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10 Years Of Mind-Bending Installations With United Visual Artists

UVA turned ten and unveiled its latest exhibition, "Momentum," so take a trip through their past multi-sensory projects with us.

United Visual Artists (UVA), The London-based, multidisciplinary art and design studio, have been distorting our senses with their immersive, interactive exhibitions since the before the dawn of The Creators Project.

After hitting its tenth year in business, the studio, founded by Matthew Clark, Chris Bird, and Ash Nehru in 2003, premiered its newest installation, Momentum, at London's Barbican Curve Gallery this past February. We wanted to preserve this momentous event, so we made a short documentary that the explores the installation, viewable above.


Momentum is a 90-meter-long, site-specific light piece in the winding, expansive Curve Gallery. Ben Kreuknieut of UVA described the work as a "spatial instrument," as it includes twelve mechanical pendulums that form an evolutionary composition of light, sound, and movement. As visitors traverse the space, the pendulums are programmed to move in idiosyncratic manners, so that shadows surge across the room and sounds bounce off the chamber walls. It's a unique experience for every visitor.

Inspired by Foucault's Pendulum, the device used to demonstrate the rotation of the Earth, UVA asked, "What if we could re-create [Foucault's] experiment but take control of it?" The result is a hypnotic and unforgettable exhibition open to the public through June.

Get a deeper look inside the exhibition in our documentary above, and join us as we take a nostalgic birthday journey back through UVA's most memorable works of the past ten years.

Origin (2011) — New York City

We might be biased about this one, but wouldn't feel right if we didn't showcase UVA's collaborative project with sound artist Scanner first. The project, titled Origin, was a large-scale, responsive LED sculpture that was the culmination of a series of works derived from Orchestrion, the main stage design created by UVA for Coachella 2011.

In October of that year, Origin moved to the east coast for The Creators Project: New York festival in Brooklyn's DUMBO neighborhood. The mechanical cube sent strikes of light and sound throughout its structure like electrical wires as visitors gathered inside, much like insects attracted to a street lamp. It was one of our favorite installations from our two-day event, and we wish this installation was kept in the Vice office.


Mirror (2005) — London

Mirror was UVA’s first gallery installation (first shown at the Kemistry Gallery) that implemented two stereo cameras to make a moving, three-dimensional image of the viewer, allowing the visitor to view himself from odd angles. The stereo processing yielded visible distortions, skewing and contorting viewers' encounters with themselves.

Echo (2006) — London

In 2006, UVA created Echo, an eight minute live performance piece with contemporary UK dance troupe, Mimbre. Using 3D cameras, the studio captured the dancers' movements on stage, and then morphed the resulting abstractoins onto a backdrop in real time.

Echo was first performed during a launch at Tate Modern, London in 2006, and later performed at Como’s Teatro Sociale, Italy in 2009.

Hereafter (2007) — Tokyo/Belsay/London

Premiering in 2007, Hereafter continued UVA's fascination with perception, time, our reflections, and disorienting all of the above. The group created a mirror-esque installation that employs high-speed cameras to reflect "a live history of the space, weaving previous recorded moments, objects, and people together" into one frame, instead of obvious reflections. It was either an avant-garde interpretation of the Mirror of Erised from Harry Potter, or a vampire's worst nightmare.

Battles (2007) — Wales

For math-rock virtuosos, Battles, UVA made its first live-action music video for the group's song, "Tonto." The band was filmed in a specialized LED installation built at an abandoned Welsh slate mine that had an audio-synchronized light field. The video was a documentation of the band playing for 11-hours, and it included several time-lapses from the surrounding area.


Speed Of Light (2010) — London

In the spring of 2010, UVA took over four floors of the industrial art-space, Bargehouse, along the Thames, for a ten-day laser sculpture installation, representative of "the idea of speed being light, and light being data." Speed Of Light was awarded the Creative Review Annual Award in 2011 and was listed Best In Book for the same award.

High Arctic (2011) — London 

Known for its artist collaborations, UVA'sHigh Arctic installation featured a fragments of a commissioned poem by Nick Drake, titled "The Farewell Glacier." The piece was based on a trip UVA Creative Director, Matt Clark, took with Drake to Svalbard Norway. The expedition and exhibition both zoned in on human relationshiop's with the arctic region, as well as our role in glacial meltdowns. The exhibition included an abstracted arctic landscape made out of audiovisual sculptures and interactive animations. If the illuminated structures didn't pull your attention towards global warming, then we don't know what will.

Vanishing Point (2013) — Berlin

Vanishing Point puts a hyper-modern spin on the sketches of Leon Battista Alberti, Leonardo DaVinci, and Albrecht Dürer. Again, focusing on the representations (or mis-representations) of spatial forms, UVA shot RGB laser lines into a room from a hidden, arbitrary vanishing point, creating different sized "divisions" that could explored by anyone who visited.


Serpentine Gallery Summer Pavilion Intervention (2013) — London

This past summer, UVA stippled Sou Fujimoto's gridded summer pavilion at London's Serpentine Gallery with lights, "allowing the architecture to breathe." The piece illuminated the geometric structure in a manner that made it look like it was coming to life as lights surged from its innards to its edges.

Ten mini project profiles aren't enough for UVA, though. The prolific studio has created over 30 installations over the past decade, and Momentum is a testament to their continuous enlightenments of both the structures they work in, and the audiences who love them.

See more of our past coverage on UVA here, and check out the team's litany of multi-sensory installations at its website.

Lead image: © James Medcraft, Courtesy Barbican Art Gallery 

Other images courtesy of UVA and Tiemen Rapati