Part way round the Design Museum’s new show, Digital Crystal: Swarovski, we realised there are two types of people in the world: those who, when considering crystals, think of Kate Price’s wedding dress; and those who think of their calculators. Happily, there’s enough to please both parties in this show. However, as this Londonista belongs firmly in the first camp, there are also things on display that we simply don’t get. Brains wired differently to our own may well find different things to enjoy in this entertaining exhibition.
The brief was to consider the future of memory in our ever-changing digital age. In a world where you can have whole bookcases worth of photos/books/DVDs on your hard drive, what becomes of the physical object? “Memories and the personal possessions we once held so highly are now online, or gone in an instant,” says Deyan Sudjic, Director of the Design Museum.
The 15 designers have responded to the brief in radically different ways.
In the “pretty” corner are Yves Behar’s quivering single faceted eco paper shades; Pandora by Fredrikson Stallard, a digitally programmed deconstructing and reconstructing chandelier; and our favourite, Maarten Baas’ Thought Cloud, an artistic rendering of a dystopian future where the houses are cramped, but our thoughts are gorgeous sparkly crystal cushion-clouds.
We also enjoyed Ron Arad’s chatty chandelier called Lolita, made of some 2000 Swarovski crystals and more than 1000 LEDs which will share your tweets and texts with the room, if you so wish. (Use #DigitalCrystal or text +44 (0)7860 021492.)
But over in the WTF corner, we have Marcus Tremonto’s seemingly hollow table, which, we’re told “ultimately questions what lies between the 0s and 1s of binary code and whether – in theory – anything is truly digital”. Quite. Hye-Yeon Park’s cut out of a polar bear looks fun, but asks you to consider how you can “possibly recall such an animal if you’ve never actually seen one?”. Then there’s Troika, a “celebration of forgetting” which we’re told was hard coding digital memories into its display apparatus, reflecting the fact that “technology makes virtual forgetting almost impossible”. We disliked this last piece so much we forgot to even take a photo of it.
If you’re looking for some clarity after all this crystal craziness, head upstairs to the new Designers in Residence show. This year’s “Thrift” brief provides a welcome antidote to the mind-bending bling going on downstairs. Freyja Sewell has cooked wool and starch in a sandwich toaster with fascinating results. Oscar Medley-Whitfield and Harry Trimble are experimenting with Thames river clay, hoping to revive the historic ceramics industry that once thrived in Southwark. And, surely a contender for the most Londonisty object of the year, Yuri Suzuki has made a radio in the shape of the Tube map. Now there’s something all Londonistas can enjoy.
Digital Crystal and Designers in Residence are on display at the Design Museum, Shad Thames, Bermondsey, SE1 2YD until January. Tickets cost between £5 and £11. You can also see the Designed To Win exhibition until November with the same ticket. Visit designmuseum.org/exhibitions/current-exhibitions to find out more.