United Visual Artists talk to Installation about their latest installation Momentum at The Curve, Barbican Centre. Understand the technology behind the collective’s immersive environment showcasing the physicality of the space through light and sound. If you find yourself in London do not miss this experience, it is open to the public until 1 June, 2014.
Matthew Clark, Chris Bird and Ash Nehru are the founding members of UVA. Have other members joined the collective over the last decade?
UVA is basically a pseudonym anonymously used by a set of different people over the years. Uniquely, UVA internally both works as a collective in which each member influences the work we create, as well as an artist studio with a sustained body of work.
In addition to its founders, UVA presently covers a team of ten people. Architect Alexandros Tsolakis, Lighting Designer Ben Kreukniet, Interaction Designer Tiemen Rapati, Industrial Designer Nick Found, Electronics Designer Vincent de Belleval, Assistant Architect William Gowland and Model Maker Ellen Thomas.
UVA wouldn’t exist however without their project management team, consisting of Keri Elmsley, Rosie Mitchell, Ulla Winkler and Charlie Cowie.
What inspired the creation of UVA? As a multimedia collective that uses technology to transform space.
The three directors provided the initial cornerstones in terms of disciplines and are responsible for creating this unique structure. Matt Clark, UVA’s artistic director, studied fine art and sculpture. Chris Bird’s background is in technical production and Ash Nehru studied computer science at Trinity College, Cambridge. Their common interest was to explore how you can create emotional impact and influence people’s perception through technology.
How was the Curve determined as the location of the installation? How has the space helped realize your vision?
At the time when the Barbican offered us The Curve, we had been playing around with a couple of two-axis pendulum prototypes. The idea which later became Momentum was formed as a reaction to the physical shape of this gallery. We wanted to turn The Curve into a spatial instrument people could step into; a space mold with different rules of physics.
The press release for Momentum cites UVA as identifying “Our internal model of time, movement, mass and space is based on a lifetime of experience, perhaps even genetically encoded. What happens when we build a new model? What happens when we bend the rules?”
What do you perceive as the “norm?” What rules are been “bended” in Momentum? How do you hope the installation will change the public’s relationships with time and space?
Momentum consists of twelve pendulums that swing back and forth, inspired by Foucault pendulum; a scientific instrument that used gravity to demonstrate the rotation of the earth. Over time, the pendulums in The Curve gradually progress from behaving naturally to moving unnaturally slow, or impossibly coordinated. In the gallery, the rate at which time passes is made variable. The effect of gravity on the pendulums seems to change over time. How this affects us really is an experiment: some find the installation inexplicably creepy, where others find it meditative.
How does the sound change in the space? Are different frequencies emitted depending on where the visitor is standing?
Each pendulum is fitted with it’s own speaker. We designed a custom 3D-printed speaker chamber to maximize the directionality of the sound emitted. The effect of the sound physically moving through the space, combined with the varying acoustic qualities of the gallery make for a unique sonic experience determined by your position in the space.
Have audio samples been recorded inside the space?
Not yet, but we hope to do so very soon.
How has the work changed the public’s perception of The Curve thus far?
We have been lucky to have received a lot of positive feedback. People spend a lot of time inside the gallery. Our favourite responses described Momentum as “stepping into a Victorian peasouper — or out of a spaceship”, “a mind cleansing sorbet of white noise”, or even “an ideal meeting place for spies.”
Featured video: United Visual Artists: Momentum The Curve, Barbican Centre, 13 February – 1 June 2014, Video by Sidd Khajuria. Courtesy Barbican Art Gallery.
All images © Barbican Art Gallery