Image courtesy Schon Magazine
Though Swarovski may first call to mind bedazzling rather than design, their sponsorship of and collaboration with artists and designers over the past decade have allowed people like Maarten Baas and Paul Cocksedge to work with materials and resources that have "served as an experimental platform for leading figures in design to conceptualize, develop and share their most radical ideas." This year Swarovski partnered with Design Museum London on "Digital Crystal," a new exhibition for which they asked 13 artists, designers and design studios to use cut crystal in projects and installations that "explore the meaning of memory in the digital age," specifically how our intangible digital database of images and video have replaced more permanent methods of memory-saving like diaries, printed photographs and scrap books, and how that shift might impact that way we remember our past.
Image courtesy Mocoloco
You can Tweet a fleeting moment to "Lolita," Ron Arad's spiral chandelier (#DigitalCrystal or text +44 (0) 78 6002 1492) and watch your message swirl around and down its form, lasting only for seconds, or the lifespan of a typical Tweet. Yves Behar lights a black room with "Amplify," a cluster of faceted paper shades lit from within by a single crystal. The lanterns create a darker and moodier space than Arad's more ebullient crowd sourced installation. Nearby, Anton Alvarez made a high-speed spinning machine that wraps Swarovski crystal yarn at random around its clunky wooden body.
One the smallest yet strongest pieces comes from Hye-Yeon Park, whose "Unfamiliar Mass" takes an unintelligible circular swirl of solid crystal and slices through it to reveal the hidden silhouette of a polar bear.
Still, the obvious crowd pleaser here is "Pandora," Fredrikson Stallard's remarkable, kinetic chandelier comprised of strings of individually motorized faceted crystal balls that raise and lower at random, creating a new structure every two minutes. Stallard started with the historical Empire chandelier form and "exploded" the shape in a slow but constantly moving performative installation that only becomes more intriguing the longer you watch it. The golf ball-sized crystals move almost imperceptibly; even if you watch the strings carefully it's difficult to perceive their movement. Then, all of a sudden you blink your eyes and new form hangs before you. More remarkable still is the fact that the entire chandelier seems to be brilliantly lit, but Stallard used the crystals' facets and steady movement to reflect and refract light without using a single electrical lighting component.
Image courtesy Artinfo
"Digital Crystal" runs from September 5, 2012 – January 13, 2013 at Design Museum London.