Cultvr Lab’s 360° dome and sophisticated surround sound system lends itself to wholly unique audiovisual experiences. The venue’s recent series of three installations have showcased the full extent of what it can offer, from a line-art exploration reminiscent of Unknown Pleasures, to Friday’s event, Illusory Contours. Designed by artists Tom Slater and Jeremy Keenan, it allowed attendees to experience what it might truly feel like to enter the world of The Matrix in Cardiff.
The artists worked once again with London’s Call & Response Studios to create the immersive piece out of simple elements: green lasers and a score played through a sinewave synth. As the piece begun, we were slowly explained the rules of the experience by deliberate exploration of the space; a beam shoots and a note blares. A beam is held elsewhere in the dome, and a different note is held. The creators have used the venue’s sound system to bring their piece into a fully realized 3D world.
Light, notably, travels in straight lines, so you wouldn’t expect circles to become a recurring theme in the piece – yet here the title begins to make sense. The simple patterns begin to rotate, almost as if the experience was still loading. It spins faster and faster, leaving you mesmerized by the illusion of a circle, created by the negative space. Slater and Keenan have used the dimensions of the dome to seemingly bend light, creating curved shapes, circles and holes to fall into.
The score reinforces this. While the tones are simple, the artists have carefully crafted a complex arrangement for the score, that seems to constantly descend as the circles swirl, inviting the viewer to fall deeper and deeper. It’s a visceral experience, and the harsh, buzzing synthesizers reinforce how uncomfortable it is to stumble through this bridge between real and artificial worlds.
As Illusory Contours came to an end, it took a few minutes to get used to normal sound and full spectrum colour. Cultvr’s staff were happy to chat about the installation afterwards – my main talking points were that it was a powerful and confrontational performance (albeit very difficult to photograph well!) and has me immediately interested in what the duo behind it have to offer next.
Cultvr Lab, Cardiff, Fri 20 May
words DANIEL EDWARDS for BUZZ CULTURE
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