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City Gallery City Gallery Wellington

Past exhibition

Christina Kubisch: Alba

18 August–18 October 1992

SPONSOR Goethe Institut

German sound artist Christina Kubisch treats the energy waves of light and sound as materials. She calls her installations 'virtual idylls’.

Kubisch studies art and music in the late 1960s and early 1970s, and is involved with Fluxus performances and happenings. In New York, she meets John Cage and begins experimenting with electromagnetic induction. From 1980, she becomes known for her sound installations, which contrast electronic sound and natural elements. 

Kubisch visits New Zealand to produce two sound installations, Kein Schoner Land at Auckland’s George Fraser Gallery and Alba at Wellington City Art Gallery.

Alba—the Italian word for dawn—transforms light into sound. On a wall outside the gallery, nine solar panels are joined by a cable that runs into the darkened gallery. On the floor, eighteen tiny speakers (burglar-alarm buzzers) glow in the ultraviolet light. Each is activated by the light energy transmitted from outside. 'What happens in here is a kind of still life’, explains Kubisch. 'I use speakers set in the floor like flowers, and there is a little buzzer underneath each speaker. Through the solar cells the light is transferred into sound.’

Alba is a time-based installation. Sound changes across the course of the day according to the light. Kubisch says, ‘The other morning this room sounded like an airport. Now in the afternoon when the light is behind buildings and clouds, it sounds more like cicadas.’ In strong sunshine, the sounds produced include loud pulsing high-pitched sirens with urban connotations (car security alarms, police sirens), at night, sounds are more akin to chirping cicadas. ‘The people here will get a sense of the cycle of light, the natural cycle of a day, by the sounds that they hear. Because we live and work in buildings illuminated by artificial light, we don't normally get to see the passage of a day’, says Kubisch.

Kubisch's visit coincides with SoundWatch, a biennial sound-art event organised by Artspace. In her SoundWatch artist talk, Kubisch says, 'I like installation because I can disappear behind the work while the audience discovers it for themselves.’

Curator Greg Burke tells Capital Times, 'In the United States and Europe there would be a big turnout for a work by Christina Kubisch. It's only by bringing people like this over on a regular basis that we can begin to educate our audiences.’