To enter the vast underground space at London’s 180 Studios, where United Visual Artists (UVA) is hosting ’Synchronicity’, its biggest survey exhibition yet, is to experience instant disorientation. The warren of rooms eschew light – and are occasionally cast in near pitch blackness – instead zooming in on a rich, auditory and multi-sensory experience which brings UVA’s collaborations with bio-acoustician Bernie Krause, late electronic musician Mira Calix and Robert Del Naja, amongst others, to the forefront.
The results are both memorable and moving, asking you to consider everything from the implications of data storage against a new procedural score by Robert Del Naja in Present Shock II – the data installation was originally created for the band Massive Attack’s 100th ‘Window’ tour in 2003 and is beautifully rethought here – to a study of bodily movement in Ensemble, with choreography by Dana Gingras of Animals of Distinction.
‘Of the eight works in the show, only one will have been seen in London, and five are completely new,’ says UVA’s Matt Clark. ‘So, for anyone familiar with our work, there will be many unique experiences to discover. We have chosen a direction where the installations have a musicality, so it will be like walking through a series of performances, all site-specific and immersive. Although there's an overarching theme that links everything together, the individual works are very different in how they are presented. So hopefully it will be a rich and surprising series of experiences.’
Particularly poignant is Our Time, a large-scale installation composed of pendulums in aluminium and steel which swing to their own rhythm, keeping time and falling out of it, set against a custom score by Calix. In Etymologies, snippets of text cycle through the work of Freud and Jung in a sideways look at the algorithm, synonymous with AI tools such as ChatGPT which have been referred to as its own kind of ‘collective unconscious.’
‘Many of the works are collaborations with individuals UVA has formed close relationships with over several years,’ adds Clark on the exhibition’s focus. ‘Take Polyphony with Bernie Krause. We first worked with Bernie Krause on the Great Animal Orchestra, an installation originally commissioned by the Fondation Cartier pour l’art contemporain in 2016. Polyphony features a soundscape inspired by field recordings from the Dzanga-Sangha Special Reserve in the Central African Republic, recorded by Bernie and ethnomusicologist Louis Sarno. [And in] Our Time, Mira [Calix] was one of our favourite collaborators and a dear friend, an amazingly talented musician and creative force.’
‘Ensemble includes choreography by Dana Gingras of Animals of Distinction with whom we previously worked on a multimedia dance performance called Creation Destruction. This newly created audio-visual work is a three-part study looking at the evolving relationship between bodily movement, gesture and our species’ sense of musicality. In the accompanying score by composer Roger Tellier-Craig, a musical language emanates from the physicality of the body and its movements, paying particular attention to the role of breath, rhythm, repetition and the inherent patterns of locomotion. UVA has also frequently enjoyed collaborating on sound design and composition with Ben Frost, Daniel J Thibault, Roger Tellier-Craig and Ben Kreukniet who was a full-time member of the UVA studio for several years.’
The exhibition marks the 20th anniversary of the group. ‘As our largest survey show to date, it highlights many of the recurring themes and preoccupations that have led to a coherent body of work over two decades, but also – we hope – demonstrates some progression and evolution as we’ve matured and discovered new ideas. The eight works are of course not everything – there are smaller scale and more ‘analogue’ pieces we didn’t include – but the exhibition reflects breadth and variety in terms of scale, media, technology and subject matter.
‘Everything created by UVA is a reflection of a collective effort. To realise the works, a mix of talents, skillsets, experience and knowledge are required, so the exhibition is a celebration and thank you to all the studio members past and present, as well as scientists, writers, musicians, filmmakers and choreographers and clients that have contributed not only to specific projects but also enabled the studio to continue for 20 years and commemorate this milestone.’
Synchronicity is at 180 Studios, London, 12 October – 30 December 2023
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Hannah Silver is the Art, Culture, Watches & Jewellery Editor of Wallpaper*. Since joining in 2019, she has overseen offbeat design trends and in-depth profiles, and written extensively across the worlds of culture and luxury. She enjoys meeting artists and designers, viewing exhibitions and conducting interviews on her frequent travels.
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