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Insight: ‘Duel’ Kinetic installation by VOLNA Collective

Text by CLOT Magazine

VOLNA is an art collective from St Petersburg whose visual art installations revolve around the interplay of light and darkness. The group first came together in 2016 while working on the project NEUBAU, an audiovisual installation involving projection screens suspended in a 15-meter-long elevator shaft. The changing geometric patterns and colours synchronized to music challenged visual perception and created an uncanny, futuristic, but at the same time nostalgic aura.

The inspiration behind the installation was the space where it was held – Vertical Gallery exuded a mood that resonated with the artists reminding them of the industrial architecture and melancholic atmosphere of the suburban neighbourhoods of Russia and Eastern Europe, where many of them grew up. Since then, the group has grown and expanded, building a wide network of collaborators and has undertaken various site-specific multimedia projects with economical solutions.

Group members aren’t allocated specific roles as everybody is always driven with initiative and deciding on their own contribution to bringing a project to life. VOLNA is essentially a self-organized team of like-minded people with big visions and a DIY work ethic deeply motivated to create without questioning why. The group is made up of members that come from diverse backgrounds and includes architects, designers, cultural historians, carpenters, curators, and NGO coordinators, all contributing their own set of unique skills and brought together by their love of creativity and enthusiasm for building complex thought-provoking light installations with “context-specific ideology”. Ultimately, it is just a group of friends passionate about making things together.

A lot of projects VOLNA has produced, such as lighting solutions for electronic music festivals, must be dynamic, attention-grabbing, and meaningful enough to be remembered by the audience. In this kind of atmosphere, we want to experience not only moments of unity with other people, but also at times solitude, self-absorption and pure contemplation, the team reflects. We’re trying to balance action and movement on one side and static and peace on the other.

This idea of the constant internal struggle between two different sides in us, the “duel” between our needs and wants, and the never-ending search for balance inspired the group for their latest project – a kinetic light installation Duel that is based on the idea that conflict acts as a driving force. According to VOLNA, the hardest part was figuring out how to bring this abstract concept to life. The exhibit consists of 16 nearly flat discs with one light and one dark side rotating around their axes like a tossed coin, the two sides in a perpetual fight with one another. VOLNA hoped that the installation would offer the visitors a moment of tranquillity and contemplation. First exhibited at Present Perfect Festival 2019 in St Petersburg in July, VOLNA intends to bring Duel to wider audiences. 

80% of our art is darkness, says the team about their work. We always start out with a ‘black page’ or dark three-dimensional space. Then we release light onto it, creating an image. The characteristics of light make up the content and form of our art, and an installation’s production is a creative process that determines its form and design. So we make a light installation. They can entertain the public, but for us, they are always serious challenges in the field of art.

(Media courtesy of VOLNA)
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