United Visual Artists' 'Momentum' project comprises a series of 12 objects that slowly oscillate in the dark void of the Barbican Gallery's 90m long Curve space in London. The installation takes its cue from the idea of Foucault's pendulum - an instrument designed to visualise invisible forces, such as the Earth's rotation.
Every single part of the project - from the electronics to the mechanics - has been researched and custom-built by UVA over nine months. Each swinging element has its own 3D-printed acoustic-chamber, playing out a broad-textural soundtrack, and a light source that cuts a 360 degree plane through the smoke-filled void.
At first the modular system appears to swing in sync to the rhythm of a pendulum, holding the viewer in a state of suspended belief. However, every five minutes or so, small variations to the movement warp onlookers' perception. 'We can really play with time and slow things down very subtly,' says Matthew Clark, one of the founding members of UVA. 'We have absolute control over the mechanics.'
Momentum is about exploring the tension between synthesised and natural movement. But in the words of UVA-designer Ben Kreukniet: 'Physics doesn't like it when you try and take control.' And in the rafters of the Curve, a hidden battle with gravity takes place - where a system of 30kg counterweights, on two axes of rotation, utilise motors that can push and pull each element into place - an engineering project many firms 'wouldn't touch'.
The lean, entirely functional one kilo objects have a beauty of their own, but the near-formless space they define - through an array of light and managed Doppler-effects - becomes the artwork viewers can't ignore. 'We're constantly bombarded with visual noise,' says Clark. 'So we just want to create a place where, for a certain amount of time, people can lose themselves in a moment.'