Robert HENKE

© Anna Katharina Scheidegger

Robert Henke is a digital artist, born 1969 in Munich, Germany.

He writes code and builds hardware to create music, audiovisual installations, and computer graphics. His creations are driven by machines and algorithms, utilising mathematical rules, controlled random operations and complex feedback systems. Many of his installations change slowly over long periods of time, and are specifically conceived or adapted for unique locations. They often include elements of intentional uncertainty, resulting in not entirely predictable behaviour and endless variation.

His compositions and musical performances are both inspired by the raw power of radical club culture and the complexities and richness of contemporary music. Spatiality, rhythm and timbre are core topics in his work, and he is recognised as a pioneering explorer of multichannel surround sound and wave field synthesis.

His long term project Monolake, founded in 1995 together with Gerhard Behles, became one of the key icons of a new electronic music scene emerging in Berlin after the fall of the Wall. Other significant collaborations include a work for ensemble and electronics together with Marko Nikodijevic, commissioned by IRCAM and the ensemble intercontemporain, concerts with audiovisual composer Tarik Barri, and kinetic installations with Christopher Bauder. His audiovisual work includes algorithmically generated images, laser installations and performances, and the artistic exploration of early personal computer hardware.

Robert Henke is one of the main creators of Ableton Live, a software which since its invention in 1999 became the standard for 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, the Institut de Recherche et Coordination Acoustique/Musique (IRCAM) in Paris, and the Studio National des Arts Contemporains - Le Fresnoy, in Lille, France.

His installations, performances and concerts have been presented at Tate Modern in London, Centre Pompidou in 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 in Eindhoven, and at countless festivals including Unsound, CTM, MUTEK, Sonar, New Forms Festival.

Robert Henke lives and works in Berlin. 


" CBM 8032 AV "

Computer graphics and sound


about 1h

The CBM 8032 AV project is an exploration of the beauty of simple graphics and sound, using computers from the early 1980’s. This work is about the ambivalence between a contemporary aesthetic and the usage of obsolete and limited technology from 40 years ago. Everything presented within the project could have been done already in the 1980, but it needed the cultural backdrop of today to come up with the artistic ideas driving it.

When artists began to explore computers as medium in the 1950’s, technology was limited and the resulting minimalism in expression was a necessity. Half a century later, the sight of a green cathode ray tube display that once was the promise of an exciting future, becomes nostalgic and a novelty.

The concert is running on a single CPU core with 8 bit and access to 32kByte total memory. When the audio or video routines are running, the computers do nothing else than byte by byte executing software which has been written by us. There is no black boxes, no dependencies on external frameworks, operating systems, data in the cloud, libraries, and everything else that is a necessary for even the smallest contemporary computer system. In the light of the current developments in AI and its repercussions on art production, this is a radial position.

For this project the question of authorship and of origin can be answered unambiguous, and this reflects back on both the production process and the results. This project can be updated as long as the artist is interested in doing so, and it will not change if the artist does not intend it to do. There will be no operating system updates for the computers, there will be no suddenly incompatible hardware, or third-party extensions that do not work in new contexts. This is a digital artwork which is stable, and entirely self-contained, and hence it is timeless. It allows to focus entirely on the interaction between a reduced technical structure and the artistic ideas that emerge in a dialog with the limitations.

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