In the tent at Design/Miami last week, nearly everything came with a price tag. RO/LU walnut and Formica bookcases: $3,800. Michael’s Genuine Ultimate Caprese Sandwich: $14. Even one of Snarkitecture’s upholstered foam benches, which welcomed tired fairgoers in the courtyard outside, could be snagged for a mere $5,000 from Chicago’s Volume Gallery. But there was one thing that wasn’t, that couldn’t be, for sale: The London-based studio Glithero’s Lost Time installation, which unfolded in a dark hallway near the café, the result of a commission from first-time Design/Miami sponsor Perrier-Jouët (who was kind enough to sponsor this editor’s plane ticket down as well.) There, the duo installed a series of looping weighted silver chains, which hung in perfect parabolas from the ceiling and, lit from below, cast reflections in a still clear pond beneath.
The installation took its inspiration from material sources — the Art Nouveau movement, the architectural models of Antoni Gaudí, and the wine cellars underneath Perrier-Jouët’s historic mansion in Epernay, France, among other things. But the designers say their intention was to create something quite intangible. “Much of our work has been about shifting the focus from the end product to the moment when something starts to exist,” says Sarah van Gameren, who founded the studio in 2008 with her partner Tim Simpson. “For this, we thought maybe it would be possible that there wasn’t even a product, only an illusion.”
If that idea seems to fly in the face of Design/Miami’s rather conspicuous consumerism, well, that was kind of the point as well. Glithero wanted viewers to experience an extreme sense of disorientation from their typical fair experience, akin to the way they felt when visiting Epernay for the first time. “This moment is there, in the wine cellars,” says Van Gameren. “The darkness, the humidity, the reflection in the puddles, and the feeling that no one ever goes there. That atmosphere is something we wanted to bring here to Miami, and it really is such a contrast.”
The references to Art Nouveau came about because of the champagne house’s deep connection to the movement (the Perrier-Jouët bottle’s signature florals were designed in 1902 by Art Nouveau master Émile Gallé). And Glithero had for years had a Gaudí model for the curves of the Spanish architect’s Sagrada Familia sitting upon a shelf in their studio; the intention was to merge that idea with parabolas that might also evoke champagne flutes. “The way Gaudí did it was really lo-fi, string and weights he would move by hand to influence the curve, and mirrors underneath,” says Van Gameren. “The reason we used weighted beads,” says Simpson, “is they have this perfect relaxed shape. You wouldn’t find that with string, because it has memory and lightness. These beads aren’t even affected by the wind.”
The trickiest part of the installation was how to light the beads while keeping the rest of the room in darkness, but it’s also what made the installation so uniquely interesting. “It was important that the light source be invisible,” says Simpson. “The minute you see the light, you lose the reflection, because your pupil closes. It’s actually the same with mobile phones; if you hold a phone over the basin to take a picture you can’t see anything! I wanted to be able to tell everybody that they needed to stand back a bit.”
For more information, go to www.perrier-jouet.com/design-miami.
Photo (C) Petr Krejci
Photo (C) Petr Krejci