Digital Crystal: Swarovski at the Design Museum
Over the past decade, Swarovski’s design and architecture commissions have served as an experimental platform for leading figures in design to conceptualize, develop and share their most radical ideas. Building on this platform, the Design Museum in London and Swarovski have challenged some of the most exciting talents in contemporary creativity to explore the future of memory in the fast-developing digital age. The exciting Digital Crystal: Swarovski at the Design Museum exhibition will run through 13 January, 2013.
Explaining the central premise of the exhibit, Deyan Sudjic, director of the Design Museum said, “Digital Crystal: Swarovski at the Design Museum explores the meaning of memory in the digital age. With the demise of the analogue era our relationship and connection with personal memory, photographs, diaries, letters, time and ephemera is changing.”
Deyan continued, “Digital Crystal: Swarovski at the Design Museum takes this as its starting point: to question the future and our relationship with the changing world, where it seems all too easy to lose connection with the tangible and the real, as we move ever faster to a digital age where memory and the personal possessions we once held so highly are now online or gone in an instant.”
In addition to specially commissioned pieces by a new generation of designers, works will also feature a select number of items from the Swarovski archives. And by juxtaposing old and new, the exhibition offers up for debate the changing nature of our relationship with objects, and even with time.
Nadja Swarovski commented, “It is an honor that the Design Museum has chosen to collaborate with Swarovski on this forward-thinking exhibition. To work with such creative minds and to see how they have responded to the brief is fascinating and offers new insights into our changing relationship with memory and technology. Swarovski’s passionate commitment to cutting-edge contemporary design and innovation is driven by our work with these visionaries who push the boundaries of how crystal can be used as a creative ingredient.”
The exhibition begins with a vertical installation by Random International, leading from the ground floor up towards the exhibition space. Their piece, Sunlight Video, shows a journey of light in a digital age. Light is directed through a Swarovski lens to project ephemeral images of film which echo an analogue projection.
Sound and motion create an immersive entrance to the exhibition, placing the viewer at the heart of natural crystal formation. The site-specific installation by Semiconductor, is an animation showing a mineral crystal growing and forming into another, changing color and shape, at times moving frantically, at others slowly, leaving behind traces of previous growth.
At the central dais, the design duo Fredrikson Stallard revisits their seminal 2007 Pandora chandelier. This digitally programmed installation, at first glance references classical chandelier aesthetics but with an added twist: the installation moves up and down, slowly exploding into chaos of light and crystal before reforming into its original shape.
Radiating from the central dais, design studio Troika’s Hard Coded Memory takes the photograph, the film and the notebook as its starting point: a time when these were the only records of memory. In the past, photographs were shot, then selected with only the best printed and recorded as precious moments. The digital age has changed this. Today, the internet is our memory bank and the digital camera allows us to take endless images. Hard Coded Memory projects a photograph through a Swarovski lens to reproduce a blurred interpretation of an original photograph, a faded memory.
An antechamber from the central dais shows a work by 2012 RCA graduate Anton Alvarez. He presents his Thread Mapping Machine, a spinning machine that spins exquisite Swarovski yarn embedded with crystals around objects, wrapping and binding them forever keeping them safe and secure.
The next antechamber contains Paul Cocksedge’s Crystallize chandelier, originally commissioned in 2005, which uses a single crystal mounted on a tubular glass frame to channel a laser to create a unique ethereal effect. Rays of light cascade from each crystal in a trajectory of beams.
The third antechamber shows a redisplay of Arik Levy’s immersive Osmosis Film, which presents a moment of rapid prototyping. Capturing the transition of particles from one place to another, the film engages with the physical real world which is in constant transition.
The last room off the dais holds Philippe Malouin’s Crystal Paintings, which spin a Swarovski crystal at speed, extracting a prism of light to create a painting in a colorful spectrum. Influenced by the CERN Hadron Collider, the pictures are temporary and dependent on the speed of which the crystals are spun.
Ron Arad’s Lolita, designed for Swarovski Crystal Palace in 2004, was an early experiment in digital technology and has been completely redesigned for the exhibition so that the traditional mobile phone, as well as smart phone, can interact with the installation to allow it to receive Tweets and SMS text messages. Take part in the exhibition from anywhere in the world by tweeting using #digitalcrystal or texting +44 (0)7860 021492 and your message will appear in the exhibition on 1000 LEDs hidden in the crystals of Ron Arad’s Lolita chandelier (pictured at top).
Former Designer in Residence at the Design Museum, Hye-Yeon Park has produced a ring of crystal that pushes the material to its limits in terms of size. Entitled Unfamiliar Mass, this 30cm ring of crystal when cut open reveals a secret Polar Bear shaped crystal, an echo of a memory.
Swedish designer Hilda Hellström explores the notion of myth and narrative. For the exhibition, Hellström created an object of crystal and Jesmonite which references the character of religious and mythical symbols. This object acts as the symbol of an ancient clan, a story that will be told through a short minute-long film. The film and the object will together tell the mythical tale of Wattens, Austria, the real home to Swarovski’s headquarters.
Artist and lighting designer Marcus Tremonto’s 3D lenticular installation, You are Here, is a 3D holographic print that, when viewed from different angles follows a sequence of events of a moving object. The hologram is similar to a photograph only more fragile and harder to maintain: non-tangible but real. Is this a precious moment in time or a future occurrence? This cutting-edge technology allows memories to be captured in 3D, as they would exist in reality.
Yves Béhar’s Amplify Chandelier, commissioned in 2010, takes a single crystal amplified within a paper lantern to create a digital pattern, a repeated form, each one different from the next.
Maarten Baas’ response to the brief was to celebrate that one remaining response that cannot be digitized: the human thought. Thought Cloud is a poetic interpretation of memory and thought. Displayed in a house with a chimney from which a thought cloud appears, the results are a digital imprint of the human mind.
Watch the featured designers on film and find out more at designmuseum.org/digitalcrystal
The Swarovski story began in 1895 when Daniel Swarovski invented a machine for cutting and polishing crystal. This machine not only revolutionized jewelry manufacturing, it has inspired the worlds of art, design, fashion and cinema for over 100 years. Today Swarovski is the world’s leading producer of precision-cut crystal and gemstones and operates nearly 2,000 retail outlets in over 120 countries.
The company has a rich history of working with internationally acclaimed designers including Coco Chanel, Yves Saint Laurent and Christian Dior. Swarovski has built on this heritage by implementing a series of visionary design initiatives which have transformed the company’s image, turning crystal into a much desired component in the creative industries. Swarovski is committed to supporting and celebrating design and the arts by collaborating with both established and emerging designers – including Karl Lagerfeld, Christian Lacroix, Shaun Lean, Tom Dixon, John Pawson, Zaha Hadid, Mary Katrantzou, Marios Schwab, Erdem and Giles Deacon – challenging them to push the boundaries of crystal use across fashion, jewelry, stage and screen, art, architecture and design. For more information visit www.brand.swarovski.com.
About the Design Museum
Founded in 1989 the Design Museum is currently located in Shad Thames, South East London. Its work encompasses all elements of design, including product design, architecture, graphic design, and fashion. The Design Museum plans to relocate from its current location to the former Commonwealth Institute building in Kensington, West London, expected to be completed by 2014. Leading designer John Pawson will convert the interior of the Commonwealth Institute building to create a new home for the Design Museum, giving it three times more space in which to show a wider range of exhibitions, showcase its world class collection and extend its learning program.