Erwin Redl / interview


[Kwon] In terms of the process of your works, it seems impossible to realize your original plan into the studio space. How do you test/develop your installation prior to the exhibition?

[Redl] We, my technical team and I, build prototypes to assess individual components of the large-scale installations in our studio. Once those prototypes are approved we either outsource the production or assemble all parts in-house. In addition to this evaluation process we use scale models, hire outside testing companies to simulate exposure to the elements (rain, snow, UV, etc) and of course 3D software to “see” the installation from all possible viewpoints under different lighting conditions.

Every production involves building small sections of a piece in real size to train the rigging crew in all aspects of a future on-site installation such as safety procedures, use of specialized tools, work flow, ergonomics and fast paced assembly routines.


[Kwon] Please tell us about the pros and cons of the quality and character of LED lights in your work.

[Redl] LEDs are the perfect match for my minimalistic aesthetic. They are durable, economic, environmentally safe and easy to engineer. Their intense monochromatic light is ideal for the structural and proportional thinking prevalent in my work. The only technical challenge with LEDs is creating evenly lit, large surfaces.


[Kwon] I'm wondering how your degree in Music influences your current work.

[Redl] Music has an enormous influence on my work which is reflected in the college education I have chosen early on. After finishing a highly specialized poly-technical high school for interior design and furniture making in Austria I’ve studied Electronic Music and Music Composition at the Academy of Music in Vienna. Only in my 30s, with a detour through my MFA Computer Art studies at School of Visual Arts in New York I started experimenting with large-scale light installation.

I am mostly drawn to composers with a large degree of structural thinking like J.S. Bach, Iannis Xenakis, John Cage, Steve Reich, Arvo Pärt and the complex polyphony of Medieval and Renaissance music. Of course, certain kinds of electronic music e.g. Kraftwerk or Ryoji Ikeda are equally important to me.

It is hard to pin down how music influences me but there are two main aspects, atmospheric and technical. When I say atmospheric I mean a specific atmosphere evoked by a specific piece of music and how to translate this atmosphere into the visual realm. On a technical level, the structural thinking in music composition, to know and feel how rhythm, harmonic and melodic intervals are organized, is extremely important and helpful in my visual work. The methods by which contrasting musical materials, texts, melodies, etc are presented meaningfully in a complex music composition are often very similar to how various visual elements are presented in a large scale installation.

At the same time the production logistics of how all the specialized trades in music such as composer, instrumentalist, producer, stage technician, studio technician, etc. work together to bring a music composition alive can be a role model of how to organize the production of a complex light installation.


[Kwon] Your works are often adapted as architectural elements. What is most challenging aspect in planning and executing your projects? In addition, please explain the <Nocturnal Flow, 2006>, at Paul G. Allen Center in University of Washington.

[Redl] Working in a large-scale architectural context has enormous challenges, e.g. how to work with, not against the existing architecture or how to have only a small physical impact on the existing architecture but a maximum aesthetic impact on the viewers. It is important to always have the artistic vision in mind when navigating the treacherous terrain of limited budgets, restricting code requirements, looming deadlines, technical difficulties and a large group of people (clients, lawyers, engineers, rigging teams, etc) that have to be kept happy.

NOCTURNAL FLOW at the University of Washington, Seattle interacts directly with the site’s specific light environment. It is located in the atrium of the Paul G. Allen Center for Computer Science & Engineering and mounted on the brick wall covering the elevator shaft. The LED-grid matches the brick pattern. A light sensor mounted in the atrium’s sky light triggers subtle changes in the animation displayed on the 80 ft high and 14 ft wide LED sculpture.


[Kwon] In order to draw the ideal visitor experience that you expect, where or what kind of images or videos do you refer to? How do they inspire you?

[Redl] The sources of inspiration are numerous. Music already has been mentioned. The single most important influences obviously come from seeing other artists’ and architects’ work. It’s hard to single out certain individuals but the core group would probably include James Turrell, Fred Sandback, Dan Flavin, Sol LeWitt, Agnes Martin, Tadao Ando, Renzo Piano, Santiago Calatrava, and Zaha Hadid. I also try to spend as much time as possible outdoors. The slow cycles of nature, the subtle cacophony of sounds and the incredible visual splendor of the outdoors never ceases to fascinate and influence me.


[Kwon] What new project are you currently working on?

[Redl] Temporary installations at the Wexner Center for the Arts (Columbus, OH), Beach Museum (Manhattan, KS), Bowling Green State University (Bowling Green, OH) and Gallery Goettlicher (Krems, Austria) Permanent installation at the Pacific Design Center (Los Angeles, CA), New York Police Academy (New York, NY), Union Square/Market Street subway station (San Francisco, CA), NASCAR Hall of Fame (Charlotte, NC), Liberty Village (Toronto, Canada), Borusan Foundation (Istanbul, Turkey) and DAR Office Center (Cairo, Egypt)


Erwin Redl was born in Gföhl, Austria in 1963. He uses LEDs as an artistic medium, working in both two and three dimensions. Redl began his studies as a musician, receiving a BA in Composition and Diploma in Electronic Music at the Music Academy in Vienna, Austria. In 1995, he received an MFA in Computer Art at the School of Visual Arts in New York, where he now lives. His work has been shown in exhibitions in the United States and Europe, including solo presentations and permanent installations at Shirlington Public Library, Arlington, VA; University of Washington, Seattle; Conduit Gallery, Dallas, Riva Gallery, New York; Calvin Klein Store, New York.



Image Courtesy of Erwin Redl
This interview was published in bob Magazine Vol. 75 (October 2010) pp. 138-143