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Digital Crystal

At London’s Design Museum, world-famous artists and designers have come together to explore the meaning of memory in a showcase of crystal, contrast and light, writes Ola Bednarczuk.

How is memory created in a digital world? Once, we relied on photo albums and other tangible objects to shape our recollections. As our lives are led increasingly online, to what do we attach our memories, and what shape do they take?

These are the ideas explored in a new exhibition at London’s Design Museum. Fourteen projects, commissioned by Swarovski and showcasing the company’s trademark crystal, play with traditional notions of memory and perceptions of what is digital. The exhibition marks the 10th anniversary of Swarovski Crystal Palace, a project which has seen the crystal makers collaborate with some of the most well-known designers in the business – including Zaha Hadid, Yves Behar and Missoni – to create custom pieces that play with technology and light. Digital Crystal features four existing installations and ten created especially for the exhibition.

The collection was inspired by a conversation the museum had with Swarovski about “how to frame the notion of digital design going forward,” says the show’s curator, Nina Due.

“The idea of memory came about – how we interact less with objects than we did in the past and how, potentially, memory starts to manifest itself in different ways.”

Each designer offers a different alternative. Some play with our perceptions – Paul Cocksedge’s floating laser-projected diamond shapes shift and change form; Hye-Yon Park creates polar bear shapes within a smooth white ring of crystal, revealed only when it is cut into. Yves Behar’s large, quivering crystal forms turn out to be single cut stones amplified by LEDs and projected onto paper shades.

Marcus Tremonto’s HOLO Centre Table asks us to consider whether anything is truly digital, his piece relying on human interaction to reveal its form. Maarten Baas’ Thought Cloud offers an opposite view, suggesting that if physical objects become obsolete, all we are left with is our thoughts. Ultimately, the exhibition offers no solutions – but instead encourages visitors to question the digital world they live in and the way they interact with digital media.

Digital Crystal is on display at London’s Design Museum until 13 January 2013.

Digital Crystal