SHIFTING
THE ATMOSPHERE

Julius von Bismarck's approach to art is oriented around science and technology. His work challenges our perception of space, questions what we call reality and explores our relationship with our surroundings – no wonder he became the first ever artist to receive the “Prix Ars Electronica” from the European Organization for Nuclear Research. 

Text by Effie Efthymiadi / Photography by Andreas Alexander Bohlender 

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Peering over motley heaps of metal and wood, searching for the artist Julius von Bismarck turns into a kind of quest. Metallic bangs and orgiastic mechan- ical sounds ll the industrial space at Malzfabrik, a former malt factory resurrected as a complex of art studios. In an almost post-apocalyptic setting, amid a profusion of debris, a man is sawing away by himself. He’s so deeply immersed in what he’s doing that I decide not to interrupt him, and instead I keep on wandering, following the mu ed sound of discussion somewhere in the back. Von Bismarck clari es he doesn’t have much time; he has to get back on the road for an upcoming project. He’s going on a road trip across the US West Coast and is giddy as a child at the prospect of visiting solar observatories, land art and nuclear test elds in the desert. Science and technology are prevalent in his artistic scope, and it’s exactly that nexus, which runs between his manifold interests, that produces such an intriguing result. 

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He turns on his computer and plays a video of one of his ongoing projects: a lightning strike in pitch-black darkness. Knowing von Bismarck’s artistic approach and how he enjoys mixing the real with the imaginary, one automatically searches for what’s unreal in the setting. The lightning is arti - cial, something he can trigger at will using a storm’s natural electric charge. “I can create lightning. What you see here couldn’t have happened without my intervention,” he says, not in an arrogant way, but more with the excitement that comes from playing around and experimenting with what’s given to us. Defying limitations and treating nature as a sort of tabula rasa is part of what he does. He shares a story about a group of shamans in North Colombia who died instantly when lightning struck their hut. When von Bismarck met one of the rel- atives, he found out that the indigenous people regard lightning strikes as self-willed beings

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IT’S AN ENDLESS CHAIN OF EXPERIMENTS. SOME OF MY WORK DEALS WITH OUR PERCEPTION OF SPACE AND OTHER PIECES EXPLORE THE WAY I SEE NATURE – THERE’S A SORT OF POWER PLAY.

 
 
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