Winter Sparks, FACT,

Text by Sinead Nunes

This immersive, interactive and electrifying exhibition invites visitors to become part of the works by venturing into installations inspired by pioneering inventor Nikola Tesla.

Featuring work by four international artists making their UK debut, this exhibition offers visitors a unique and original way of experiencing art. Winter Sparks combines science and art in a way which makes us question our understanding of both, and transforms the usual gallery experience. This innovative form of ‘direct art’ uses non-representational images in order to encourage the viewer to make their own interpretation of the work.

Evolving Spark Network by Dutch artist Edwin van der Heide fills the gallery with a ceiling tapestry of flickering lights, creating a cold, wintry sky within the confines of the space. The gallery is in total darkness, until a visitor ventures into the chamber, where radio sensors detect movement. This creates a spatial dialogue between audience and art, as van der Heide encourages his viewers to explore the piece and relate it to themselves. The work is deeply interactive, as visitors stimulate the sparks and influence their rapidity and tessellations, illuminating the gallery in a cacophony of twinkling lights.

Although the artist here thinks of sparks as representing beauty, purity and simplicity, I found myself considering issues of connection, life and energy. The sparks worked in sync with harsh gunfire sounds, creating an atmosphere of vivacity and energy, which aptly acts as a metaphor for the human nervous system. The audio also contributed to the immersive experience.

Bosch & SimonsWilberforces in FACT’s atrium presents a playful twist on the Wilberforce pendulum. A camera, microphone and loudspeaker, suspended on three separate coils, hang from the ceiling rotating and bouncing in order to capture the sounds and sights of the building. This footage is then projected in real-time onto a screen which seeks to make sense of the chaotic data collected from such unstable circumstances. This is just one in a series of ‘music machines’ created by the duo, which questions what is real and what is manipulated by tricks – something the duo feel compelled to question in our era of mass-manipulation.

Canadian artist and digital instrument maker Alexandre Burton completes the exhibition with his work Impacts. The live sculptural installation takes inspiration from Tesla coils, promoting the cohabitation of sound, image and scientific processes to create meaning. This piece encourages contact from the audience, as the visitor’s presence activates the coils into creating a display of electric art onto glass panes, influenced by movement. The hum and sparkle of the exhibit is affected by the proximity of the viewer to the work, creating a dialogue between audience and art which redefines our relationship with science.

The exhibition succeeds in constructing a new form of interactive art, giving the viewer power to manipulate the work and experience the marriage of science and art in a totally unique way.

Winter Sparks is on display at FACT until 24 February 2013.

Sinead Nunes is a recently graduated aspiring writer and artist, based in Liverpool.

Published 28.01.2013 by Steve Pantazis in Reviews

507 words