This story is over 5 years old
electronic music

GRID To Illuminate Rural France Just In Time For The Holidays

We speak with designer Christopher Bauder and electronic musician Robert Henke about their kinetic installation, and one of the world's oldest light festivals.

by Laura Feinstein
Nov 8 2013, 6:11pm

GRID - White Void interactive light installation - FETE DES LUMIERES 2013 from TETRO

Appearing from December 6th to the 9th as part of Festival of Lights (Fete des Lumieres 2013), GRID, a masive kinetic light installation created by the designer Christopher Bauder of WHITEvoid, is set to illuminate the Hotel de Region of Rhone-Alpes each night at 6PM. Above, The Creators Project premieres this monumental light fantasy for your viewing pleasure.

Meant to showcase the architecture of the Christian de Portzamparc designed luxury hotel, GRID is composed of 50 triangles, with 150 LED motorized bars suspended to form a massive and dynamic grid 22m long. Adding to the seasonally-appropriate light spectacle, a choir will be performing Johann Sebastian Bach (arranged by Knut Nystedt and directed by Franck-Emmanuel Comte) with accompanying synth provided by Robert Henke, a German artist widely recognized in the electronic music scene for his work with Monolake.

Below, we speak with Christopher Bauder and Robert Henke about GRID, their creative process, and seminal light festivals:

The Creators Project: What inspired this project?
Christopher Bauder: GRID is an artistic approach to manifesting computer generated shapes and surfaces in real space in the form of an audiovisual live performance. Abstract neon light lines of early 3D computer graphics inspired a polygonal grid suspended above the crowd. Computer generated content will be directly perceived as a tangible spacial experience without a screen. As 3D computer graphics can be rotated in virtual space, spectators can roam freely below the animated light sculpture to alter perspective and perception of the piece. 

Robert Henke: With my sonic contributions I try to infuse life into the mechanical works of the installation. Sound can do this by shaping emotions in such ways that a moving set of colored lights start to feel like a breathing organism or a huge archaic animal. My direct inspirations come from simply watching the shapes and trying things out. Then Christopher and I step back and often come up with similar associations that serve as the basis for deeper explorations: "Hey, this sounds like a giant bird wing, let me check if I can animate this!" "This behaves like old flickering neon tubes in an abundant factory, I have some sounds that could match, what do you think?" 

What made you both decide to take part in this festival?
CMB: The Fete des Lumieres in Lyon has a world-wide reputation as one of the most sophisticated and spectacular light festivals. I was very happy to be contacted by Tetro to join them for the pitch to the regions town hall. Tetro was providing the technical expertise and together we managed to win the pitch. It is a great honor to be chosen to perform at the Fete des Lumieres. I have seen the other projects of this years edition and we will be in good company of many many beautiful light art projects all over Lyon. I am really looking forward to being a part of this years incarnation of one of the oldest light art festivals in the world.

RH: Christopher and I already work together since 2007 on several projects including our audiovisual 'ATOM' performance. I also did contribute the sound design for the first public presentation of Grid in Basel in spring this year. Joining him for Lyon is an obvious thing to do, and I am looking forward to see how it works out to play the show so often in row.

How does Grid work?

CMB: GRID is an audiovisual live show combining electronic live music, kinetic movement and light animation. 50 motorized suspended LED-rod triangles form a massive dynamic GRID that spreads over 20x10 meters. Live generated sound connects directly to light animations and triggers spacial movements. Every sound and each bit of music composed by Robert correlates with a visual impulse and spacial alteration of the mechatronic display. Two interconnected computers are running Ableton Live and our Kinetic Lights Software. The music software has the lead and sends triggers for every musical element and variable. This allows for a very close link between music and visual response, even though the score is not strictly time based and leaves Robert room for improvisation. All elements of the visual software can also be changed in realtime and live during the show. I can change movement, color, and animation variables in realtime without breaking the link to the musical score.

RH: As far as the sound is concerned, nothing really outstanding is happening on the technical side. It is a multi channel surround sound setup, with a lot of real time synthesis going, and the communication between Ableton Live and Christopher's computers is done via OSC in Max4Live. Since I have been using similar scenarios quite often in the past, I am very confident it will work fine during the performances. And that's important to me, I can only enjoy improvising if I know that the technical side is solid and does not let me down. 

What is the typical process, from sketchpad to installation, of one of your projects?
CMB: It normally starts with some simple scribbles on paper, trying different arrangements and shapes. Then we go directly into 3D software to do some static visualizations and sometimes short animated sequences to visualize the idea and being able to communicate it to others. In parallel we work on the engineering of light elements, electronics and mechanics. Ending with a first simple working prototype. Then we start to prepare the software framework to control the mechanical parts and light elements. At the same time Robert starts to prepare his musical elements and some necessary software bridges to communicate with the visual system. When all hardware is produced, we always try to set up a large section of the installation in a representative space with similar dimensions to the final installation. For very large installations like GRID we set up one third or half of the full install. Then all artists and programmers involved lock themselves in for a week or so to finalize the links between softwares and artistic ideas, ultimately ending in a full show concept... RH: ... and that's always a lot of fun! Everyone is stressed out, and a lot of things initially don't work like expected but being surrounded by a lot of excellent and motivated co-workers creates and atmosphere where finally everything turns out fine. It can become quite a rush, doing those projects.

Why was Bach chosen to be part of the score?
When we received the call to propose a project for the Fete des Lumieres in Lyon, it was suggested to integrate the local choir "l'Hostel Dieu". We met with the choirs conductor and even decided to partly fuse the singing with the ambient part of the GRID show both musically and visually. The choir part will be the beginning of the show accompanied by very subtle GRID visuals then fused together with Roberts score, ultimately followed by a purely electronic part.

RH: Johann Sebastian Bach's compositions have several properties that are immediately appealing to anyone dealing with mathematics and computer generated art. His economic and structural approach to musical material is obvious even to listeners with no musical education. I am pretty sure he would have done amazing things if he had have a computer. Repetition, change, reconfiguration and modulation of motives, these techniques are also the foundations of many typical computational art. What I contribute to Grid is quite a contrast, I enjoy the fact that I can intuitively play with my software and there will be room for improvisation and a lot of controlled uncertainty.  What projects are you working on next?
I am currently working on another spacial laser project similar to our FLUIDIC installation but much larger in scale. My studio WHITEvoid has been commissioned by the city of Berlin to create a light installation all along the former Berlin Wall for the 25 years memorial of the fall of that wall next year. 

RH: I just started a new audiovisual concert series, called - funny coincidence with the upcoming Grid performance - Lumière, and there is still lots of work to do on that one. Then I am preparing an installation that will be shown in June next year in Lille, and I try to finish several musical works to be performed or released on CD in 2014. 

GRID is produced by Tetro, consulting creative agency and cultural events and projects that help promote brands, territories and businesses by creating innovative cultural projects production.

CREDITS for Grid:
Lighting Design - Christopher BAUDER

Electronic music - Robert HENKE

Bandmaster - Franck -Emmanuel COMTE


Technical director - Elvis DAGIER

Graphic design - Cyrille MONTAGNIER - Left Studio Production - Matthieu DEBAY - TETRO

Partners - Region Rhone-Alpes and City of Lyon 


Christophe Bauder  WHITEvoid

Robert Henke

Robert Henke
christopher bauder
Festival of Lights