United Visual Artists at the Barbican

Filed in Reviews by on February 26, 2014

United Visual Artists: Momentum

Barbican Centre

13 February to 1 June 2014


My first regret was wearing noisy shoes. With less grace (and definitely less subtlety) than I had hoped, I slowly traced the wall of the Curve round, following the light pendulums. There was a hazy darkness, punctuated by darker shadows and by the motion of twelve discs of light. They were sometimes still, sometimes leaving traces of their circular travels. It was always changing, moving all in motion or making patterns in pairs. Eyes followed their movements, and hands grasped out for the soft light that beamed down.

I found myself sitting in the middle of the Curve, back against the wall with my eyes fixed on one of the pendulums. I became more aware of a circling spotlight projection, moving closer and closer to my outstretched legs. It was as though I had been spotted, that I was under surveillance. At this point, the pendulums took on new characters. They acted as inquisitive beings; their programmed movements and light intensity all became means of trying to comprehend the space in which they occupied.

The uniformity of the pendulums movement draws you in from the moment you duck through the black curtain. These are paired with strange sounds, echoing their way throughout the space. Static and interference can be heard softly underneath individual pendulums; yet clanging noises of different tones melt through the space. Honestly, it took me an agonisingly long to time to try and figure what the noises reminded me of. And then I got it. It reminded me of my confusion during the first hour of 2001: A Space Odyssey. When any form of helpful dialogue was missing, all that remained were these strange, almost mechanical sounds.

Adjusting to darkness, my senses became more alert, to sound, to light and to movement. I became utterly absorbed in watching these lit-up pendulums. One of the most intriguing elements of this installation was the way the pendulums defied their very purpose. Instead of falling back and forth under gravity’s spell, they would stall at a height, and only very slowly, did they move back down to complete their arc. Defying nature, this served to enhance the idea that this was a transformed environment, and we were being made to take notice of every little element that made it so. I certainly was.

So, this was what I was left with. Part science fiction film, a strange land where noises and lights are methods of communication, where gravity is undermined; and part investigative drama, where these lit-up pendulums look to explore the space around them with their movements. It was captivating. With the purpose of exploring and altering how we react to our environments, the United Visual Artists have certainly met this credential with success. With lights moving in motion, with sounds reverberating through the space, you became more aware of the slope of the walls and the height of the ceiling, towering over you in the darkness. They manifested themselves with more power than I had seen before. Which, seeing as I had last seen the space filled with birds and upturned cymbals, is hard to believe.

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Ann-Marie Rayney

About the Author ()

Ann-Marie Rayney is a printmaker based in London. Recently graduated from Goldsmiths with a Fine Art and Art History degree, she will most likely be found exploring London's cultural offerings or covered in ink at Sonsoles Print Studio in Peckham. To see some of her work, have a sneaky peak at her website here. http://cargocollective.com/annmarierayney

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