IOU are a Halifax-based theatre company who have worked on sound, video and sculptural installations; site specific performance, music, touring theatre, interactive digital works and virtual worlds. Their previous work includes Cure, where they created ‘a hybrid between a fairground and a hospital’ at Dean Clough Mill; and Tattoo, an outdoor show for two thousand people including petrol driven insects straight out of the nightmares of William Burroughs and David Cronenberg.
In 2010 they worked with composer Dan Morrison on Airborne to capture sounds produced in nature through basic scientific experiments transformed into a musical soundscape. Morrison is also composer on their current project, Volatile Light, directed by David Wheeler, and uses elements from the sounds used in his previous collaboration to create a soundscape for the installation.
The exhibition is divided into three spaces: In the first visual artist Liz Dees demonstrates the fine art of light painting. Here, irrespective of age, visitors can create infinite patterns and shapes using fairly rudimentary techniques. In this way IOU, as ever, explode the ticket, that is, reveal their working process.
Next to this is we can explore a space made up of a mechanical environment with kinetic sculptures by Jim Bond and Andy Plant. These machines, of varying sizes, fill the darkened room, with the LED lights attached to their basic mechanical structures, more Victorian than 21st century in appearance.
Specks of coloured light float and drift around the room, as if they were planets, stars or meteors in another solar system; or tracing the path of parts of a perpetual motion machine. The concentric circles, loops and curves are quite fascinating.
But the piece really comes into its own with the third space where we can see these pinpoints of light leaving comet-like trails or building up forms like a cell structure growing, all captured live through a computer system.
There are spectral spirals, curving in space, orbs and globes, slow transitions in an almost pre-destined movement. Accompanied by Morrison’s music of the spheres (a cross between Karlheinz Stockhausen and Brian Eno) this has a phantasmagorical effect. Volatile Light is reminiscent of afterburn on early video cameras or a sparkler dancing on a dark winter’s night. You just don’t want it to fade away or go out.