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Stanley Kubrick’s ‘2001: A Space Odyssey’ informs SpY’s hypnotic installation

In a hypnotic audio-visual experience, the monumental digital installation of Spanish urban artist SpY, Monolith, is a haunting metaphor of humanity’s relationship with “the most totemic element of our society” — digital screens.

Spanish urban artist SpY has created yet another thought-provoking, conceptual installation. Titled Monolith, the exhibition features a towering rectangular screen that probes into humanity’s relationship with screens and data.


Taking up a large outdoor space in the heart of Barcelona, Monolith infuses the streets with a chilling red glow, projecting a dazzling display of light, sound, and moving patterns onto its spectators. 


The installation, which was unveiled as part of Llum BCN Festival 2023, pays homage to Stanley Kubrick’s classic film 2001: A Space Odyssey. In the film, an unknown extraterrestrial object known as the “monolith,” came into contact with pre-human apes and triggered an evolutionary leap in humanity. 

In his statement, SpY likens digital screens to “magical mirrors” in which we construct our identities, and that we have integrated into our lives to such an extent that we even use them to modify the notion of reality: a cultural leap with respect to the relationship we have had up to now with the two audio-visual dimensions.


The artist also seeks to question this new digital reality and the encroaching intrusion into our personal information. “The screen gives us access to everything, yet keeps us in chains,” SpY wrote. “How will we confront the integration of bodies and devices? Is this the last generation of humans who are not digitally transformed?”

SpY is an urban artist that transforms urban spaces into experiences. Active since the mid-80s, his contextual projects are some of the earliest contributions to the evolution of urban and public art. His work always poses substantial questions about the reality of human relations, sometimes his interventions disrupt daily routines, or are placed in dialogue with the urban environment. Last October, SpY unveiled a giant chrome steel and glass orb in the middle of the Egyptian desert. Set against the historic backdrop of the Great Pyramids of Giza, the spherical structure references elements of mathematics and symbolism present in classic Egyptian culture and in the architecture of the Pyramids in particular.