Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Spheres of Influence; @Thestandardarts in Association withTechnology Meets Choreography in the Roundhouse's Mesmerising New Art Installation, in Which a Flock of Flying Orbs Interact with Visitors and Their Surroundings

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Spheres of Influence; @Thestandardarts in Association withTechnology Meets Choreography in the Roundhouse's Mesmerising New Art Installation, in Which a Flock of Flying Orbs Interact with Visitors and Their Surroundings

Article excerpt

Byline: EXHIBITION OF THE WEEK Ben Luke +/- HUMAN Roundhouse, NW1

SEVEN large white spheres sit like cocoons on the Roundhouse's mezzanine. Then a low hum starts, and slowly they rise, almost politely taking turns to enter the emptied-out central arena, which is spotlit, awaiting their arrival. They move together, sometimes in clear formation, at others seemingly independently. They form constellations and tight groupings before separating. Little propellers around their diameter buzz and fizz and help them move in various directions. You immediately wonder at the technology that made this choreography happen.

But then they fix on you. They move menacingly in your direction. They swoop down, closer to your level, within touching distance. You move quickly, they follow; you stand still, they begin to encircle you. Suddenly, the mood of this installation shifts.

This is +/- Human, the latest work by German collective Random International. The group was founded in 2005 by Hannes Koch and Florian Ortkrass, who remain its principal members, but have built a big team around them in London and Berlin. They're best known for Rain Room, that much-Instagrammed theatrically lit cubic downpour into which viewers would walk, only to emerge miraculously dry. It had queues snaking round the Barbican in 2012 and has now been shown across the world, with editions being acquired by museums and foundations as far apart as Shanghai, Sharjah and Los Angeles.

Many have puzzled over how the Randoms might describe what they do. They straddle the boundaries of art, design and technological engineering. As Koch told me, they celebrate design but "get a lot of flak from the design world because they are like, 'What's the point?' There's no utilitarian approach in what we do". Ultimately, their aims are speculative, experimental but also driven by the desire for audience interaction, so they feel "at home as artists", Koch says.

They have been exploring swarming algorithms and collective behaviours for the past decade -- their Swarm Study (2011), a permanent installation at the V&A, subtly tracks visitors' movements in elegant hanging cubes of light. But +/- Human takes this a stage further, making it more physical, because the algorithms are translated not into dancing light but into the swarming spheres, around a metre and a half in diameter. …

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