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Digital Crystal: Swarovski at The Design Museum
INTERIORS + DESIGN INTERVIEWS

Something magical is taking place at London's Design Museum as 'Digital Crystal' brings 15 international artists together with world renowned crystal manufacturer, Swarovski, to explore the representation of memory.

Deyan Sudjic, Design Museum Director, introduced Swarovski as "the design world equivalent of a Formula 1 car maker" and explained that the exciting venture would see artists examine "what memory might mean in the digital age", through the medium of crystal.

The journey begins with a computer-generated animation entitled 'The Shaping Grows' in which artist, Semiconductor, depicts the development of mineral crystals controlled by data collected from recent earthquake activity.

Moving through this subterranean cave-like space, the exhibition opens out onto a dazzling chandelier installation by Fredrickson Stallard called 'Pandora', which consists of hundreds of slow bouncing crystal orbs that glisten in a mesmerising ebb and flow to experimental music that fills the space.

London-based studio Troika's 'Hardcoded Memory' seems to place onlookers in a meditative state. The industrial looking slab holds rows of lenses on its front, metal discs and wires on its back. A single LED light illuminates each lens as a series of faces blur in and out of focus to create a transient movement of memory.

'Thought Cloud' by Dutch designer Maarten Baas challenges the idea of 'home sweet home' by creating incandescent thought bubbles that rise from within a dark house in an ascending plume of crystal and wire clouds.

In a similar sense, the 'Amplify' chandelier by Yves Béhar distorts light through refraction to bloat the colour spectrum out onto a lantern. These low-energy lights, that use only one LED light, one crystal and a faceted paper shade, retain the movement of an earlier age, as on entering the installation, an unnerving fidget in the illumination is reminiscent of a flickering electric bulb.

Philippe Malouin's 'Blur' is inspired by the particle accelerators of the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN). His work lines up Swarovski crystals in a circular fashion so that when rotated they create a swirling ring of light, that invoke memories of sword throwers at the circus or the hypnotic tools of magicians. As the lines of crystal spin around we half imagine something to propel out of the vortex, slicing through the exhibition to strike just left of its heart.

The installations continue to branch off from the 'Pandora' chandelier that hangs at the centre and, tucked around a corner, emerges the dark, smoke filled room of Paul Cocksedge's 'Crystallize'. Taking the classic diamond shape, Cocksedge projects green laser beams off a set of perfectly aligned mirrors to create an eerie and even macabre collection of lights. The diamonds recollect coffin-like shapes, the illuminated green crystals at their centres, wrapped up in light beams as delicate as cobwebs, seem to portray a dead object in their midst. Along with the odd green reflections that careen across the space, 'Crystallize' evokes the memory of the forgotten, the lost behind.

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. Swarovski is the world's leading producer of precision-cut crystal and gemstones and operates nearly 2,000 retail outlets in over 120 countries. 'Digital Crystal: Swarovski at the Design Museum' is on from 5 September 2012 to 13 January 2013.

Sarah Roberts
Photo credits:
Hardcoded by Troika for Swarovski
Amplify Chandelier by Yves Béhar
And Sarah Roberts

DESIGN MUSEUM, Shad Thames, London, SE1 2YD
Open 10:00 - 17:45 daily
www.designmuseum.org