The Aesthetics of Bits and Bytes

Where Other Artists work with Brushes, Joachim Sauter uses a Keyboard

A joint venture with Selux, the Berlin lamp manufacturer: the Manta Rhei OLED light

Joachim Sauter moves between the worlds. He connects things that do not seem to belong together at first glance, but harmonize perfectly when one looks closely: algorithms and aesthetics, virtual things and reality, multi-layered art and functional design. In doing so, he is always one step ahead of everyone else.

While most creative artists viewed computers with mistrust in the Eighties, Professor Sauter began to surmise the potential of the technology. “We were trailblazers and simply recognized the change in from the paradigm of pure tools to light media earlier than most”, says Professor Sauter, who currently impresses people with interactive installation and media-based architecture to such an extent that they heap renowned design awards upon him today.

Three years before becoming Germany’s youngest professor for media design at the Universität der Künste [University of the Arts] in Berlin (UdK), Professor Sauter established his own studio, ART+COM, which he manages together with Andreas Wiek as a stock company in the meantime. There, together with designers, programmers, engineers and artists, he explored the limits of this new medium. At the beginning, they puzzled through the field of virtual reality and presented the Earth in three dimensions on the screen years before Google Earth. “We worked together on the language and grammar of the Internet, which many people are now using daily”, says Professor Sauter, who has become the creative head of an 80-person team.

Near to Wittenbergplatz, ideas about his works are being created inter-disciplinarily, which are in demand around the world in fields such as industry, culture, services and research. Professor Sauter often plays with the collaborative and reactive qualities of the new media and blurs the limits. With the Duality installation in a new building complex in Tokyo, stepping on an LED surface triggers light waves, the impacts are measured and converted into real water waves in the neighboring pools. Computer-generated motion interests Sauter. The kinetic lights called “Manta Rhei” combine the mechanical movement of metal plates with the immaterial motion of the light.

Beauty is always the thing that invites observers to decrypt the jumbled messages or simply to reflect upon themselves, such as with the Kinetic Rain piece. In this piece, twelve-hundred-sixteen raindrops made of copper-coated aluminum move through a computationally-designed dance and lend the departure terminal of Singapore Airport an atmosphere with the potential to raise gooseflesh.

While others allow themselves to admit the success of Professor Sauter’s format, the designer is still scrutinizing himself today. The distance between ART+COM and his master class at UdK amounts to 2.8 kilometers and thirty students force the professor to continue to reflect on his works. “The two activities fertilize each other. I do give my students ideas, which are then lost for me, but the lesson is priceless. It is my Fountain of  Youth.”

Susanne Hörr
Kluge Köpfe 2012