The Barbican’s slinky Curve gallery demands a special kind of art but, as we find out, United Visual Artists are up to the challenge
If you were one of the thousands who queued (sometimes for hours) for Random International’s ‘Rain Room’ in 2012, you’ll know all about the Barbican’s Curve gallery. Since 2006 the Barbican Centre has been commissioning artists to create work for its unusually long arc of an exhibition space. The latest, ‘Momentum’ by United Visual Artists, looks set to join the ranks of blockbusting extravaganzas that have put this unlikely venue on the art map.
UVA, a techy collective of 12 London based artists, has made a name for itself over the past decade with atmospheric art installations and visuals for the likes of Massive Attack and Battles. The group were excited to work in this unique space: ‘It’s like a bent turbine hall, it has this wonderful continuous curve,’ says Matt Clark, one of UVA’s founders. ‘We started thinking about how we could create a work which would respond to that. It’s not just about putting things on the wall, it’s using the space as a canvas.’
On entering the installation, it’s as if you’ve just stepped into a Victorian peasouper, or out of a spaceship. Mist fills the air. Through the haze you can pick out 12 pendulums suspended from the ceiling. Swinging rhythmically, each emits two different types of light – a spotlight and a circular beam – in unpredictable formations along with ambient sounds, in a kind of mind cleansing sorbet of white noise. ‘The ultimate aim was to create something that seemed effortless,’ says Clark. ‘It wasn’t about using lots of technology. It’s about the way the objects move in the space and how that makes you feel.’
‘Momentum’ certainly feels like you’re in another world. The edges of the room disappear, distances become difficult to gauge and fellow visitors appear like shadows. Ironically, while this is probably UVA’s largest installation, it’s a fairly minimal affair. ‘So little does so much in this space,’ says Clark. Best of all, this surprisingly intimate experience has been created with a mass audience in mind. ‘I’m conscious of people’s time,’ says Clark. ‘You can walk in at any point. The last thing we want are lots of queues. I wouldn’t want to queue to see something, so why should anyone else have to?’