitgenössische Musik

Weberstraße 59, 53113 Bonn

P 02 28 - 20 91 170
F 02 28 - 20 91 200

curators of the exhibition

Stefan Fricke,

Johannes S. Sistermanns