The Origin Of Origin: The Story Of UVA's Largest Responsive Installation To Date

<p>United Visual Artists explain <i>Origin</i>, the mysterious <span class="caps">LED</span> cube that dazzled audiences at our <span class="caps">NYC</span> event.</p>

Our traveling event series has taken us all over the world this year—from the desert sands of Coachella to an exquisite refurbished opera-house-turned-digital-media-house in Paris to Beijing’s most avant-garde center for contemporary art—but one constant uniting all these events and locations has been the evolving work of United Visual Artists (UVA). A multi-disciplinary collective from the UK, UVA can best be described as “architects of light and sound,” creating colossal interactive installations and sets for live performance that have the power to attract and captivate audiences like moths to the proverbial flame.

As one of our main Studio works this year, they redesigned the Coachella main stage as The Orchestrion, both a platform for performance and a standalone, cubic light and and sound sculpture with experimental music by Creator Mira Calix. The work then traveled to the Nuits sonores in Lyon, where it served as the entry point to the festival as Conductor, a monolithic 16 meter totem, animated with UVA’s light designs and set to an original score by Scanner. The installation then became a mysterious, infinite and reflective Room with a View in both São Paulo and Beijing.

UVA’s Coachella main stage transforms into a cube of light during an audiovisual performance in collaboration with Mira Calix. Photo by Peter Sutherland

At our New York event in DUMBO last month, UVA unveiled Origin, the latest iteration of this metamorphosing large-scale responsive LED sculpture. At 10 meters wide and 10 meters high, it’s the largest responsive work they’ve created thus far. Taking inspiration from UVA’s previous monumental site-specific works like Monolith, Tryptich and Volume, they’ve created a giant cubic structure that is simple in form but still manages to create a powerful ‘otherworldly’, ‘alien’ or ‘god-like’ presence. Calling to mind images of Mecca and the Tower of Babel, the group hopes to capture the energy and diversity of NYC in the experience.

“Monolith” (London, 2005). Image courtesy of the artists.

“Triptych” (Paris, 2007). Image courtesy of the artists.

“Volume” (London, 2010). Image courtesy of the artists.

Origin is a cubic lattice composed of 125 two-meter cubic spaces mounted with linear LED strips, allowing it to emit varying light patterns in all directions. A network of speakers (bass and treble) generates real-time loud ominous sounds from a new original score by Scanner. Positioned in DUMBO’s Tobacco Warehouse, just under the Brooklyn Bridge, visitors were able to meander inside the structure, immersed in its sights and sounds and influencing these sights and sounds in turn.

In UVA’s own words:

Origin is alive, and it’s moody. It will stay in a state of calm, soothing bliss for fifteen minutes at a time, lulling its occupants into a sense of false security. Then, seemingly on a whim, it will take exception to their behaviour; its metaphorical tail will start to lash back and forth like a cat’s, until it explodes into an angry tantrum that rises to a terrifying crescendo. Then it will again seemingly calm down.

While it remains purposely mysterious, it’s clear that its mood changes are triggered by people moving within the structure; while you’re queueing and watching the people inside try to discover ‘how it works’, you’re also forming your own hypotheses.

The sight was particularly stunning at dusk when the LEDs were displayed in their full resplendence.

Images courtesy of UVA / James Medcraft.