Owen Lloyd

The rhythm of life is a powerful beat: Owen Lloyd’s Building Materials at the Exeter Phoenix

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At first glance Owen Lloyd’s Building Material at the Exeter Phoenix has the look of an underground map, and it is a way it is charting a journey, but it’s a journey into sound – and it’s the kind of sound that appeals to the Sammy Davis Jnr in all of us. Why, it’s the rhythm of life, of course.

If you’re not familiar with Sweet Charity – shame on you – but you will be familiar with the sounds of the day, the click of feet along a corridor, the swell of conversation as it meets you and then fades away. This is what we expect Owen’s installation to capture.

On the ground, away from the art work which maps the project, the coloured strips on the Exeter Phoenix’s walls which lead to the microphones creates a setting more akin to a hospital, where different lines take you to different departments. In this case they lead from the central hub of the bookings desk to the mics around the building.

It’s an approach which reflects the nature of the building itself, and its function. The coloured tape which makes up the work is the way for the visitor to make connections between the sounds and the spaces, enabling them to discover a way of interaction with the piece.

The sounds themselves are of the material in the building, rather than the sounds in the space, so there’s no risk of ethical issues, such as eavesdropping – this isn’t The Wire, people!

And that brings us to the title of the piece, Building Materials. The fabric of the building provides the material for the work – this isn’t just a representation of the noise within a building, but must, according to Owen, be a composition in its own right.

Bristol-based Owen is a composer and sound artist whose work focuses on sound and interaction, and in the 12 or so years in the professional world he’s been involved with online games, experimental websites and kinetic interactive installations, plenty of which have picked up awards.

The work was commissioned as part of the annual Exeter Phoenix’s Digital Arts Commission where the Digital and Galleries departments of the arts centre combine. They aim, among other things, to utilise or subvert new technologies and encourage greater trans-disciplinary practice between art and science.

Owen’s proposal about the work says: “Long evolving changes (eg temperature, light levels), regulate staccato events (doors opening, people crossing thresholds) and irregular large scale changes (eg visitor density in different parts of the building) will all contribute to a composition that reflects the daily and weekly routines of the building.”

All in all giving voice to the building’s own, peculiar rhythm.

The exhibition will also include experimental film works in which Lloyd has worked both solo and in collaboration with director Toby Cornish in which, using various strategies, the relationships between image, sound and artistic collaboration are stretched.

Check out the development of the Building Materials exhibition. Have a look at Owen Lloyd’s Repeat to Fade site, and take a gander at a place where Owen collects stuff that won’t fit on the Repeat to Fade site. Or follow the Repeat to Fade Twitter.

• Building Materials runs until Tuesday, December 21.