A new sound installation built from the brutalist set of Stanley Kubrick’s dystopian classic A Clockwork Orange has opened at Brunel University London.
Stereo Pair, by artist Phil Coy, features two large concrete cones built to amplify and enhance the surrounding sounds from around Brunel’s bustling campus.
Whilst much of Brunel’s campus is nowadays clad in modern metal and glass, at its heart lies a number of the university’s original brutalist buildings which found fame as the Ludovico Medical Facility in Kubrick’s famously ultraviolent 1971 movie.
“Ironically, I think Kubrick’s film was partly responsible for lighting the fuse on the UK’s collective disdain for Brutalist architecture,” said Coy. “Not one that I share, but one we can assume influenced the building’s levelling.”
Stereo Pair can be found in the John Crank gardens
Built in a modular Brutalist style, the piece consists of six pre-cast concrete parts, bolted together to form two large cones, offering a left and right channel to capture the surrounding sound.
“Civil engineering felt important to reference and celebrate, particularly given the campus sits so close to Heathrow and the M4,” said Coy. “And then there is Isambard Kingdom Brunel himself to consider, who’s statue sits 20m from Stereo Pair.”
The design is inspired by the giant, pre-radar World War II listening devices found at Lydd on the south coast, built to detect German bombers, and scramble allied planes from RAF Northolt, a few miles north of Brunel.
The duo of cones is also a nod to the famous HMV ‘morning glory’ gramophone horns built nearby in Hayes – a town that also appears in the world’s first film featuring stereo sound, Trains at Hayes (1935).
“The context of the site at Brunel is so rich with references that it started to shift the idea of what might constitute a site,” said the artist.
“It’s not simply ‘about the Brutalist architecture’, or ‘the sound of nearby airports’, it echoes out to include threads and implications of globally significant inventions, and sonic histories which you could take anywhere.”
Phil Coy inspects construction of the cone's parts
Although construction of the piece started in 2019, it will officially have its ‘Switch On’ event this Wednesday 28 September with a composition from musician Ruaidhri Mannion, who has composed a new piece specifically for the unique sonic properties of Stereo Pair.
There will also be a Q&A with the artist, alongside Prof Akram Khan and Prof Will Self, who will be discussing the original Brutalist campus, civil engineering, HMV and the nature of time and space itself.
“My hope is that people either come to witness wonderful musical or sonic performances, and come back throughout their time at Brunel - or visit them as invited audiences from elsewhere,” said Coy.
“Or discover them by accident, shading from sun or sitting eating their lunch, having amplified conversations, not realising that they’re sitting in ‘an artwork’, but then if they do, perhaps getting interested in the locality, or deciding to organise their own performance.”
Stereo Pair, which will be open permanently at Brunel, marks the delayed finale of Phil Coy’s residence, which saw him install pieces across the university, including a celebration of the local airports – Eleven Windsocks for Brunel – and a 16-speaker installation that recreated a 25m section of the M25.
Book your tickets to the Switch On event
Tim Pilgrim, Media Relations
+44 (0)1895 268965 firstname.lastname@example.org