Digital design takes over London’s V&A Museum this week in the exhibition Decode: Digital Design Sensations featuring work by Studio Roosegaarde and Simon Heijdens.
The exhibition Decode: Digital Design Sensations showcases the latest developments in digital and interactive design, from small, screen-based, graphics to large-scale interactive installations.
London's V&A is best known worldwide for its historic collections of applied art, but as the exhibition explains ‘digital technology is providing new tools for artists and designers’, such as generative software and animation. Co-curated by Louise Shannon of the V&A and Shane Walter, director of contemporary arts organisation onedotzero, the exhibition forms part of an exciting new development.
Daan Roosegaarde is the Creative director of Studio Roosegaarde, based in Rotterdam. Two Roosegaarde projects appear in the V&A show – Dune and Flow 5.0. The project Dune is the first piece a visitor encounters upon entering the exhibition. Either side of a narrow pathway is an interactive landscape of undulating stalks tipped with LED bulbs that sway in the manner of dune grass. The fibres light up and brighten in relation to the sound and motion of passing visitors.
We asked Daan Roosegaarde how he came to be involved in Decode? “I met the curator Shane Walter when I did an event at Tate Modern London in 2007. We are both interested in showing new media to a wide audience and I think this show is a true benchmark of what contemporary digital design is about.”
Roosegaarde’s second project is Flow 5.0: an interactive tall metal screen made out of hundreds of ventilators that react to sound and motion. By walking and interacting the visitor creates an illusive landscape of transparencies and artificial wind. Flow 5.0 is situated in the entrance to the V&A via the Victorian brick tunnel that runs along Exhibition Road. “We had a strong need to move away from the museum ‘grid’ and place Flow 5.0 in one of the most public areas of the V&A,” Roosegaarde continues. “It creates more of a surprise via this architectural intervention. I also love the relation between the yellow bricks and the purple ventilators, the wind blowing through the tunnel.”
And how did Roosegarde find the exhibition? “For me it is about technology getting out of the computer screen and starting to embed with our environment and bodies. Decode shows contemporary explorations in this, in which technology is used to create poetry and moves beyond the media.”
Simon Heijdens’ work entitled Lightweeds is being projected every night between 16.00 and 07.00 onto the Exhibition Road façade of the V&A museum. Linked to environmental sensors, as the wind blows along the road, the projected white light flowers bend and move in the same way. These weeds will grow and pollinate over time, creating an ever-changing digital organism that grows in relation to its environment. Heijdens explains that each projection is a digital seed that contains the genetic data of the plant family it belongs to. Rainfall and sunshine levels are recorded by environmental sensors and feed directly into the projection. Therefore, its growth is a direct reflection of the environment in which it is projected. "The work will transform over the course of the exhibition, because the facade is now covered in scaffolding that will be removed in January leaving a different surface for the work, which will adapt to that", says Heijdens. Additionally Heijdens is working on a site-specific piece for the V&A that will open during the course of the exhibition.
Heijdens’ other project, Tree, this time displayed in the main gallery is equally responsive to nature. A white tree projected onto black; the branches of the tree move in response to the sensors’ data of the amount of wind outside the museum. As a visitor approaches the tree, it sheds a leaf and these gradually gather on the floor and move as visitors walk amongst them.
How would Heijdens describe the exhibition? “I really like it, for it (finally) shows a lot of works that have been floating around in books and blogs for a while, but rarely get an actual outing, and it's great to see that the build and functioning of many works is actually amazing. I think an exhibition with this selection of works and scale has been due for a while, and the subject matter could I think be hosted in any of London's big museums, but the fact that is hosted by the V&A with a very public audience of a wide age range suits the show very well. Also the backdrop of ancient marble statues places the work in an interesting perspective.”
Simon Heijdens studied product and media design at the Design Academy Eindhoven and currently has a studio in London.
Decode: Digital Design Sensations runs until 11 April 2010 at the V&A Museum, Cromwell Road, London SW7 2RL
Dune: Studio Roosegaarde, Installation view, Decode: Digital Design Sensations, Copyright V&A Images
Tree: 2004, Simon Heijdens
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