Image by author - Fragile Future by Drift
One of the most magical experiences during the London Design Festival last month was 'In Praise of Shadows', the fantastic low energy lighting exhibition on show at the Victoria & Albert museum. From start to finish this show was an illuminating adventure, which slowly revealed hidden treasures in the mysterious depths of this wonderful museum. The British curator Jane Withers, she of the 1% Water exhibition, made the unusual choice of showing her selection of works by 21 European designers in a darkened gallery. To look around the exhibition, and indeed to find the exhibits, we needed the assistance of a hand powered dynamo torch.
Image by Sarah Smart Photography - Medusa by Mikko Paakkanen
Contemporary with the Antique
With our LED torch in hand we carefully explored the darkened V&A; Jones Galleries, which are currently closed for refurbishment, but in which Withers was given permission to stage her show. So the contemporary lighting designs were exhibited in amongst precious European artifacts from 16th and 17th centuries, creating many extraordinary juxtapositions. People certainly made their way gingerly through the spaces for fear of not only bumping into a fellow viewer, but also of bumping into a priceless artwork in the shadows!
Low Energy Lighting Glows In the Dark
Recognisable designs such as Damian O'Sullivan's solar lamp featured, as well as many new discoveries such as Drift's magical 'Fragile Future' - a sculpture made from LEDs and dandelion heads and Puff-Buff's extremely lightweight Queen's Chandelier, made of inflated PVC pockets and LEDS. The dramatic finale at the end of the gallery was the majestic Sonumbra, Loop.Ph's solar powered lighting canopy developed for a World Bank project called Lighting Africa.
Image by author - Queens Chandelier by Puff-Buff Design
Inspired by Law
It seemed that while 'In Praise of Shadows' was voyage of discovery it was also a show with a mission, challenging anyone who still thinks that low energy lighting is restrictive and unattractive. In fact, amazingly the idea for the show was triggered by a new law. Under an EU Directive which started on 1st September 2009 the manufacture and import of 100W incandescent bulbs is restricted and those of lower wattage will be phased out by 2012. Could this be the first design exhibition has inspired by an eco-design law?
Image by author - Sonumbra by Loop.PH
Another chance to see?
Unfortunately this show was on for too short a time and closed at the end of the London Design Festival. Let's hope that 'In Praise of Shadows' gets a chance to go on tour and secrete itself into the shadows of other galleries around the world, to inspire people with it's beautifully subtle light.
AMENDMENT: We've just had good news from curator Jane Withers' office to say that 'In Praise of Shadows' has been extended by the V&A; museum until October 18th - so you still have a chance to see this illuminating show.
More on London Design Festival 2009
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London Design Festival Kicks Off with a Ban
London Design Festival is an Eclectic Mix
London Design Festival Features Far-Out Furniture