The tunnel installation, called Mise-en-abyme, was a visitor favourite when it was installed at the Victoria and Albert Museum in September, 2015. London designers Laetitia de Allegri and Matteo Fogale devised it to span a bridge within the museum, where it lived for the duration of the London Design Festival.
The piece was both subtle and dramatic, with sheets of asymmetrical acrylic, each tinted in a different pastel hue, were lined up to form an opening. The sheets were set apart from one another so the tints deepened as the cut-outs grew smaller, creating a warped perspective. A similar gradient effect took place on the floor. Surfaced with custom-made tiles in varying depths of colour by Johnson Tiles, the walkway deepened from a barely-there blue into a bright, royal shade.
For a new tour at Oxo Tower Wharf, a cultural hub overlooking the River Thames in London’s South Bank, de Allegri and Fogale were invited to put a new spin on that tunnel. Applying their dedication to optimizing the lifecycle of materials, the pair recycled the 11 acrylic sheets from the original installation and compressed them to create a rainbow-coloured archway.
“Since the beginning, we always questioned ourselves on how we could give the installation a life after the festival,” de Allegri and Fogale tell Azure. “It is a big commitment for us to consider the lifespan of our creations. We don’t like the idea of generating waste even for something that was meant to have a short life, like temporary installations … We believed strongly in our vision and principles, so we wanted to save this precious material from ending up on landfill.”
Similar to the original incarnation, Mise-en-abyme 2.0 features irregularly shaped holes for visitors to walk through. In this version, the acrylic panels are more closely packed and installed on a wood panel. The designers partnered with lighting manufacturer Innermost (whose headquarters are at the Oxo Wharf Tower) to add a new feature to the installation: light effects. At night, flexible LED strips embedded in the installation’s platform illuminate the panels from below. During the day, the edges of the sheets appear to radiate neon colours that expand and retract, forming mesmerizing effects.
According to the designers, the site-specific redux is meant to challenge the heavy architecture of the nearby tower, while reflecting the bustle of the hub and encouraging interaction from passerby.
“We think Mise-en-abyme has a totally different feeling from our original installation, but maintains the character of something quite magical and immersive where people feel like they can interact with the piece,” say the designers. “We like the idea of a sculpture that is not just sitting there, but encourages people to play with it, to enjoy the different perspectives and visual effects it creates from all its different angles.”
Mise-en-abyme is on view at Oxo until February 20, 2017.