Nile Koetting “Sustainable Hours”

The ready-made life of the Amazon age envisioned by Nile Koetting
The feel of a humanless world engendered by harmony among inorganic beings

Text: Yusuke Shono, Photograph: Yoshihiro Inada

An artist who was born in Japan’s Kanagawa Prefecture and is now based in Berlin, Nile Koetting creates video works, installations, sound art, and performance pieces that view the inorganic and body from a perspective placing them on the same horizon. He recently unveiled the installation “Sustainable Hours” at “Les Liaisons ambigue,” an exhibition at Maison Hermes Le Forum in Tokyo’s plush Ginza district, bringing together a total of three artists, each strikingly different from the others.

In the space devoted to “Sustainable Hours” are a wireless LAN system, Dyson humidifier, several high-tech speakers, a futuristic clock, and other trappings of contemporary life. They go into operation at prescribed intervals and exert an unseen influence on the space. Purchased by Koetting through Amazon, the items are symbolic of today’s ready-made living. Sporting leading-edge designs, some are equipped with LED lighting, and together they breed an atmosphere akin to a contemporary sculpture created by hyper-capitalism. In the bleached space calling to mind a retouched advertising photo, the workings of the idiosyncratic gadgets change the light, sound, and even smell in the air as the day wears on. The very environment seems to produce a holistic organic experience like music. As if to break the sustained spell, an electronically synthesized voice interrupts from time to time to recite lyrics from punk anthems of various years.

One of the key points of the exhibit is the energy used to power the gadgets, which is generated from natural sunlight and supplied from the battery storing it. The exhibition space is therefore a closed ecosystem designed to be complete in itself. Within it, the electro-mechanical entities acquire a life-like anima, freed from the intentions of their manufacturers. At the same time, the scene is a desolate one, a biosphere utterly devoid of humanity, in which the gadgets dutifully continue to labor.

It could be said that one of the hallmarks of punk culture was the discovery of beauty in nothingness, or the affirmation of nothingness. If so, the uniqueness of the punk void resonating with Koetting is its absence of human beings. We can find beauty in the non-human, but definitely cannot cast away our bodies ourselves. Because of this conflict, the harmonious relations between thing and thing after we have gone evoke weird sensations. A premonition that technology will probably surpass and transcend human beings. A feeling of loneliness due to our exclusion from these relations, and a joy akin to that parents taste when their children become independent. And the ambivalence of all these elements.

Nile Koetting

“Les Liaisons ambiguës” @ Ginza Maison Hermès Forum