Robert Henke is a composer, artist and software developer, born 1969 in Munich, Germany. He is mainly known for his contributions to contemporary electronic music and for his laser works.
Coming from a strong engineering background, Henke is fascinated by the beauty of technical objects.
Developing his own instruments and algorithms is an integral part of his creative process.
He utilises mathematical rules, controlled random operations and complex feedback loops to build the machines driving his art. Many of his installations change slowly and over long periods, and are specifically conceived or adapted for unique locations and their individual properties.
Robert Henke's musical work has a particular focus on rhythm, timbre and color, and he is recognised as a pioneering explorer of surround sound and wave field synthesis.
His long term musical project Monolake, founded in 1995, became one of the key icons of a new electronic club music culture emerging in Berlin after the fall of the Wall.
Robert Henke is also one of the main creators of the music software Ableton Live, which since its invention in 1999 became the standard tool for electronic music production and completely redefined the performance practice of electronic music.
He writes and lectures about sound and the creative use of computers and held teaching positions at the Berlin University of the Arts, the Center for Computer Research in Music and Acoustics (CCRMA) at Stanford University, and the Studio National des Arts Contemporains - Le Fresnoy, in Lille, France.
His installations, performances and concerts have been presented at Tate Modern London, the Centre Pompidou Paris, Palazzo delle Esposizioni in Rome, Le Lieu Unique in Nantes, PS-1 in New York, MUDAM in Luxembourg, MAK in Vienna, Palazzo Grassi in Venice, the Art Gallery of New South Wales in Australia, KW Institute for Contemporary Art in Berlin, STRP Biennale Eindhoven, and on countless festivals including Unsound, CTM, MUTEK, Sonar, New Forms Festival.
Lumière is a concert series exploring the artistic dialogue between high precision lasers and percussive sounds. It is based on a unique vector graphics software, which the artist is developing since 2010. The software allows to generate rapid successions of visual shapes and associated sonic events, and to manipulate them in real time. Lumière is permanent work in progress, with each performance being a snapshot of the current state. Since the premiere in 2013 Lumière got three fundamental revisions, and countless 'minor updates'.
High contrast between total darkness and intense brightness creates 'negative objects' darker than black, the phaenomenon of 'persistence of vision' contributes controlled afterimages and a sense of spatiality, which transcends from the projection surface. The absence of fixed screen boundaries and the specific properties of vector graphics allow for a unique immersive experience. Synchronised sequences of overlapping moving shapes emitted from multiple lasers in the back of the auditorium are forming a audiovisual experience that oscillates between intimate and overwhelming.
Drawing with lasers requires the precise and fast movement of small mirrors. This imposes severe limits on the achievable complexity. Lumière embraces these properties with its minimalist approach.
Its visual richness is the result of the combination and succession of shapes, and by deliberately incorporating the artefacts of the technology. The visual language of Lumière consists of transformations and combinations of primary symbols: circles, squares, lines, dots, glyphs. Percussive and textural sonic events provide a counterpoint to these visual cues, at times fragile and quiet, at others massive and overwhelming.
The result is a imaginary audiovisual sign language of an alien culture, communicating via emerging and disappearing traces of light, futuristic and archaic at the same time.
Each Lumière event is a unique and site specific adaption of the work, performed by the artist sitting the back of the room, experiencing and shaping the work from an audience perspective.
Lumière has been presented more than 70 times in Europe, Asia, Africa, Australia, North- and South America. The project has been staged in 16th-century roman theatres, in amazing concert halls, in vast industrial spaces, in the yard of a castle and projected on a giant marble wall in a quarry.
Lumière has inspired countless people to explore lasers for artistic expression and drove the development of a custom laser hardware specially designed for its performance.
The intention of Lumière III was to take the best elements of Lumière II and Lumière I and whilst extend them towards more intricate complexity also regain the initial rawness - which got lost a bit in the refinement process of Lumière II. This made adaptions and improvements of the laser control software and the laser hardware necessary. A strong focus of version III was the refinement of the composition and its performance parameters.