V&A Forever

For any Londoner who yearned to see Advanced Beauty at Lovebytes 2008 but was put off by the two-hour ride to Sheffield, the brilliant work of the Universal Everything creatives is now being showcased much closer to home. The Forever exhibition, featuring at the Victoria & Albert Museum since the end of November last year, once again sees the collaboration of Universal Everything founder Matt Pyke and designer Karsten Schmidt alongside musical composition by sound-designer Simon Pyke. Taking its queue from the ‘sound sculpture’ thematic format of Advanced Beauty, the ‘bespoke’ design breathing life into the Forever display creates unique audio-visual films on a daily basis (or until, as the name suggests, forever) in this large video-wall installation hovering over the pond in the V&A’s John Madejski Garden. The iridescent animations infinitely span time in direct response to the soundtrack to which the visual generator is programmed. And as such, the project’s design team set out with defining parameters to enable the sculpture to continually grow upwards from the pond’s water beneath it, as though the movement of light itself stems from a time-aware primordial nerve which directly responds to the music’s  points of inflection. A commission for the V&A’s new digital programme, Pyke’s hundreds of different soundscapes were composed in a single key in order to make way for a sense of seamlessness in their mixing together, allowing them to visually translate as the work itself alters in appearance and intensity over its two-month lifespan.

One of the most innovative multimedia installations I’ve had the chance to see in recent years, it reminds me so much of the interactive light installation featured in the Volume exhibition by United Visual Artists and onepointsix back in winter 2006 (also held in the John Madejski Garden, that too had an audio-visual component, though the light in Volume responded directly to the sounds of human movement). Since its very inception in 2004, Universal Everything has been well situated at the helm of that dynamic crossover between art, design and music, whilst being known for the distinct ability to capture the attention of a wide variety of audiences through a vast array of media plus environment pairings (their visuals for Nokia were undoubtedly the highlight in my experience of the T5 fiasco early last spring). So naturally, a paradoxically organic yet technologically engineered sculpture inspired by micro-patterns similar to those favoured via Mozart’s generative chromaticism (the Rondo in A Minor is a prime example) follows suit in their portfolio of conceptually impressive, challenging yet comprehensible work to date. What makes this even more unique is that it essentially is that: you never see or hear the same thing twice as the sound intensifies and triggers the visual elements, subsequently feeding back into the music like an ephemeral electronic fingerprint. And this evolution is set to continue as the installation tours to other venues worldwide.

So if you happen to be in the South Kensington area before the closing of show on 1st February, do make sure to stop by (admission is free). An online installation generating a series of downloadable video podcasts will also coincide with the V&A exhibition on the Universal Everything website, along with the making-of film and a beautiful set of 20,000 unique postcards being made available as well.

Management and support by Philip Ward, Creativesheffield, Apple and Universal Eveything. Film directed by Jack Laurance & Rex McWhirter.

Sarah Badr © MMIX

See also: Making of ‘Forever’

Advanced beauty (pieces at random)


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