Curious Trends


Digital Crystal: Swarovski at the Design Museum

‘Experiments with crystals’ sounds like the title of a John Wyndham novel. But for ten years, Swarovski’s design and architecture collaborations have been an opportunity for the world’s leading designers to experiment and share their most radical ideas. A new exhibition, starting tomorrow at the Design Museum (until 13th January 2013) features the progeny of some of the most innovative contemporary designers - let loose to explore the meaning of memory in the digital age through the medium of crystal. At an exhibition preview, Nadia Swarovski explained that Swarovski’s passionate commitment to cutting edge contemporary design “is driven by our work with visionaries who push the boundaries of how crystal can be used as a creative ingredient.’

Design Museum Director, Deyan Sudjic, likens Swarovski to a Formula I car maker in terms of the resources and freedom given to the 15 designers whose works are on show. Their installations question our relationship with the changing world. “It seems all too easy to lose connection with the tangible and the real, as we move ever faster through a digital age, where memory and the personal possessions we once held so highly are now online, or gone in an instant,” says Sudjic.

The show is laid out rather like a maze with Fredrikson Stallard’s Pandora as its centrepiece. This is an ever-changing digital installation, which repeatedly destroys and recreates the familiar form of a chandelier, without using a single shining light. 

There are other chandeliers too – notably Ron Arad’s recently redesigned Lolita (above), which has more than 1000 LEDs hidden within its 2000 or so Swarovski crystals, enabling it to double up as a giant interactive pixel board. The shimmering lamp can accept tweets and SMS messages from smartphones: simply tweet #DigitalCrystal or text +44 (0)7860 021492.

Paul Cocksedge’s chandelier is an illusion created by focusing lasers on Swarovski crystals to form a set of classic diamond shapes, which float in mid-air. Yves Behar and fuseproject have crafted chandeliers using just one crystal, one low-enegy LED light and one facted paper shade. Each shape is crafted to maximize refraction with in the shade, giving the appearance of individual glowing crystals (see below). 

It’s not all chandeliers, but there are light shows aplenty throughout the gallery. Arik Levy’s digital installation transforms the geometry, colour, texture and density of a digitally-generated crystal according to the movements of those in its proximity. Philippe Malouin spins multi-faceted crystal beads in circles at high speed under LED lights to create mind-challenging ‘light paintings’ of coloured rings.

Curiouser still is Hilda Hellstrom’s crystal landscape sculpture, which uses Google Earth topography to represent travel through Swarovski's hometown in Austria, where this piece was crafted. And then there’s Marcus Tremonto’s 3D holographic crystal inside a table – or is it?

Works by rAndom International, Semiconductor, Troika, Anton Alvarez, Hye-Yeon Park (see below), Maaaten Bass and Beta Bank (Eyal Burstein) are also featured in the show. See more photographs at the ShopCurious blog.


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