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Visionaries 21 : The aesthetic of sensory overload

The work of Ulf Langheinrich

Year: 2013, 77 mins
Code: UL-Ulf
ISBN: 978-1-922007-65-0

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Ulf Langheinrich was born in Wolfen, Sachsen Anhalt, Germany in 1960. Ulf's projects utilise photography, sound and video, light, and technology, to create sensory environments that seek to question the conventions of multimedia. The career of Ulf Langheinrich is best known for his internationally acclaimed work in the two-man group, Granular Synthesis. The project, which began in 1991 with these two self-proclaimed "media terrorists", does more in the way of a performance than it does to define the men involved. 

A number of his recent solo installations and performances have been held in group exhibitions and international art fairs, and include Hemisphere, Sensi sotto sopra/Roma Europa, Roma, (2006); and Perm, Cinemas of Future/Lille 2004 Cultural Capital of Europe, Dutch Electronic Art Festival, Rotterdam, Body Media/Shanghai Culture Space (2003-07).
Their numerous projects have been exhibited at a variety of locations over recent years, including Modell 5, premiered in a first version at the ICA London (1994) and most recently presented either in installation or performance versions at Australian Centre for the Moving Image, Melbourne, VEO Festival, Valencia, Body Media/Shanghai Culture Space (1994-2007), among others;
Since 2003, Ulf has received much recognition, working as a guest professor at both the Academy of Visual Arts, University of Leipzig, Germany at the FH Salzburg University, Austria. He was also the featured artist at Ars Electronica in 2005 and an artist in residence at RMIT University, Melbourne in 2006. WAVEFORM B was originally developed for ARS ELECRONICA with a SIEMENS stipendium.

The film has a compilation of Langheinrich work:

Sound, Lag, Ku, Movement Y, Movement X, Movement A, Land, Spintex, De Natura Sonoris
Hemisphere, Drift, Osc, Waveform B, Waveform A, Cell & Weathering, Soil, Perm, Granular, Synthesis, Digital Stills, Analogue Photos, Paintings, Drawings

More images are here.

On the eve of his first solo release, Degrees of Amnesia, Langheinrich has an understanding of his work and the life that brought him to it, that is unparalleled. Having grown up in an industrial region of East Germany, Langheinrich's early life was filled with artificial and sterile imagery and sounds. He was born in Wolfen in 1960, and spent his first year in hospital with a life-threatening ear disease (it was actually six years before his hearing returned to normal), which certainly did much in shaping what he would hear throughout his life and the manner in which he would listen.

Langheinrich grew to understand and appreciate life, and his ability to experience it through his senses, in a way which few people ever do. Growing up with nearly every liberty removed from his existence, save that of his sensual freedom, Langheinrich came to respect the most basic human experience. Certainly passing the first six years of his life with a hearing disability, made sound and music essential to him as an artist. Ironically, the majority of his education in the arts was spent drawing and painting. At the age of 15 Langheinrich discovered the ability to store sound through the use of a small mono cassette recorder. From then on he was fascinated by the use of electronic devices in the making of music because through the possibility of storage, he discovered the ability to layer.

The significance of storage for him was that the approach and overall vision of the artist now had the potential to be, as it should be, more important than his individual skill; composition versus performance, perhaps ultimately the biggest difference between Degrees of Amnesia and his work with Granular Synthesis. While Granular Synthesis was designed to be a live experience, a performance - Degrees of Amnesia is a work composed to retain intense psychological power over time, it's density being the key element. Every sound, particularly those that are formed in repetitious patterns (from the sound of breath, to drops of water, to the pounding of industrial machinery) became influential and important in Langheinrich's early life. Not only because this repetition was a constant reminder of the opression he lived with, but because it is the sonic quality of such repetition he believes, that brings one to a state of semi-consciousness; an altered state of reality. In describing Degrees of Amnesia he refers to his work as a painter; "In painting I just added very thin coats of paint until the square was almost gray, huge paintings of insistent noise, not made with simple mixed paint but with layers of colour, very rich, very purist, very monotonous in the end."

It is the power of layers, the sensual experience, that concerns Langheinrich more so than any conceptual agenda. It was these same paintings which he would later sell to buy sythesizers. Although Langheinrich discovered the ability to store sounds and then layer them at such an early age, it was not until his departure from East Germany in 1984 that he gained access to any electronic equipment, apart from minimal tape recording devices. He spent much of his time prior to 1984, experimenting with the sonic qualities of various instruments. Langheinrich was more concerned with non-traditional methods of creating sound, than he was with mastering any given instrument. Rather than play an organs keys, Langheinrich fixed them and maneuvered it's pipes, he played a cello with an electric shaver - all in the effort to achieve the richest most dense sounds possible. This search for sound, which began so long before he even had the advantage of electronic equipment, has only now come to fruition with the release of Degrees of Amnesia. Although this album contains work from as far back as 1989 (most of it was conceived between 1994 and 1996) the development of Langheinrich's artistic purpose clearly began in childhood. In addition to Langheinrich's work as a musician and painter, he also spent some time studying photography, and has composed the soundtrack for several Austrian films.

