Audio-visual artist Carsten Nicolai, cofounder of raster-noton, uses names Alva Noto, Noto, and Aleph-1 for works that cross the spectrums of music production, live performance, sound art, sculpture, video, and curation. Nicolai’s work emphasizes processes and working methodologies, the intersections of art and science, and the tensions between polarities.
In his work Nicolai often engages with mathematical patterns such as grids and codes, as well as error, randomness, and self-organizing structures. Under the pseudonym noto Carsten Nicolai experiments with sound to create his own code of signs, acoustic and visual symbols. As alva noto those experiments have led into the field of electronic music.
Born in Chemnitz in 1965, Nicolai developed an interest in the theoretical properties of sound and space and began experimenting with electronic music after studying architecture and landscape design. In the mid-90s, Nicolai founded an experimental music label, 'noton.archiv für ton und nichtton', as a platform for his conceptual sound experiments, and in 1996 began working with the moniker noto. His first album was Spin (1996). raster-noton was created in 1999 from the merger of 'noton.archiv für ton und nichtton' and Rastermusic, founded by Olaf Bender and Frank Bretschneider, also in Chemnitz.
Nicolai has since released a further seven solo albums and is involved in numerous collaborative projects. He is a member of the groups Diamond Version with Olaf Bender (Byetone), Signal with Frank Bretschneider and Olaf Bender, Cyclo with Ryoji Ikeda, and Alva Noto + Ryuichi Sakamoto with Ryuichi Sakamoto. He pursues collaborations with a diverse range of artists including Michael Nyman, Mika Vainio, Scanner (Robin Rimbaud), Blixa Bargeld, as ANBB, and Opiate (Thomas Knak), as Opto.
Nicolai has performed and exhibited in many of the world’s most prestigious art spaces, including The Guggenheim NYC, documenta x and the 49th and 50th Venice Biennale. He’s had two comprehensive solo exhibitions at Schirn Kunsthalle Frankfurt, Germany (anti reflex) and at Neue National Galerie in Berlin, Germany (syn chron). He has held a guest professorship at the Städelschule in Frankfurt am Main since 2012.