‘Duel’ is an installation by the VOLNA Collective, first presented on July 27-28, 2019 at the Present Perfect Festival in St. Petersburg.

VOLNA, 'Duel' installation, 2019. © VOLNA
VOLNA, ‘Duel’ installation, 2019. © VOLNA

The gloom ripples while something whispers,
Silence has set and coils like a ring,
Someone’s pale face glimmers
From a mire of venomous colour,
And the sun, black as the night,
Takes its leave, absorbing the light.
Maximilian Voloshin [Translation by VOLNA]

“In this stanza from a Russian symbolism poem,” says Nikita Golyshev from the VOLNA collective, “we find allusions to the gloominess and painful pallor of the northern sky, to the eternal circulation of the sun around the earth [sic], to the negative light of a sun that turns “black” at sunset.

The duality of these opposing entities that are perpetually in conflict with each other is the concept behind the installation, as it finds expression in the “achromatic colour scheme, as well as in its construction and form,” Golyshev says. “The installation’s main elements are light discs, all nearly flat and each with two opposite sides: one light and one dark. These opposites exist in a constant state of ‘duelling’ with each other, and all their attempts to reach one another instead result in continuous three-dimensional rotation. One recognises in this dance the unique twists and turns of a coin that has been tossed into the air. The discs’ movement through the air creates choreographed scenes with lights and shadows moving across space – the byproduct of a confrontation between two opposite and yet interconnected principles.”

VOLNA, 'Duel' installation, 2019. © VOLNA
VOLNA, ‘Duel’ installation, 2019. © VOLNA

The installation consists of 16 kinetic luminaries. Each element is 2.7 meters in height and 0.9 meters wide. The effect of light rotating on two planes is achieved by using two stepper motors, working in sync. With the exception of the luminary’s aluminium disc, the construction is made entirely from custom-made steel elements. A high-density 5200k white LED was used as a light source.

“Stochastic movement suddenly synchronizes and lines up in harmonious choreography and then crumbles again,” says Golyshev.In its basic configuration, the installation occupies 192 square meters. It is mounted to the ceiling via a stage truss on four chain winches. The distance between the floor and the bottom part of the installation is 2.4 meters, providing enough space for visitors to walk freely beneath it. “

All elements are controlled with custom-made software that has the capability to communicate with standard light consoles via Art-Net. The movement and light patterns change seamlessly over time, creating infinitely varying choreography. “We used this approach in order to create endless but predetermined scenarios that one can start observing at any point.”

Credits: Concept, production and video: VOLNA, Engineering: Alexey Belyakov, Mechanics: Viktor Smolensky, Camera/photo: Polina Korotaeva, VOLNA