When he moved to West Germany in 1984, he set up a studio for electronic music, developed the basics of his musical language and engaged in painting, drawing and photography. In 1988, he left for Vienna where a studio at the WUK (Werksta╠łtten und Kulturhaus) was put at his disposal. From 1988 to 1991, he devoted himself again to regular painting and drawing, had a solo exhibition at Kunsthalle Exnergasse and released a catalogue of his work.

In 1991, he and Kurt Hentschla╠łger founded the Media-Art duet GRANULAR-SYNTHESIS and have realised for more than a decade a number of international large scale projects including MODELL5, NOISEGATE and POL. They exhibited and performed at the Museum for applied Arts ICA London, Hull Time based Art, MAK Vienna, Museums of Contemporary Arts of Lyons, Montreal and Seoul, The Stedelijk Museum, Kunstverein Hanover, ISEA Montreal and Liverpool, ICC Tokyo, Creative Time New York and the Austrian Pavilion at the Venice Biennial 2001.

GRANULAR-SYNTHESIS received an Austrian state stipendium, a PS1 stipendium and the first prize of the International Biennial in Nagoya. The work is published on a number of DVDs including REMIX/INDEX (Austria) and IMMERSIVE WORKS (ZKM/Cantz).
Ulf Langheinrich also released a solo CD, DEGREES OF AMNESIA at Asphodel in San Francisco.

He composed SINKEN for symphonic orchestra and electronic as a part of the DANGEROUS VISIONS project commissioned and performed by Orchestre National de Lille and Art Zoyd. Later, SINKEN was also performed by the National Orchestra of Mexico and Tonkünstler-Orchester Niederösterreich. MINUS for the grand pipe organ of the Viennese Konzerthaus was commissioned and presented as the opening concert by Wien Modern in 2002.

Since 2003, Ulf Langheinrich has started to realise various large scale solo projects including DRIFT, WAVEFORM, HEMISPHERE (hemispheric film on a suspended dome granted by the Federal Culture Foundation of Germany and his first stereoscopic film commissioned by Liverpool Biennial ‘08, LAND. His artworks were exhibited among others, in Barcelona (MACBA), Berlin (Martin-Gropius-Bau), Dresden (Hellerau European Center for the Arts), Eindhoven (STRP Festival), Gent (Film Festival), Hong Kong (Run Run Shaw Centre), Madrid (ARCO), Melbourne (ACMI), Moscow (Red October and Platforma Winzavod Art Centre), Perth (PICA), Roma (Romaeuropa Festival, Palladium, MACRO-La Pelanda), Rotterdam (DEAF), Seoul (Incheon Digital Arts Festival), Shanghai (Zendai MoMA, Shanghai Sculpture Space and Science and Technology Museum), Taipei (Taipei Fine Arts Museum), Vienna (Wien Modern).

In 2005, he got a Siemens stipendium and was “Featured artist” at Ars Electronica Festival.
SYNTONY (for cello, English horn, French horn, bass-clarinet, javanese gongs, electronic and HD image) was commissioned and presented by Festival d’Art Lyrique of Aix-en-Provence in 2005. DRIFT LIVE (for three bass-clarinets, three bassoons, electronic and HD image) was commissioned and presented by Wien Modern in 2006. KU (for pipe organ, electronic and stereoscopic image) was commissioned and presented by TONLAGEN Festival for contemporary music, Dresden in 2010. In 2011, MOVEMENT B was performed for the opening of the Hong Kong City University School of Creative Media, where Ulf Langheinrich is currently Visiting Fellow.

In 2012, MOVEMENT C, co-produced by Hellerau European Center for the Arts, was performed as opening of Transart Festival in Bolzano (Italy)and later at CynetArt in Dresden.
He was Guest Professor at HGB University for Graphics and Book Design Leipzig (Germany), Guest artist and Lecturer of audiovisual Design at FH Salzburg (Austria), at RMIT in Melbourne (Australia) and at China University of Art in Hangzhou (China) and Guest Artist and Professor at Le Fresnoy, Studio national des arts contemporains in Tourcoing (France.

He collaborates with Japanese dancers Akemi Takeya (CE_I, WEATHERING) and Toshiko Oiwa (MOVEMENT A, MOVEMENT X, MOVEMENT Y) as well as with Chinese dancer Maureen Law (MOVEMENT C) and British artist Gina Czarnecki (SPINTEX.

Granular Synthesis won the first prize at the International Biennale, Nagayo, Japan in 1995 and have had their work published on number of DVDs.

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