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Julius von Bismarck|驯服闪电的艺术家 The Artist that Tamed Lightning

Talking to Thunder (2017). Julius von Bismarck

Nature lives among humankind as a vital yet sometimes deadly force. While it is something that should be protected, it is also something that humans should be protected from. For many years mankind has been researching how to harness the power of nature for its benefit with great minds such as Nikola Tesla, Newton, and more. While some do so with destructive intent, others do so for the betterment of the world we live in. On the other hand, German artist Julius von Bismarck is looking to manipulate nature to his creative will. He journeys the world in search of thunderstorms with the intent of making a lightning bolt hit exactly where he wants so that he may capture the divine moment where the relationship of humans and nature intersect.

自然,与人类的生活紧密相关,但有时也是一种致命的力量。我们理应保护自然,因为我们也受到自然的庇护。多年来,一直有伟大的前人致力于研究如何利用自然的力量造福人类,如尼古拉特斯拉、牛顿等人。虽然其中不乏有些人是出于破坏性的意图,但其他人却是为了改善人类的生活和世界。德国艺术家朱利叶斯·冯·俾斯麦(Julius von Bismarck)尝试寻求用一种创造性的方式来操纵自然。他周游世界寻找雷暴,目的是让闪电准确地击中他想要的地方,以求捕捉到人与自然关系相交的神圣时刻。

About the artist


Julius von Bismarck

Julius von Bismarck is a German multi-media artist engaged in an eclectic range of creative mediums. Internationally known for his bold and extreme artistic process, he creates works that confront human perception and experience. He is constantly weighing the concepts of human vs. nature, wild vs. controlled, as well as the perception of physical and social constraints throughout his works. In his approach, he uses his interest in physics, robotics, computer science, and digital media to explore philosophical themes surrounding these concepts. He is also known for being a student of the internationally renowned artist, Olafur Eliasson.


A spark of realization


Talking to Thunder (2017). Julius von Bismarck

Bismarck’s quest to tame lightning comes from an experience he had in the past where his car had been struck by lightning while he was asleep inside of it. Since then, he has been seeking out thunderstorms and atmospheric research centers in the hopes of capturing lightning. Scientists have achieved this in some aspects in the past. At the same time, the artist ponders the power struggle between nature and humans. Who is in control, is it nature or us? Are we the ones being endangered or is it nature? For the artist, it is a heavy question that shows the state of the perception of the word “nature”. Its meaning has aligned with “environment” and “climate change” and is often seen in a positive light. 

俾斯麦对驯服闪电的追求源于他过去的一次经历,他的汽车在他睡着的时候曾被闪电击中。从那以后,他一直在寻找雷暴,在大气研究的中心,希望能捕捉到闪电。科学家们曾经在某些方面已经实现了这一目标。但 同时,艺术家对自然与人类之间的权力斗争进行了思考。是谁在进行控制?是自然还是我们?究竟是谁正在濒临灭绝?对于艺术家来说,这是一个沉重的问题,显示了对“自然”一词的感知状态。它的含义与“环境”和“气候变化”一致,通常被视为积极的一面。

Talking to Thunder (2017). Julius von Bismarck

“Around 12 years ago, I was sleeping in my car on a mountain off the coast of Italy. Before I fell asleep it was a perfectly nice, sunshiny day. And then all of a sudden, I was woken by this loud noise and my car was surrounded by fire. I thought I’d been shot at because you don’t expect an explosion while camped on a hill in Italy. It took me about half an hour to realize I’d been struck by lightning. The car kept me safe from the electricity, but the shockwave of the thunder felt as if a hand grenade had exploded right next to me. The force was so intense. It sounds like a cliché, but being hit by lightning gave me an idea.”

“大约 12 年前,我在意大利海岸附近一座山上的车里睡着了。在我入睡之前,那是一个非常美好、阳光明媚的日子。然后突然间,我被一声巨响吵醒了,我的车被火包围了。我以为我被枪杀了,因为在意大利的山上露营时根本不会联想到发生爆炸。我花了大约半个小时才意识到自己被闪电击中了。车子让我免受电击,但雷声的冲击波感觉就像一颗手榴弹在我旁边炸开。力量是如此的强烈。这听起来像是陈词滥调,但被闪电击中让我有了一个想法。”

– Julius von Bismark

Talking to Thunder (2017). Julius von Bismarck

Bismarck’s goal for this risky endeavor is to “domesticate” lightning and create an image that embodies a symbolic act– the straightening of a lightning bolt which manifests the perception of him controlling an unfathomable force of nature.


Talking to Thunder (2017)


After being struck by lightning, Bismarck found the knowledge he needed to test out his theory. One of the first instances of portraying the power of lightning was in his work “Talking to Thunder (2017)”. In 2016 he had heard the news of a large herd of reindeer that had been struck down by lightning in southern Norway. He hurried his way there to examine the corpses. 

