Last year I never made it to the Rain Room, an installation in the Barbican’s Curve that created 12-hour long queues and received an overload of positive reviews. Luckily, this time around, I was quicker to visit the Curve’s new installation Momentum by United Visual Artists. Looking forward to experiencing just what exactly they might mean by twelve “meticulously” designed pendulums, I arrived with high expectations.

Before entering, one of the guides advises me that the exhibition is “very dark” and “extremely disorienting”. She is unbelievably right on both counts. At first, the only light source I see is moving back and forth through the misty black in a space without horizons. Instantly, my heart begins to race, preparing itself for the fear that follows. Because of the crescent-shaped Curve, I can only see two pendulums and “seeing” them would be a vast overstatement. Very slowly, my eyes adjust, my feet find a balance, my breathing slows down. I begin to make out silhouettes that belong to the haunting whispers reflected back from the dark, dark walls.

As I walk, repeatedly loosing my balance in the top-and-bottom-less space, I find the other pendulums. They swing to perfection, with a specially created sound animation that highlights the artificiality through which they exist. There is nothing natural about these creations of steel, aluminium and electronics.

…he slides, runs and twists along the walls trying to avoid the light…

United Visual Artists: Momentum

Further down the Curve, several people have sat down, others stand under the machines waiting to be hit by their light, waiting to see just how low these pendulums swing because darkness and movement  in darkness have eradicated any notion of proportion or spatial relationship. A little boy shows me yet another way to experience this massive space of futuristic meditation: he slides, runs and twists along the walls trying to avoid the light the pendulums throw against the surfaces.

The changing patterns of light recall Anthony McCall’s work from last year’s Light Show at the Hayward Gallery, where a beam shot across the room. The disorienting use of space and haze also reminds me of James Turrell’s piece of a depth-less red room from the same exhibition.

…the droning sounds evaporate into suffocating blackness…

United Visual Artists have created an immersive and frightening installation that epitomizes the escape a carefully constructed experience can offer us. The paradox of this experience – the high degree of artificiality versus the natural human instincts it plays with – succeeds in creating a novelty installation. Repeatedly, the droning sounds evaporate into suffocating blackness; the soft yellow lights turn into mandala-like images. And persistently the pendulums strike, strike, strike.

Arts_4_5 Stars4.5 Stars

Momentum is on until 1 of July, entry is free. 

Sat – Wed: 11am – 8pm / Thu and Fri: 11am – 9pm 



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