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Beyond Submergence: I went to the light installation used by Four Tet which is now at Propyard

Art collective Squidsoup have brought together their award-winning pieces for the first time ever


Squidsoup’s Beyond Submergence, a “world-first immersive light, space and sound journey”, has taken over 20,000 sq ft of Bristol’s Propyard for the next three months.

The art collective, based in Cheltenham, use digital technologies to “experiment with the use of light in space, sound, scale, and movement, to create immersive works that invite an emotional response.”

Squidsoup’s work has appeared at festivals and displays across the world, from the Sydney Opera House to Canary Wharf, and they have recently worked with Four Tet at their sold-out immersive live performances at Alexandra Palace.

Beyond Submergence marks the first time that Squidsoup have brought their award winning immersive pieces together into one place and I was lucky enough to be invited along for a sneak preview.

The exhibition, which has been tailored specifically to Propyard’s industrial architecture, consists of eight individual pieces that run in a sequence to create an audio-visual journey.

Propyard is a former Ministry of Defence torpedo-testing facility (via @propyardbristol)

The Artistic Director of Squidsoup, Anthony Rowe, said: “Beyond Submergence is the biggest ever showcase of our works in one setting and doing it in Bristol feels very fitting. It’s close to home and a seminal moment for us.

“Putting the project together has been a fascinating process of discovery and rediscovery of our work. We found synergies and connections between these projects that we hadn’t really noticed before.”

Speaking exclusively to The Bristol Tab, Mr Rowe added: “We’ve not done something like this before, it’s a new layout and a new approach. We’re going to be monitoring it and seeing how people respond, so the exhibition may well change as the weeks go on.”

Being unfamiliar with Squidsoup’s work, I didn’t quite know what to expect from the exhibition, but I was instantly amazed by the dynamic and thought-provoking nature of their displays. While art is known for its openness to interpretation, these pieces really took that notion to another level.

I thought the idea of leading the audience on a journey from one piece to the next was ingenious; having an experience that was choreographed allowed for a narrative to develop. The first few pieces were mellow and calming, however, the intensity gradually increased as the journey continued before it finally erupted into a chaotic crescendo of light and sound.

I thought the idea of leading the audience on a journey from one piece to the next was ingenious; having an experience that was choreographed allowed for a narrative to develop. The first few pieces were mellow and calming, however, the intensity gradually increased as the journey continued before it finally erupted into a chaotic crescendo of light and sound.

Wave consists of 500 suspended points of light (in the form of orbs) positioned, as the name of the piece would suggest, in the shape of a breaking ocean wave. With each orb playing a musical note as it lights up, both light and sound collectively flow through the breaking wave to create an “illuminated choir of voices”.

I found this to be extremely soothing. It alleviated all stress and worry by transporting my mind to the calmness of the ocean, creating, in the words of Squidsoup themselves, a “sanctuary in this crazy world”.

Wave was commissioned in 2018 by Salisbury Cathedral following the Novichok poisoning and decontamination crisis that occurred in the city. The piece was designed to symbolically wash away the bad omens associated with the incident and the sense of peace it evoked within me is a testament to its success in achieving this aim.

If you find yourself grudgingly trekking back to Bristol this summer to retake exams that may not have gone too well, then experiencing this immersive piece might be the perfect way to cure your blues.

Submergence

Submergence is “an immersive walkthrough experience visualising virtual presence and movement in physical 3D space”

Squidsoup’s most prominent project, Submergence, is a large, immersive, walkthrough experience consisting of thousands of suspended points of light. The piece, which lasts 12 minutes in total, is comprised of successive abstract spectacles which gradually increase in tension before a final euphoric crescendo is unleashed.

You are encouraged to walk or run through the piece and as I did so my interpretation of it was constantly evolving: the patterns of light and sound changed in the blink of an eye. There was never a moment where my mind felt completely settled, leading to an endless sense of anticipation.

Talking about Submergence, Mr Rowe said: “Rather than with VR where you’ve got a virtual space which you’re sticking your head into, we’re taking virtual space and placing it into the physical world.” 

A virtual space it certainly was. Submergence completely transported me from the chaos of the day to day into a transcendental reality.

Sola

Sola: ‘A vision of the Sublime’

Just as I thought the journey had reached its dramatic conclusion, I was suddenly dragged right back into it by the blinding light of Sola.

This project blasts out rays of glaring sunlight to a backdrop of powerful guitar chords, all whilst a cloudscape seemingly appears from the middle of nowhere. Reading that description back is overwhelming enough, so you can only imagine what it’s like to actually witness Sola.

While my thoughts throughout the piece consisted solely of the fact that this looked like a scene out of some science fiction movie, I discovered that the meaning behind it is a lot deeper.

Sola was first shown in 2021 outside Guy’s Hospital London as a show of support for NHS staff, students, patients, and visitors. The warm rays of sun are intended to act as a reminder of the joy that lies ahead and I felt that this optimistic note was a lovely way for the experience to come to a close.

If you wish to experience Beyond Submergence for yourself then click here for more information and tickets.

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Wake the Tiger: I went to Bristol’s interactive exhibition brought to life by Boomtown’s creators

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