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UVA Constellation in Covent Garden

United Visual Artists have invaded Covent Garden's Piazza with 600 suspended LED tubes.

Responsible for “Volume”, the stunning sound and light generating sculpture at the V&A where 46 LED columns changed in response to human interaction, including music produced by Massive Attack’s Robert Del Naja, UnitedVisualArtists (UVA) unveils their latest light fantastic creation. The British art collective have invaded Covent Garden’s Piazza with a cosmic, suspended installation of 600 LED tubes and until Christmas will be programming a series of musical collaborations (from Shlomo to the Modified Toy Orchestra) under their “Constellation”. Fresh from awe-inspiring visuals for the likes of Massive Attack, U2, Chemical Brothers, Battles and festival onedotzero, UVA creative director Matt Clark speaks to Dazed.    

DazedDigital: What’s the story behind the Constellation Covent Garden project?
Matt Clark: Covent Garden invited us to come up with an idea for this years winter lights, competing against three other light artists. We wanted to create an atmosphere and bring the space to life in a way that was more contemporary than what you might expect at this time of the year.
 
DD: I loved “Volume” at the V&A, how did you approach working with the Piazza space?
MC: With installations such as this you have work from the space. There has to be some sort of dialogue with the architecture. In the case of “Volume”, the clean, ordered and minimal grid was in opposition to the ornate, space.
 
DD: Public interaction seems very important to UVA work, has this always been a priority of yours?
MC: Both our designs for live performance and our installation works are equally powerful platforms for social experience. We’re interested in producing work that goes beyond a passive experience, that responds to the actions of the “viewer” and in doing so exerts a stronger effect on the space.
 
DD: Working with Massive Attack on previous tour shows, how did you approach the Meltdown work differently?
MC: Meltdown was a challenge to say the least. Massive were embarking on a new tour with ten new tracks to their set list. It takes a lot effort to get a show off the ground.
 
DD: How was it working with Battles?
MC: Working with Battles was a fantastic experience. They're a great bunch of guys and really talented musicians - we have a lot of respect for them. We really put them through it. Our concept to shoot from dusk till dawn, in a cold and wet Welsh slate quarry. You can see from the video that they’re completely exhausted by the end, but they never complained once.
 
DD: Is there a difference in the international response to UVA’s work?
MC: One of the interesting things of working with light, sound and space in their purest forms; is that you can communicate on a more basic sensory level. So there’s a kind of universal understanding. That said; we have seen subtle behaviour shifts when showing the same work in different parts of the world, I think that's more down to how people are expected to act socially in public places within their society.
 
DD: Creating your own software, bespoke tools must be a really important part of UVA?
MC: We created our own software for our first show, and it’s been a core part of the UVA process since then. It gives us the ability to move beyond techniques in common use, visualise and simulate what we're going to produce before we install it, and interface with new and unusual sensors and output devices.
 
DD: What new creative new technology are you impressed with?
MC: We’re starting to explore the world of 3D printing and surface coatings. We used 3D printing for the first time in a proposal for a ceiling at the Natural History Museum, and we hope to continue to develop our understanding of it in the future.