Vis-à-vis with United Visual Artists

Joana Lazarova by Joana Lazarova,
04 October 2011

United Visual Artists is an art and design practice based in London, an exciting cluster of young artists dealing with the legacy of fine art, architecture, communication design, moving image, computer science and engineering. Bringing into focus the exploration of human-spatial interaction their work unveils a delightful seedbed of light, while giving a new perspective. UVA’s work has been exhibited at the V&A, the Royal Academy of Art, the South Bank Centre, the Wellcome Collection, Opera North Leeds, La Gaîté Lyrique, Durham Cathedral and The British Library. Recently they have produced a new work, their biggest sculptural installation to date, called Slipstream.

Slipstream/ Image: UVA

‘Slipstream has been a great opportunity for us to create a site specific work which is as much about daylight, reflection and geometry as it is about the animation of light within,’ says Ben Kreukniet. ’We were also really interested in creating a work which maintained a consistent language for the individual elements (prisms) through to the suspension cables (which echo the form of the prisms) and the animation of light.’   

        Slipstream/ Image: UVA

The UVA team shared with us the story behind this impressive project:

‘On a trip to London, England, Rudy Adlaf, Senior Vice President, Architecture and Design at The Cadillac Fairview Corporation Limited, was inspired by a light installation located in Covent Garden. The Cadillac Fairview Corporation Limited was in the process of researching and reviewing art and lighting schemes around the world.
During a meeting with Dominique Alary from Lumid in Montreal, Mr. Adlaf described the installation which had so intrigued him; Alary opened an issue of Mondo Magazine laying on his desk featuring the project recently completed by United Visual Artists in London.
Alary introduced Mr. Adlaf to UVA's practice and to their particular approach and experience. Mr. Adlaf left the meeting with the magazine in hand. The next time Mr. Alary spoke with Mr. Adlaf, he had commissioned UVA to design the Toronto Eaton Center installation and invited Lumid to manufacture the 400-foot installation.

        Slipstream/ Image: UVA

Cadillac Fairview is Lumid’s oldest client, having worked together on numerous projects throughout Canada for 20 years. The question was met with excitement and the project was launched.
Slipstream is a 135-metre long aerial sculpture suspended beneath the iconic glass vault of Toronto Eaton Centre’s galleria. The work aims to capture a sense of flight and aerodynamics, expressing the movement of the sky above to viewers below.
The work is comprised of 70 prisms, each suspended delicately along the axis of the galleria. Through the use of Tensegrity, the sculpture is held in place, the orientation of the wires echoing and extending the geometry of the prisms themselves. Each successive prism is rotated by a single degree to create a continuous gesture of motion.

        Slipstream/ Image: UVA

The animation of Slipstream changes in response to the movement of the sun throughout the day and local meteorological factors, such as wind speed. At night, as light animates from within, a momentum is created as impulses of light shift and stream throughout.
Concept and process
In Slipstream, UVA has created a work that utilises repeated geometric forms to capture a sense of aerodynamics. Rotated through a bright, day-lit environment, the reflective materiality of the work creates a play of light with the movement of the sky above and the shifting perspectives of people below. Like frames in an animation, each successive prism represents a different moment in time.
The design of the work is inspired by iconic Tensegrity structures, such as the Skylon tower (London), as well as motion capture techniques dating back to the mid 19th century.

        Slipstream/ Image: UVA

The geometry of each prism is expanded at the centre to create an aperture for the animation of light within. Solid state lighting technology integrated in each prism transforms the work by drawing the attention of the viewer through a sequence of motion upon which the geometry was created. Each prism tapers to a network of fine, linear wires that hold and expand the geometry of the work, thus establishing a dialogue with the surrounding architecture.’ 

UVA has also created d3 -an integrated production tool for sculptural media installations, that combines a real time 3D stage visualiser, one of the most advanced timelines in the industry and a powerful media server with unmatched 3D image mapping abilities. They have worked with big artists, like Massive Attack and the Chemical Brothers and have directed a music video for the Battles.



UVA and Massive Attack have an ongoing artistic relationship. Up to date UVA have created four world and festival tours for the band. See more HERE.

         Massive Attack World Tours (2003 – 2010) 2010/ Image: UVA

 The installation High Arctic is based on UVA Creative Director Matt Clark’s Cape Farewell expedition to Svalbard, an Arctic archipelago which lies between mainland Norway and the North Pole, bringing into focus its fragility and beauty.

        High Arctic/ Image: UVA

 High Arctic invites visitors to explore a vast abstracted arctic landscape made with sculptures, light and sound. The exhibition is open to the public in the NMM Sammy Ofer Wing until 14 January 2012. Watch the video HERE.

        Volume/ Image: UVA

UVA’s large-scale installation Volume first appeared in the garden of London’s V&A museum in 2006 and has since traveled as far as Hong Kong, Taiwan, St. Petersburg and Melbourne.

         Rien a Cacher Rien a Craindre/ Image: UVA

 For the opening of la Gaîté Lyrique, a new cultural center in the heart of Paris, UVA have created a series of installations throughout the building. (Read our previous story about Manuelle Gautrand and La Gaîté Lyrique).

         Canopy/ Image: UVA

Inspired by the experience of walking through a forest’s dappled light, Canopy is a 90-meter long light sculpture spanning the front facade of the Maple Leaf Square building in Toronto, Canada.

          Focus/ Image: Morton's Members Club, London

With Focus UVA have created a small scale, light-based artwork for Morton’s Members Club, consisting of a black disc with thousands of tiny LEDs hidden beneath its surface.

         Connection/ Image: UVA

Connection is a responsive light installation connected to the Maple Leaf Square building in Toronto, Canada.

See more projects by UVA HERE.

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