Commissioned by Cryptic as part of Sonica 2018 and the Mackintosh 150 year celebrations, Visaurihelix was an immersive, interactive audiovisual installation based on the geometric forms and proportions prevalent in so much of Mackintosh’s architecture, including the Mackintosh Tower, Scotland Street School, House for an Art Lover and The Hill House. The work consisted of three constituent parts: a 32-minute, 6.1 audio channel audiovisual composition played on speakers spread throughout the Mackintosh tower, the visual representation of that composition on a custom built, octagonal construction positioned at the base of the tower, and an interactive sonic element consisting of struck copper rods, reminiscent of glockenspiels, suspended over the void of the staircase.
I’ve been fascinated with Mackintosh architecture and design since I was a child; I love the way he combined quite sharp, geometric shapes with more fluid, organic forms, and the way these worked together to create a truly distinctive, unique and totally recognizable style. In my own work, I work extensively with simple, usually geometric visual forms, utilizing these in hundreds of subtle repetitions to create more fluid and complex visual environments, and combining these with both recorded and synthesized sound materials to create audiovisual relationships – so I’m interested in combining geometric and organic forms, both sonically and visually. One of the things I’ve been pursuing recently is the notion of creating works for Expanded Audiovisual Formats (EAFs), which are works that seek to step away from the ubiquitous single-screen, stereo-speaker format we’re so used to consuming audiovisual works in; instead, I’ve been thinking about designing immersive, audiovisual responses to unique architectural spaces – and this commission was the perfect way of doing that.
The work was an immersive, hypnotic and almost meditative experience that sent the audience on a journey around Mackintosh spaces across Glasgow and further afield, whilst also rooting them very strongly in the acoustic and visual environment of the tower itself. The piece altered as audioviewers moved up and down the tower; the visuals in the base moving further away, as though being looked at down a wishing well, while different sonic environments came in and out of focus as participants moved through the speakers positioned up the tower and played the copper rods that were strung across the staircase. It was a unique experience that could only exist in this specific architectural space.
Visuarihelix was shortlisted for the Scottish New Music Awards in 2019, and was named as one of the Arts Society Top 5 Art events in the UK in September 2018.