It can be difficult to describe digital artworks, because they often need to be seen to be understood. But Matt Pyke hopes that when people do see the newest, extraordinary installation by his design collective, Universal Everything, they will feel 'the sensation of witnessing a new form of life, never felt before'. And the brilliant thing is, they probably will. Even if that's hard to imagine right now.
The huge, two-part audio-visual installation is the first exhibit to be shown in the Science Museum's new Media Space galleries, which opened to the public this month. Designed to bring together photographers, artists and curators to explore the relationship between photography, science, art and technology, the Media Space is a collaboration between the Science Museum and the National Media Museum in Bradford.
Within the newly opened space, Universal Everything has created a curved chamber comprising two concentric 360º video projection walls immersing the visitor. Running on the outside of the chamber, 'Presence' is a 24-minute, four-screen film of a contemporary dance performance, clothed in Universal Everything's customary abstract digital costumes and choreographed by Benjamin Millepied and his LA Dance Project (soon to be on at Sadler's Wells Theatre). The inner screen shows '1000 Hands', a living, evolving digital environment, consisting of visitor-generated drawings made through a touch screen app.
Since we covered his exhibition at Paris' Gâité Lyrique two years ago, Pyke has been busy working on installations and experiences for Intel, Nike and Hyundai (who are also partnering for the Media Space show). For this exhibition the plan was to bring it all together. 'We wanted to create a grand cumulative mix of the processes we have been exploring; architecture, sound, choreography, CGI and touch screen interaction,' he explains. 'The essence of the work is about revealing a living, emotional presence within digital forms, leading us to develop abstracted, digital costumes for the dancers of "Presence"'.
Continues Pyke: 'With "1000 Hands", we wanted to involve the visitors in the creation of the work, to challenge the traditional role of audience versus artists. The work only exists because of the audience contributions.' The installation is the studio's biggest collaboration yet, involving architects, fabricators, projectionists, musicians, dancers, choreographers, CGI animators and programmers.