As the latest work by Studio Drift – the Flylight chandelier that mimics the behaviour of a flock of birds – is exhibited at The Israel Museum in Jerusalem, designers Ralph Nauta and Lonneke Gordjin explain their vision.
There is a clear common theme in the work of Studio Drift, an Amsterdam-based design bureau founded by Ralph Nauta and Lonneke Gordjin. Fragile Future, which is part of the collection of the V&A Museum in London, is a dramatic chandelier that comprises of LEDs covered in actual dandelions. Ghost is a futuristic chair concept created by a reflection of light on tiny air bubbles and showcased within a solid Plexiglas outer chair. And Oillight is a lamp cum piece of contemporary art created from nylon, an oil based material, and which changes price and shape according to the price of oil. For Nauta and Gordjin, both graduates of the Design Academy of Eindhoven, the relationship between light and nature is a rich source of inspiration.
“In this time of information overload and exaggerated senses, we hope that our work emphasizes the metaphysical quality of human sensations, that it establishes a point of balance in the midst of the contradictions of daily life, and that it stresses immaterial - spiritual and emotional – values,” explain Nauta and Gordjin of their vision. “Because of these goals, light has been one of our favourite mediums; light expresses emotions in a very direct way.”
Their latest work – a revised version of a previous project – continues their exploration of the connection between nature, technology and humankind. Flylight is a sculptural installation that comprises of a minimum of 180 light tubes, each controlled individually to mimic the behaviour of a flock of birds. First commissioned in 2007, the updated model is currently on show at The Israel Museum in Jerusalem. While it might look similar to the original, Flylight MK II now interacts with the viewer just like a flock of birds – walk towards the chandelier-like structure and the computer-controlled lights will produce an experience akin to waves of fluttering wings. Proof that at Studio Drift, artificial light is more natural than ever.
Flylight is on show at The Israel Museum, Jerusalem, until April 30
What is your definition of luxury?
Luxury is when you can do what you love to do without any stress… to not work for wealth or power but purely for creating your utmost contribution to society.
If luxury were an object, what would it be?
If luxury were a place, where would it be?
A place where the world is in balance with nature, people and fauna.
If luxury were a person, who would it be?
A person that has all the time in the world.
If luxury were a moment, when would it be?
The moment after working day and night and you've achieved your goals just in time… and when it is a good job… and you finally can sit down outside to hear the leaves in the wind or feel the rain on your face. That’s the best you can ever feel alive! It is all about contrast!
You are presenting Flylight at The Israel Museum in Jerusalem – what is this project about?
Our Flylight is a light installation consisting of an adjustable number of glass tubes that lighten up as the digital swarm of birds fly through it. The installation is custom made for every environment, as a group of Sterlings would adapt to its surroundings.
The video that accompanies Flylight makes it clear that flocks of birds are the inspiration for the installation – how did you translate this into light?
We programmed how an individual bird would react in real life to its neighbours while flying in swarm formation. We decide how many birds will fly in a certain group. After that it is up to the ‘DNA’, so to speak, of the swarm to determine how to fly. Basically the digital swarm has its own mind. The other thing about the Flylight is that it is interactive... so once an aggressor 'attacks' the Flylight, the swarm of light will fly to the person interacting with it and follow him or her around the installation... keeping track of every move.
You are known for your pioneering use of technology in your work but the inspiration is often found in nature – what have you discovered in this dialogue between nature and technology?
We have discovered that one often calls nature "low tech" and our latest human inventions "hi-tech". We think it is actually the other way around. Besides that, we think that technology is an evolution from nature in a sense. At the moment just not a very good one. I am always surprised if people are more fascinated by their smart phone than by for example the seed structure of a dandelion.
As a partnership, do you divide your roles at Studio Drift? What is this working process like?
We don’t divide these roles. Most of the time one of us comes up with an idea and then the other one sharpens it… it is a constant dialogue between us. The production is always in a much later stage and done by our team in the Studio.
The use of light is increasingly seen in new art and design – why do you think this is?
Is this true? I don’t think so... maybe more people that are interested in art are looking for it because light guides us in dark places. Its energy and warmth gives us new hope and energy. I think people are in need for beauty and aesthetics instead of negative reflections without solutions.. We become what we see, so lets look at the beauty of light.
Innovations in light technology are constantly developing – what light technology are you particularly excited to work with in the future?
We are interested in lightning and also light as a material itself. We think LED is not totally there yet and we are excited to find out what will be the next steps.
Who are your personal favourite designers who have used light in their work? Which pieces do you particularly like?
Olafur Eliasson with The Weather Project in the Turbine Hall at Tate Modern, London.