Over the past few weeks, we’ve been following the production of Speed of Light, an ambitious laser light installation by United Visual Artists for Virgin Media. The show is now open and it doesn’t disappoint
UVA were commissioned by Virgin Media to create ‘an immersive light installation celebrating 10 years of broadband in the UK’. It comprises a series of laser-based experimental light works which flow through the labyrinthine spaces of the Bargehouse, the four-storey ex-warehouse on London’s South Bank.
On entering the space, visitors are asked to speak into a suspended microphone to answer questions displayed on the wall in front of them. Their answers follow them around the building as they explore the various installations over four floors.
These sounds and others, as well as light, are carried around the building using fibre optics, thus tying in with the broadband theme. See a video of the installation here
On the first floor, is probably the most explicitly client-related piece in which lasers describe the outline of a TV set, coffee table and sofa in a living room.
Visitors’ previous answers affect a giant laser-generated icon at the end of the next room – positive responses producing a happy face, negative ones a sad one.
The things get more abstract, and interesting. A spectacular light show runs the length of one room, reacting to sampled sounds, the multicoloured lasers made vibrant by the water-based haze pumped into the room – think dry ice.
The final room is more of a performance piece than an installation. Four large lasers, one on each corner of the room, react to the soundtrack of visitors’ replies plus news feeds and archive audio.
A company like Virgin Media, with a corporate anniversary to celebrate, would perhaps in the past have settled for spending the money on a TV ad. Thankfully, with the aid of UVA and PR company Borkowski it has gone for something much more ambitious and memorable. Interesting too that it is a project that has come via a PR company rather than an ad agency – a sign of things to come?
This is a really beautiful piece of work – highly reommended.
Speed of Light is at the Bargehouse, Oxo Tower Wharf, Bargehouse Street, South Bank, London, SE1 9PH, from April 9 to 19.
All photographs by Tom Oldham