In Praise of Shadows at The V&A

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London Design Festival 09: an exhibition of lighting by European designers including Pieke Bergmans, Eric Klarenbeek and Paul Cocksedge is on show at the Victoria & Albert Museum in London this week.

Above: Queen's Chandelier by Puff-Buff

Called In Praise of Shadows, the exhibition is curated by Jane Withers in response to the recent EU directive to phase out low-efficiency light bulbs.

Above: Light Blub by Pieke Bergmans

The lighting is installed in a gallery housing artifacts from seventeenth- to nineteenth-century Europe, previously closed to the public for refurbishment.

Above and top: Sonumbra by Rachel Wingfield and Mathias Gmachl of Loop.pH. Photos are by Susan Smart Photography

Visitors navigate the darkened galleries using dynamo torches.

Above: Sonumbra by Rachel Wingfield and Mathias Gmachl of Loop.pH. Photo by Susan Smart Photography

The exhibition has been extended until 18 October.

Above: CEZ Light by Olgoj Chorchoj.

See all our stories about London Design Festival 2009 in our special category.

Above: Lucid Dream by Eric Klarenbeek

Photos are by Paola Pieroni unless stated otherwise.

Here's some information from Jane Withers:

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IN PRAISE OF SHADOWS

AN EXHIBITION ON NEW EUROPEAN LIGHTING
CURATED BY JANE WITHERS
LONDON DESIGN FESTIVAL AT THE V&A

Don’t miss In Praise of Shadows, a temporary intervention for the London Design Festival at the V&A, on display until Sunday 27th September. In Praise of Shadows showcases works by 21 European designers who imaginatively explore not only the potential of low energy lighting and alternative energy sources but also the way we think about light and darkness.

Above: Medusa by Mikko Paakkanen. Photo by Susan Smart Photography

The exhibition takes place camping in the Jones Galleries (Europe 1600-1800) closed for refurbishment. Visitors go behind a hoarding and are given dynamo torches to navigate the darkened galleries where the new lights are mysterious interlopers contrasting eerily with ornate works still on display.

The catalyst for ‘In Praise of Shadows’ is the EU directive to phase out low-efficiency light bulbs (from September 2009 through to 2012). It is rare that a design issue affects us all as directly as the switch to low energy lighting and as well as stimulating experimental design the changeover is provoking controversy and confusion around environmental issues. And yet this should be an opportunity to do more than just change a light bulb, it’s a chance to explore new thinking about lighting and sustainability.

Above: Medusa by Mikko Paakkanen. Photo by Susan Smart Photography

In Praise of Shadows aims to add spark to the debate by raising questions not only about how we use energy for lighting but also how we illuminate our lives – challenging the modern obsession with ‘brighter is better’ that has held sway for the last century.

The exhibition includes works that play on poetics of light, for example Fragile Futures by Drift. A magical hybrid of nature and technology, the electric circuit seems to grow organically over a wall sprouting dandelion seed heads along the way. It also includes works that demonstrate the freedom that low energy light sources can bring to lighting design: for example Queen’s Chandelier by Polish designers Puff Buff, an extremely lightweight chandelier where each LED is enclosed in an inflatable pocket.

Above: Fragile Future by Drift. Photo by Susan Smart Photography

It explores alternative energy sources such as light and wind – for example Demakersvan’s Light Wind and Sonumbra by Loop.ph. Developed to bring lighting to areas off the national grid, Sonumbra is a giant parasol embedded with solar cells and electroluminescent wires: by day it serves as a sunshade and by night it gives off the light it absorbs.

Finally, the exhibition addresses issues around energy usage and light pollution through the work of French eco-activists Clan du Néon who protest against waste by turning off illuminated signs and posting films of their actions on the internet. One film shows three figures in fluorescent wigs running down rue de Rivoli turning off famous fashion shop signs using external switches intended for emergency use. It’s both funny and deeply important: why do we sanction bright lights of advertising pouring energy into our over illuminated skies? As much as low-energy technologies it is thinking like this about how we use energy and what is acceptable that can help change habits and point the way to a sustainable future.

The exhibition is organised by EUNIC London (European Union National Institutes for Culture) – with the support of the European Commission Representation in the UK.

VENUE
Jones Galleries
Victoria and Albert Museum
Cromwell Road
London
SW7 2RL
T: +44 (0) 20 7942 2000

OPENING HOURS
10.00 to 17.45 daily
10.00 to 22.00 Fridays
ADMISSION FREE

FEATURING
Michael Anastassiades (Cyprus)
Marie-Virginie Berbet (France)
Pieke Bergmans (Netherlands)
Balint Bolygo (Hungary)
Olgoj Chorchoj (Czech Republic)
Clan Du Néon (France)
Paul Cocksedge (UK)
Radu Comsa (Romania)
Demakersvan (Netherlands)
Tom Dixon (UK)
Drift [Lonneke Gordijn / Ralph Nauta] (Netherlands)
Tom Foulsham (UK)
Hulger (UK)
Eric Klarenbeek (Netherlands)
Loop.ph [Rachel Wingfield / Mathias Gmachl] (UK / Austria)
Mario Nanni (Italy)
Damian O'Sullivan (Netherlands)
Puff Buff (Poland)
Vytautas Puzeras (Lithuania)
Mikko Paakkanen (Finland)
Studioilse / Wastberg (UK / Sweden)

