As boundary-pushing art collective Marshmallow Laser Feast bring their transfixing light installation IRIS to The Lowry later this month, here’s a primer on their weird and wonderful work.

1. Award winning: Marshmallow Laser Feast (MLF) are no strangers to praise, but they come to The Lowry fresh from a very recent triumph. This May they won the Storyscapes Award at the 2017 Tribeca Film Festival for their virtual reality experience ‘Treehugger: Wawona’, where the viewer dons a headset, places their head into the knot of a vast redwood tree and enters its secret inner world. The longer they spend inside, the deeper they drift into its depths… and their own.

2. Past projects include a laser forest: MLF’s work often asks us to consider our relationship to the environment and the natural world. Past projects have included a laser forest, with visitors able to play among the bright green beams (or trees), and the ‘mixed reality’ experience ‘In the Eyes of the Animal’, where participants don headsets that allow them to see, hear and explore the landscape as different woodland creatures.

3. Never the same: Because MLF’s projects are human-centred and based in participation, they’re often never finished and always evolving – the latest stage of ‘In the Eyes of the Animal’ sees them expand the range of subjects from insects, frogs and birds to the nocturnal senses of the bat. This new research will help humans understand what it’s like to navigate by echolocation.

4. They’ve worked with Heston: Experimental chef Heston Blumenthal is one of MLF’s more unlikely collaborators – but when you think about it, the match makes perfect sense. The Fat Duck proprietor’s sometimes controversial cuisine has always been about challenging perceptions, and virtual reality offers the possibility of altering them entirely. Together, Blumenthal and MLF are making a multi-sensory dining experience in VR called ‘Sweet Dreams’: “an unparalleled experience in a parallel world.”

5. Collaborators galore: MLF have also been working with composer Arthur Jeffes, scientists and planet-hunters to help audiences ‘hear’ space. A collaboration with astrophysicist Samaya Nissanke, who was part of the team that first detected gravitational waves (ripples in the fabric of space-time), the project offers a 360º audiovisual narrative of the universe that can be staged in domes, planetariums and virtual reality.

6. Theatre as canvas: With their kinetic light installation ‘IRIS’, MLF are using the entire theatre as their canvas – in the hope that you question your relationship to the auditorium, and experience the room in a completely new way. Drawing upon principles from psychophysics and perceptual research, ‘IRIS’ explores how the eye gathers depth, form and motion cues in order to construct our sense of space – very different to looking at art in a gallery…

7. Multi-media: While ‘IRIS’ is a light-based work, MLF’s artists work across many mediums from photo-real virtual reality to mixed reality, live and robotic performance and large-scale installations. As a collective, they are led by directors Barney Steel and Robin McNicholas.

8. Geometrical artworks: IRIS works through a series of robotically controlled lasers, which are choreographed in the darkness of the theatre to create sculptural forms made entirely of light. Maths/geometry fans will be able to spot many forms among the shifting shapes and structures: hyperboloid, helicoid and paraboloid, and Moebius bands which materialise, shift and dissolve.

9. Inspired by Spanish architect, Antoni Gaudí: IRIS combines old and new thinking, bringing together the kind of mathematical techniques employed by Spanish architect Antoni Gaudí in his design of Barcelona’s Sagrada Família church with the very latest in robotic and laser technology.

10. They have worked with U2 and Miley Cyrus: As well as their experiential projects, MLF have created spectacular shows and immersive environments for many artists and brands. For U2’s Invisible music video, MLF designed a visual system that captured and analysed the band’s movements as they performed onstage, allowing Bono and co to generate visuals on a giant LED screen behind them in real-time; and MLF were also among the creative directors for pop star Miley Cyrus’s ‘Bangerz’ tour.

If you’re seeing another show at The Lowry, take Marshmallow Laser Feast’s IRIS when you are at the Lowry. And if you don’t already have tickets for something else, you can attend special free showings throughout IRIS’s run at the following times:

Sat 27 – Sun 28 May, 11am-4pm
Sat 10, 17 & 14 Jun, 10.30-11.30am
Sat 8 Jul 10.30-11.30am

Fri 26 May – Sun 16 Jul, The Lowry, Pier 8, The Quays, Salford M50 3AZ. Tel: 0843 208 6000, no see times above, FREE,

A Manchester Wire partnership post – this feature was commissioned by the Lowry in partnership with The Skinny.

Fri 26 May - Sun 16 Jul
Lauren Strain
Published on:
Sun 21 May 2017