被闪电击中后,俾斯麦找到了检验他的理论所需的知识。描绘闪电力量的第一个例子是在他的作品“与雷霆交谈(2017 年)”中。2016 年,他听说挪威南部有一大群驯鹿被闪电击倒。他急忙赶去检查尸体。

Talking to Thunder (2017). Julius von Bismarck

Harvesting the antler tips that were destroyed by the aftermath, he created a series of sculptures that consisted of 130 antler tips, each placed on top of stainless-steel rods. In doing so he portrays nature as a type of brutal god that desires to be appeased and worshiped. At the same time, the artist ponders the personification of nature and his desire to communicate with it. The series of works in this project also includes video, photography, and performances.

他收集了被破坏的鹿角尖端,创作了一系列雕塑,由 130 个鹿角尖组成,每个都放置在不锈钢棒的顶部。过程中,他将自然描绘成一种渴望被安抚和崇拜的野蛮神。与此同时,艺术家在思考自然的化身以及他想与自然交流的愿望。这个项目的系列作品还包括视频、摄影和表演。

Talking to Thunder (2017). Julius von Bismarck

Talking to Thunder (2017). Julius von Bismarck

Talking to Thunder (2017). Julius von Bismarck

“Talking to Thunder (2017)” is not only a creative process but also a series of works that combine creative exploration through art and the methodological approach of science. In order to catch lightning for this work, he visited a jungle in Venezuela where thunderstorms were frequent and intense, recording them to understand how lightning could be manifested by his will. 


Talking to Thunder (2017). Julius von Bismarck

Talking to Thunder (2017). Julius von Bismarck

Here, he succeeded in capturing bolts of lightning through threads intertwined with copper, kevlar, and silver launched into the storm with aluminum rockets. Taking these bolts of lightning he directs their path onto trees, plants, and other environments to capture through his camera. The straight jolt of light penetrates the image showing the divine might of nature. Interestingly, looking at these surreal photos, one might begin to question if is real or not. This is the philosophy that Bismarck beckons, the flawed nature of our perception, and the fact that it is of our own making.


“There are so many different ways to see the world which are no less correct, and in some instances, more correct.”


Blitzrakete (2021)


Blitzrakete (2021). Julius von Bismarck

The rockets used to capture lightning remains as a relic of the history of his path and success in taming lightning. They are one of the foundations in Bismarck’s ambitions that challenged his technical and scientific expertise. In order to catch lightning, the artist visited a research facility on a Navy base in Florida where the feat had been done. Ultimately, he did not find his answer there, leading him to build his own rockets.


Blitzrakete (2021). Julius von Bismarck

Blitzrakete (2021). Julius von Bismarck

“I went to hobby rocketeering festivals and then I tried to get a license to do it, which is really complicated. I also found out how I could get these rocket engines without having a license and figured out how to smuggle them around the globe, which was important in order to get it into Venezuela.”


Blitzrakete (2021). Julius von Bismarck

Blitzrakete (2021). Julius von Bismarck

Blitzrakete (2021). Julius von Bismarck

In 2021, Bismarck created “Blitzrakete” (2021), translated as Lightning Rocket. It is an extension of “Talking to Thunder” (2016). The work is an array of reusable rockets and rods that can be used to capture lightning. While the exhibited pieces are not equipped with engines, these rockets can be fitted with them to be launched. In his home country, Germany, these rockets are prohibited from launching without certain permits.


Talking to Thunder (2017). Julius von Bismarck

Talking to Thunder (2017). Julius von Bismarck

Talking to Thunder (2017). Julius von Bismarck

While Julius von Bismarck’s wild journey to capture lightning is full of close encounters with death and a painstaking scientific process, the resulting imagery of manipulated nature is his trophy of capturing lightning in a bottle. With the hierarchy of power challenged, the achievement instills the sentiment that the vulnerabilities of humans are more affected by the mental state rather than the physical state.


Whole Earth Archive (2022). Julius von Bismarck

Recently, Bismarck opened his new exhibition in Berlin, Germany titled, “Whole Earth Archive” which will take his exploration into the concept of time travel and the archiving of events on Earth throughout time in different forms. This concept will take what Bismarck has been experimenting on the Earth and expand those concepts into space.

俾斯麦最近在德国柏林举办了名为“Whole Earth Archive”(地球档案)的新展览,这个展览探索了时间旅行的概念,以不同的形式对地球上的事件进行存档。这个概念采用了俾斯麦在地球上进行的实验,并在之后会将这些概念扩展到太空。

*all images and artworks belong to the artist & his representing galleries respectively


For more information on the artist, please click here


Translation 翻译 Rona Xia


本篇文章来源于微信公众号: SHMADNESS


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