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Pondering Life's Big Questions With Holographic Sculptures

Jeff Robb's Three Acts Of Will uses holography to create three dimensional sculptures aimed to disorientate and overwhelm.

by Kevin Holmes
07 June 2013, 2:56pm

Think of holograms and you probably think of Star Wars, a glitchy Princess Leia asking Ben Kenobi for some help. And while we wait (and wait and wait) for that technology to come about and revolutionize our Skype chats, there are other happenings in the field of holography going on. One of those is British artist Jeff Robb's holographic sculptures, which are currently lighting up a gallery space in the back streets of Shoreditch, London.

Walk into the space and you're greeted (after the reception desk) by upside down, elongated pyramids shimmering various colors and forms at you, while in the distance you can hear what sounds like a child crying. These pyramidal forms hang suspended, solid yet you can gaze into them, like staring into some kind of magic cauldron that'll reveal some instance of your life way off in the future. "It's all about coming out of nothing, out of the ether into the physical world, which is actually a thread throughout a lot of my work—these liminal states." Robb told me. 

The exhibition, called Three Acts Of Will, is split into three rooms, each one representing a different experience. "There's one act per room, three acts, three sculptures." Robb continues. "It's spilt into three parts, a sort of genesis from nothing in room one, there's the process of it coming from the ether to the physical which is room two, and a new voice in the world which is room three." The new voice is that of Robb's child, a son his wife recently gave birth to which, he adds, might have caused him to pause and reflect on the big questions: life, death, the universe—typical end-of-the-party conversation topics. "You can't help but start thinking, how does that happen? In a fundamental sense. I'm fascinated by the fact that we don't really know what matter is, we don't really know what the universe is made of, we don't where we came from, we don't know the big unanswered questions."

Robb has been working with holograms for 25 years, under the tutelage of hologram figurehead and pioneer the late Nick Phillips. For Robb they're a magical form to work with, "If you keep asking why they work, you get to a point where no one knows, so they are fundamentally mysterious. They're completely unlike any other imaging device, they recreate a wavefront—which is how you see the world. It's a very fundamental imaging technique which is probably still a hundred years ahead because the amount of data in a hologram is so large, that even super computers can't deal with it."

Robb often models his holographic sculptures in 3ds Max, mapping out how the sculptures will sit in the space and how they might interact with the viewer, helping him to pre-visualize the exhibition. This time his models we're unusually uncanny in their likeness to real life. And in real life the holograms entice you in with their ethereal shininess, and the abstract patterns and figures that seem to be emanating from them. The idea, Robb says, was to create a sense of disorientation, which is heightened by composer John Was' soundscape which is what I heard when I first walked in the space. 

"Hopefully in this I really have done some things that are very different." Robb explains. "Because there's sculpture using the material to form physical objects that appear to occupy a space different from their physicality. Because it's a three dimensional imaging medium they're projecting out and looking into it—yet it is itself a three dimensional object. So I'm trying to sort of mess with your head really and then we've got the three dimensional sound system, the ambisonic system. When it's all going you've got a massively multi-sensual sensory experience going on." 

Three Acts of Will is on from 5th – 12th June, 2013, open daily 11.00am - 6.00pm at Londonewcastle Project Space, 28 Redchurch Street, London, E2 7DP 

Jeff Robb
Three Acts Of Will