molitor & kuzmin is one of the participating artists’ teams in the first edition of //RESPONSIVE International Light Art Project Halifax. Their work can be seen at Dalhousie School of Architecture.

//Ursula Molitor and Vladimir Kuzmin are renowned for their light and space works since the late 1990s. They shape environments through their use of light in each given site. With an unerring eye for architecture and design, they add to the art of light and space. “We are working with mass-produced materials, and for us it is like a tool to compose, not on a canvas, but in the spatial sphere”. From 1996 on, light became the main material of their artistic articulation. “We didn’t get into the technical details, when we started to experiment with physical light. Our point of departure was the esthetical phenomenon. We were excited that we found a material that seeks the dialogue with the spatial dimension.”

Fluorescent tubes are used as a kind of drawing material to structure their luminous spheres. In the artistic compositions of molitor & kuzmin, they can hang freely in a space as singled objects or they can come in bulk. They can be organized in a geometric order like in an explosion drawing or they can be framed by transport materials such as pallets, lorries or boxes that contain a dense, disordered number of fixtures. “Fluorescent light is such a re­strictive medium and overtime, we developed a particular appreciation that drives us to continue to work with it. These tubes have their own poetics. The gas at the inside is set to a high vacuum state to cause a discharge phenomenon similar to the origin of the universe. May-be we sense that when we look at them…”.

molitor & kuzmin encompass the open dynamics of presence and absence, visibility and materiality, perception and representation that are present in all fugitive media. Their radiant works immediately captivate the attention as the centerpiece of an immersive environment. They take the visual lead in a space due to the natural ocular response to navigate to the brightest part of an environment. “To date, we are still fascinated by the pure, bright, white light of the fluorescent tubes. It alters a space and everything in it.” The bodies of light come as a raster on a wall, as an object in an environment or as a structure in a space. molitor & kuzmin don’t alter or manipulate neither form, nor color, nor do they hide the electrical cables. Everything that is used is shown as well. The technical transparency is part of the esthetical approach that doesn’t aim to represent anything else than itself. “We are very concrete in our way of working”.

They address the intertwinement of the architectural space with light and perception and treat them as inter-fluctuating ones. ”Space is never empty, it is always “informed”, it is loaded with information and usually this information changes over time. In our research, we detect part of this information and we recode it by interfering with the luminous sphere. If it is right, it looks as if it belongs, as if it has always been there and as if it shouldn’t be removed ever.”

When a site turns into an artistic material and at the same time becomes its objective, then the US-American artist Robert Irwin calls it “Conditional Art”. Conditional Art, according to Irwin, is responsive to its environment, and its objective is to enhance a viewer’s perception of a space. Irwin considers his light interventions to be tools with which he examines “the quality of a particular space in terms of its weight, its temperature, its tactileness, its density, its feel”. Irwin is part of the artistic movement that started in the 1960s, mainly in the USA and Europe. Referring to natural and to artificial light, artists created immersive environments and experimented with ocular responses, visual perception and optical illusions. They composed with the interplay of light, time, space and included explorations of the limits of human perception.

molitor & kuzmin are the next generation of artists perpetuating the artistic research of the “Light and Space Movement”. “Really looking at the properties and qualities of a space, its use, its materials and including the processes of its development and the decisions that have been taking, make them part of our artistic composite. For this kind of artistic research, you start from scratch knowing that you don’t know. … our development process in situ is a constant crosscheck between our ideas and how they appear. And for each of our works, we develop its own guidelines. When we arrive at a new space, we just spend a lot of time … observing, sensing, associating … We open our radars and we see, feel and touch. It’s important not to rush and to use our eyes, our knowledge and our experience to explore and understand it. At the beginning, we don’t know what we are looking for and we should wait until we can overcome all what we have seen before. From there, we start to share and to discuss until our ideas start to synchronize.”

In a perfect balance of joy and critical judgment, they develop their works. “We appreciate being two and in the fragile moments of artistic development, we sense how much we trust each other. Through our joint projects, we have found that we are a good addition to each other …”. In 1991, in the same year the Soviet Union collapsed and Europe was no longer divided by the Iron Curtain, east-west co-operations became easier and German-born Ursula Molitor and Russian-born Vladimir Kuzmin started to work together. At that time, both were artists with focus on painting. Vladimir grew up in Zaporozhe in Ukraine and studied architecture in Moscow. After his studies, from 1983 on, he exhibited not only in Moscow, but also in Europe and the USA. At about the same time, Ursula began exhibiting, mainly in Germany. Backed with her studies as a graphic designer, her artistic portfolio included drawings, paintings and objects. In the first years of the joint work, they worked on abstract color compositions in painting. “At one point, around 1995/1996, we were no longer satisfied by colors on canvas. We wanted to include the surrounding space and we were excited to work with physical light as an open volume.”

[Interview on September 10, 2017. All citations by molitor & kuzmin. Text: Bettina Pelz]

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