UVA’s Volume on YouTube

by Andy Polaine on December 18, 2006

I wrote a little while back about UnitedVisualArtists’ new work, Volume, that is being shown at the V&A at the moment. Joel from UVA sent me a mail to say they have uploaded a clip on YouTube (the one here), as well as some videos of their other work.

There’s also a higher quality MP4 version on the UVA site if you would like to see it in all its glory.

UPDATE: 24.12.2006 I managed to go and see Volume at the V&A whilst I was in London this week. So, I can confirm that the sound on the video is the audio that is being played by the installation, but I’m not sure it’s the live recording on the video.

It is reactive, more than interactive. You can definitely tell that you are affecting the installation in some way – mainly by bringing ‘dormant’ poles into life. I think I would have like to have had a bit more interaction, but I don’t think it would work so well in this particular installation. The reason is that I think a cacophony would be possible and this piece is all about mystery and beauty.

The main strength of it (apart from the very high production levels) is the slightly alien, mysterious feeling it evokes. As you can see in the video, some people stand and watch, others walk up to the poles and stand very close, looking at them intently, stroking them. Others walk through the ‘forest’ of poles and it does make for a strange social connection. I stood in one corner and watched the people for a while too – it felt very much like a scene from Close Encounters or watching the apes in 2001 encounter the monolith. It is very mesmerising and I could have stayed much longer just looking at the people.

{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Karl DD December 20, 2006 at 2:03 am

This is indeed an impressive installation and UVA create some work of unquestionable quality and production.

However I find my self wondering exactly what is happening on an interactive level. It seems apparent from watching the video (unfortunately I have not been able to see it) that it does seem to mesmerise people and results in a dumbing down of the interaction. What I look for almost exclusively in sucessful interactive works is the ability to draw out interesting interaction from the participants – Lozano-Hemmer’s ‘Body Movies’ being the prime example.

Volume, is decribed as a ‘sculpture of light and sound’, but am I missing something or is there something beyond it being just simply that? Perhaps there is some non-linear stuff going on akin to Ken Rinaldo’s ‘Autopoiesis‘ or Usman Haque’s ‘Evolving Sonic Environment‘?

2 Andy Polaine December 20, 2006 at 2:46 am

‘Dumbing down’ seems a little harsh a judgement for something that mesmerises. I’m not sure interaction is ever that deep in any case – hence my interest in the playful and pointless (to some degree).

I hope to see the piece in London this week, so I’ll maybe report back. But yes, perhaps it is simply what it says it is: a sculpture of light and sound.

The only real question I have with the video is whether the soundtrack is over-dubbed or it is from the work itself.

Maybe Joel or one of the other UVA guys can pitch in here with some answers?

3 Karl DD December 24, 2006 at 7:59 am

Whether interaction is deep or not is an interesting question. For mine, interactivity is inherently about the ‘interactor’ rather than any great meta-narrative being purveyed by the work itself. Interactivity is not inherently high art or award-winning advertising. So while interactivity may not have a voice or something to say, the ‘interactor’ almost certainly does. Time Magazine 2006 person of the year… drum rollYou.

I attended a lecture of Erkki Huhtamo this week and he introduced a history of what he calls early proto-interactive devices. These devices were mainly developed for entertainment; peep shows, mutoscopes and on to pinball machines. At the dinner afterward I spoke to him about these and how much they the entertainment aspect of interactivity is still prevalent with technological gimmicks and novelty. It is not hard to map such devices out on Jim Campbell’s ‘Formula for Computer Art‘.

It is interesting to look at the history of such systems to get an idea about the general direction interactivity is taking. In a sense interactivity got hijacked along the way to act as a control mechanism for databases and ‘old world media’. I almost certainly agree with Usman Hague in thinking it can be so much more – Campbell’s diagram needs a lot more blank boxes and question marks.

4 Andy Polaine December 24, 2006 at 1:05 pm

By deep I mean that I have seen very few works in which the interactivity carries much deep meaning (which in itself is a rather problematic term). By this I mean that although the work itself might have some commentary to make on the world/human condition, the interaction is often more basic.

On the other hand, I do think that the playful element can have that effect/affect. You can draw people’s attention to the things they normally ignore in the everyday, whether that be their state of mind/body, their relationships with each other or other ‘things’ in the world. I think that’s much more worthwhile and interesting than Big Fine Art usually bothers with.

5 Andy Polaine December 24, 2006 at 1:08 pm

p.s. I also went to see Volume at the V&A a couple of days ago. I’ll write a new post or update this one about it.

6 ash January 4, 2007 at 5:47 pm

Hi Andy,

Ash here from UVA… thanks for the review. To answer your question about the video – all the sound is from the camera, with no overdubbing.

:-)
ash

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