Collective creativity: United Visual Artists & Massive Attack

by Alessandro Trabucco

In this new article, devoted to the use of light in the contemporary art, we examine a method of applied research to different fields through the integrated combination of technical specialized skills, whose amount allows reaching very high levels of sensorial involvement.
We talk essentially about interactivity, a very popular word especially in the Nineties that today appeals us much less, considering its plentiful abuse done in the past. It is rather the interdisciplinarity (another difficult term, also inflated) that interests more, given the wide range that the group United Visual Artists, we are writing about, has been putting on for more than a decade.
Based in London, with the name often shortened as UVA, this team of specialized professionals place very interesting issues on which to elaborate deepened considerations.
Founded in 2003 by three people, each one with own specific expertise, Matthew Clark as creative director, Chris Bird as technical director and Ash Nehru, software director, this group avails itself of the cooperation of many other professionals, producers, photographers, graphic designers, architects, light designers, developers, all people coming also from other sides of the world.
The artistic team was originally built as nothing less than technical/scenographic support of a music group with enormous popularity and audio/video power, the Massive Attack.
The UVA built the spectacular sceneries of the world tour of the British group in 2003, related to the album “100th Window”. The peculiarity of that tour was the decision not to restrict the intervention to the scenic light effects only of exclusively aesthetic type, but rather to perform a sort of visual show involving the brains of the audience, other than the eyesight and the hearing, arising in them thoughts of social and political types. The idea was to display, in a gigantic LED monitor placed behind the members of the group, pieces of info in real time, everyday always up-to-date for each show. News of economy, statistics, meteorology, social denunciation, spam e-mail and other news translated into 36 languages, as a sort of global social portrait.
In 2009 in Italy, Robert Del Naja and Grant Marshall had run the risk to be prisoned because of some declarations considered improper and appeared in the monitor during one of their concerts.
From that experience the UVA three co-founders, Clark, Bird and Nehru, decided to officially constitute the Society (as they define it themselves) and started to project various works, in a creative route autonomous and with developments of installation type using the light, the movement, the sound. They kept anyway projecting the live shows of the group from Bristol, cooperating also for the other tours in the successive years. Also in this case, the characteristic of both groups followed more or less the same method of internal organization, that is two or three people as creative mind supported by a team of cooperators, or guests, of the highest level and competence to complete their projects.
We will talk about the purely artistic research of UVA in the second part.


Photo credits: United Visual Artists

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