Universal Everything adds human touch to technology

U.K. design studio Universal Everything has created a whirling, two-piece installation that combines technology, movement from dancers, and instant audience participation. And for those who want to hold on to the experience, a 20-minute audio piece based on the soundtrack has been released on vinyl.

The audiovisual exhibition, titled “Universal Everything & You – Drawing in Motion,” is showing in the new Media Space photography and art gallery at London’s Science Museum from September 21, 2013, through February 7, 2014.

“The concept behind the two pieces — they are intentionally interlinked — is a collaboration between sound, architecture, moving image, interaction, and choreography,” said Universal Everything founder Matt Pyke, who shares his thoughts in the video below.

The two pieces are a four-screen video installation called “Presence” and a 360-degree installation called “1000 Hands.” For “Presence,” Universal Everything collaborated with choreographer and dancer Benjamin Millepied and the LA Dance Project, with the goal of conveying the “human presence seen in abstract form,” Pyke said.

The dancers were captured using motion-tracking technology as they performed to an audio composition created for the installation by Simon Pyke (brother of Matt), according to the museum website. The images were then used to create the life-sized forms that appear in various “digital costumes” on the four large screens.

While “Presence” forms the outer portion of the circular installation design, “1000 Hands” takes the inside spot, offering images generated by the public through a smartphone app. The user-generated line drawings fill the screens and can also be viewed in an online gallery.

“The idea of this is that it’s a public, participatory piece of work. … So, essentially, the work would be empty without the public participation,” Matt Pyke said.

To create the drawings, visitors can use museum devices or even their own by installing an app. Interestingly, this allows anyone, anywhere to contribute to the gallery, as long as they have a smartphone or other device (download the app through iTunes or Google Play to give it a go).

The human element from the dancers and the user input is crucial to the installation as a whole, balancing the advanced technological aspects, according to both Pykes.

“I think by having people at the center of the work, that’s when it has this empathy with the audience, and also it has this emotional value to it,” Matt Pyke said.

Accompanying the exhibition is a 20-minute audio piece created by Simon Pyke and released by Warp Records. Buyers can choose from one of four images from the show to be printed on one side (as shown here on the Warp site). You can also listen to a preview of the composition below.

The recording is available through Bleep, and you can learn more about other Universal Everything projects at universaleverything.com.


Nicole is an editor and writer living in San Francisco.

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