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Insight: CODESS, an interactive installation & live performance by UY Studio Berlin

Text by Olya Karlovich

Starting in 2013 with the design and production of gender-neutral garments inspired by the Berlin club scene, UY Studio has proven itself in many creative ways. Today, it is not only a clothing brand well-known in and beyond the circle of partygoers but also a versatile art collective working at the intersection of fashion, music, contemporary dance, photography and even gastronomy.

Whether hosting a pop-up dinner or curating an independent exhibition, UY Studio strives to help people establish a connection with their bodies and feel comfortable with themselves and the outside world. For them, this is one of the critical values. Their new project, called CODESS, combines interactive installation and live performance, exploring human interaction with the technological future that has already arrived.

The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the irreversible process of transition to a digital society. Overconsumption of social networks, addiction to smartphones, replacement of personal communication with texts, and live emotions with stickers — all that has caused us great anxiety over the last decade are already in our present.

However, CODESS invites us to face and break the fears of a dystopian life instead of fighting them, thus blurring the boundaries between yesterday, tomorrow and today’s world. Speaking about the creative tasks of the project, its art director and UY’s CEO, Idan Gilony, emphasises that technologies are an integral part of our current reality that we need to accept to grow with it.  

I believe that this fear of actually being replaced [with technologies] can be dissolved through art, he reflects. It is a medium that has the power to give answers to my questions whenever I am stuck with my own doubts and struggles. It is my personal way of dealing with emotions, and I want to invite others to that journey — a hate-love relationship towards technology. We can turn this form of addiction and obsession into something positive if we allow it to be part of us, part of our expression and new dimensions that we were previously unaware of.

The heart of CODESS is a mechanical sculpture, a rotating robot, with a live act of 12 performers that will unfold around it. The robot embodies our dreadful future with all the consequences that come with it, such as the machinery slowly replacing humanity. By sharing the show’s insights, Idan explains that by reducing the distance between the audience and the robot, we want to create an ecstatic trance of personal exploration. You will usually find those robots behind glass or caught in fences, but we felt the metaphor is too big to be hidden in a cage. So instead, the head of the machine will project light on the audience, interacting with them, challenging them and soaking them into its message.

The technical aspect of CODESS has become one of the biggest challenges for UY Studio. Initially, the project was planned to be presented in Kyiv, which entailed many logistical difficulties. Regarding the decision to stage the piece in another country and city, Idan notes that the team wanted to push and test themselves.

And since I fell in love with Kyiv on the first visit, I knew this would be the ultimate city. It felt like Berlin 10 years ago. The certain smell of freedom in the air directly reminded me of something I used to live for, he recalls.

Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine led UY Studio to thoughts of  CODESS cancellation. However, in the end, they decided to bring the show and exhibition to Berlin. The project will be presented at Halle am Berghain, where the UY team celebrated its eighth anniversary.

The architecture and acoustics of space in the CODESS narrative are given no less weight than the “reviving” mechanical figure. The sound component of the project is implemented in collaboration with the Berlin spatial sound studio MONOM, which specially equips the venue with the original large-scale 4DSOUND system. Through 48 speakers and 12 subwoofers, it recreates the sound in a way that connects to the highly evolved perception of space with all of its dimensionality.

They invited sound artist and composer Dasha Rush to create musical storytelling for CODESS, which would also fully reveal the full potential of the unique 4DSOUND instrument. This is not the first cooperation between UY Studio and Dasha. Idan notes that she has been supporting their team for several years already. 

Her way of communicating through music is incredible to me as she creates her own language and shares it with you. On a professional level, she is a very responsible artist who I trust a lot. She can deliver and understand the direction one wants to go with, giving a lot from herself to fulfil one’s vision, he comments on working with the musician.

As for the movement direction, UY Studio entrusted this to the action artist and choreographer Candela Capitán. Candela uses performative language to explore the boundaries of dance based on a deep understanding of body movements on stage. In addition, she plays with sexuality and voyeurism, making her way into the depths of human life and viewing its dark sides from a new angle. Talking about Candela’s role in CODESS, Idan highlights her bold and out-of-the-box approach. 

Her way of expression through body movement is something the world has not seen before, which is very touching to me. My passion lies in performative art and the differences within, which is why I knew she would be the perfect fit for this year’s project. The fact we wanted to take a technological twist definitely plays to our favour here as she is someone who thrives on innovation within the performance realm. 

Besides developing the project idea from scratch, UY studio also took over the design of costumes for the CODESS show. According to Idan, they result from collaboration between all of the studio’s designers, including Rachel Sabick and Fanny Lawaetz. 

The costumes are mainly inspired by body scanning technology and new ways of digitally interpreting bodies, he says. I found it super interesting how clear lines and cuts mechanically shape the human body and how the transformation of humans into the meta verse takes place. Additionally, we recently started working with 3D programs at our fashion Studio in Neukölln. This helps us digitise our production processes and definitely ended up in great timing to combine these two aspects.

To fit the project concept, the dancers will look like a kind of tribe, representing something earthy, sandy and dusty. Idan explains that metaphorical cohesion should remind viewers of the ancient times mixed with elements of the raw future.

In addition, CODESS includes the “Anti-Atlantis” multi-sensory VR installation by The Sensus Communis art team. The work is intended to show the landscape of the future, destroyed by the human culture of excess — the effect of “progress”, appropriation of nature as a resource for industrial production with threatening levels of pollution.

With the help of VR glasses and headphones, visitors to the CODESS exhibition could take an individual yet shared ritualistic journey. They will go through dystopian scenarios that could have been avoided by joining forces to create the world we want to wake up to.

The CODESS premiere will take place on July 15, 2022. Find tickets here

(Images courtesy of UY Studio Berlin )
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