Michael Saup is an artist pioneering the use of software as an artistic medium. He has acted as founding professor of digital media art at HfG/ZKM University in Germany and as the founding director of the Oasis Archive of the European Union. He is the co-founder of the Open Home Project, a humanitarian initiative to help people being affected by the Fukushima nuclear crisis in Japan. Amongst others, his work has been awarded by the Ars Electronica, the Media Arts Festival Tokyo and the UNESCO Commission.
“Art is the Signature of our Species.”
Michael Saup’s work focuses on the underlying forces of nature and society; an ongoing research project into what he calls the “Archaeology of Future”. His research focus in recent years has been on investigating society’s need and thirst for energy.
Michael Saup was born in March 1961 in Hechingen, Germany. He is a visual artist, filmmaker and musician. During the 1990s he developed a reputation as one of the most innovative protagonists of digital art. His work, often in cooperation with other artists, has been shown widely in exhibitions, festivals and on stages around the world. He currently lives and works in Berlin.
Michael Saup studied music, computer science and visual communication at the Dominican University of California, San Rafael, USA, the University of Computer Science in Furtwangen and the Offenbach Academy of Art and Design in Germany.
In 1980, while enrolled at the Dominican University, Michael Saup studied music and computer science and started to combine both fields with an algorithmic approach. In 1987, he created “Flicker”, his first computer-generated light installation, which immersed a gallery space with permutations of pulsing light. From 1989 onwards, Saup began to experiment with real time transformations of sound and image, helping pioneer the development of software as an artform.
Michael Saup’s early work pioneered direct control of digital film through music and sound-driven interactive computer animations, ground breaking work which he applied to installations, concerts and ballet. With these innovations he created installations like “Pulse8” (1992), concerts like “Hyena Days” (1992) and “Binary Ballistic Ballet” (1995).
In 1992 he founded the group ”supreme particles”, helping launch the field of audiovisual processing and interactive environments. This group specialised in the creation of experimental software in connection with art, architecture and music. A work of this group was “Light as Skin” (1997-2007), a connecting passenger transit tunnel bathed in light at Frankfurt International Airport being one of the first large scale and long term interactive works of media art in public space.
Their installation “R111” (1999-2001) exhibited the concept of virtual matter and its ramifications in the real world. While new media actual tendencies were virtualizing reality, R111 took the inverse approach of materializing virtuality: choreographing particles of matter as though they were pixels.
The turn of the century saw Michael Saup begin to focus on political and social issues, such as access to communications media, consumption and transformation of fossil and “infossil” resources, nuclear history, financial theory and its application to mankind’s day to day existence. During a 3 year retreat with Julia Herzog in a forest, he developed a model which predicted the Dow Jones Industrial Average over the past 111 years.
As part of their ‘Weapons of Mass Education’ project, they initiated workshops with young filmmakers in India, Sri Lanka, Singapore, Morocco and Afghanistan.
Research and Teaching
Michael Saup has held appointments at several universities, including the Academy of Fine Arts Munich and the Zürich University of the Arts. From 1991 to 1994 he was artistic and scientific assistant at the Institute for New Media in Frankfurt. In 1999 he was appointed as founding professor for Digital Art at ZKM / HfG Academy of Art and Design in Karlsruhe, where he remained in residence through 2005.
foto by Markus Postrach, HAL
“Sometimes, it felt like the inner workings of the universe made visible. It revolved slowly, then grew in complexity until it seemed, in substance if not style, like a collaboration between da Vinci, Picasso and Stephen Hawking.”
Evening Post, Auckland, New Zealand
“…a merciless revealer using the means of Art.”
Berliner Zeitung, Berlin, Germany
photo by Marko Košnik, founding member of the group Laibach
top photo by Eberhard Hoch