LIGHT BLUB, 2008
PIEKE BERGMANS (NETHERLANDS)
Light Blub is a giant light bulb that appears to be morphing into new forms, perhaps playfully symbolizing the end of the bulb as we know it.
MATERIALS: GLASS, METAL LAMP BASE, TABLE
LIGHT SOURCE: 24 LEDS

GOLD F LIGHT, 2009
MICHAEL ANASTASSIADES (CYPRUS)
A standard low-energy fluorescent lamp is transformed into an object of refinement and beauty.
MATERIALS: GOLD-PLATED STAINLESS STEEL
LIGHT SOURCE: COMPACT FLUORESCENT LAMP

LUCID DREAM, 2006
ERIC KLARENBEEK (NETHERLANDS)
Inspired by the magic of the soap bubble, Lucid Dream plays on the ability of glass to transmit light by internal reflection. Thus the light source disappears and the light from the LEDs is spread through the entire surface of the bubble.
MATERIALS: HAND-BLOWN CRYSTAL GLASS
LIGHT SOURCE: 6 LEDS

CEZ LIGHT, 2009
OLGOJ CHORCHOJ (CZECH REPUBLIC)
The CEZ light is a portable battery lamp charged by a photovoltaic panel. Exposing the panel for four hours to sunlight should generate enough energy to provide four hours of illumination.
MATERIALS: HEAT-RESISTANT BOROSILICATE GLASS, SOLAR PANEL
LIGHT SOURCE: 3 LEDS

Queen's Chandelier by Puff-Buff

QUEEN’S CHANDELIER, 2008
PUFF-BUFF DESIGN (POLAND)
Challenging the traditional idea of a chandelier as a stately and weighty appendage, Queen’s Chandelier is made of inflatable PVC pockets that each contain an LED. Despite its size, it is extremely lightweight.
MATERIALS: HIGH-GLOSS PVC, PLASTIC, STAINLESS STEEL
LIGHT SOURCE: 145 LEDS

SONUMBRA 2008
LOOP.PH (RACHEL WINGFIELD / MATHIAS GMACHL) (UK/AUSTRIA)
Developed as part of the World Bank project Lighting Africa, Sonumbra is a proposal for low-cost, low-maintenance lighting for regions without access to the electricity grid. An outsize parasol, by day it provides shelter from the sun. By night it lights up, using the energy collected in solar cells embedded in its canopy.
MATERIALS: ELECTRONICS, SOFTWARE, COMPOSITE ROD SUPPORT STRUCTURE
LIGHT SOURCE: SOLAR-POWERED ELECTROLUMINESCENT WIRE

  • http://www.unruly.ca Katy McDevitt

    The Pieke Bergmans piece is insanely full of swoon. I covet it, muchly.

  • Joe W

    This is amazing. Sadly, living in the US I don’t have the opportunity to go to festival. However, I’m in love with the tree light in the first image. Is that LED?

    I would love to try and duplicate that for my own apartment using some LEDs I found in a local store (http://www.saviolighting.com/LED-Lights-s/8.htm) because such a large light will surely generate a lot of heat using other applications.

    Do you know if the designer used LEDs for his original?

    Thanks,

    Joe

  • http://georgehollander.com George

    Sorry I wasn’t asked to participate. Maybe next time!!!

  • CROFTdesign

    >> “The Pieke Bergmans piece is insanely full of swoon. I covet it, muchly.”

    Agree, to certain degree… ‘Swoon’ is a verb… I think you mean, “…full of swooner” …to which I would then completely agree!

  • http://www.utos.blogspot.com to]

    hi joe
    i think the the designers are using fiber optics @the tree structure Sonumbra… with that technic it is also possible to change color due to a color wheel which is in the front of the projector or you a re using a LED projector

    a other product maybe is the electroluminescent wire but it is not that elegant like the fiber optics solution

    hope that helps

  • http://www.ceolas.net peter in dublin

    good illustrations there

    re light bulb ban ,
    it makes no sense even for supposed emission savings:
    light bulbs don’t give out CO2, power stations do, and can (and will ) be dealt with directly.
    Besides, overall savings aren’t great anyway, and even if they were, light bulb tax would be better – for governments too.
    http://www.ceolas.net/#li1x onwards

    (About the strange EU and industrial politics behind the light bulb ban
    http://www.ceolas.net/#li1ax )

  • http://blog.faverodesign.com sean

    Sonumbra is by far my favorite piece. I would like to see what went into it making it and how it was done. I would also like to see what it looks like in normal light as I generally don’t have all my lights off when someone comes to visit or even when I am in my house by myself. Beautiful sculpture though and well done.