In any video game you’ve ever played–heck, even Pong–other worldly glowing shapes have floated in your direction, beckoning your attention and response. And it’s all felt relatively normal.
But what happens when you bring this sort of experience to real life? That’s what Ruairi Glynn (along with the Bartlett School of Architecture, Kings College London, and Middlesex University) asks in Fearful Symmetry, his new exhibition at Tate Modern. He’s taken over part of Tate’s new Tanks–the museum’s £90m basement expansion–and installed the world’s largest (68-foot) delta robot. But all visitors will see is darkness, save for a glowing tetrahedron that glides through the air like magic (or a video game).
“It’s no different to puppetry–puppeteers build incredibly elaborate rigs to enable their marionettes to have life, but you don’t really want anyone to see the strings,” Glynn tells Co.Design. “This is an architectural-scale equivalent.”
It must be a strange sight to behold, what I imagine as a digital ferry floating through an audience that’s apprehensively making their way through the darkness. But the strangest component of it all might be that Glynn doesn’t see his installation’s shadowy, giant robotic arm or a pitch-black room to be what leaves an impression with the guests. Rather, it’s the character of the tetrahedron, a glowing blip in space, that garners attention.
To anthropomorphize that blip, Glynn collaborated with Ronnie Le Drew, founder of the London School of Puppetry. He calls Le Drew “a master of creating life in inanimate objects.”
“Our brains have developed to help us survive, and our perception of movement is a very important function that they perform. There are certain movements that we are hardwired to perceive as threatening, loving, scary, etc.,” he writes. “This piece plays with a completely ‘artificial’ shape–an isometric triangle–but makes it move in a way that evokes that emotion from its audience.”
The exact emotion that Glynn is going for, he doesn’t say, and we may never know. Despite over a year of development, the installation runs just two days (from Aug 21-22) at Tate.