Approach the V&A’s Norfolk House Music Room over the week, and you’ll hear a curious din. Could it be hailstones bouncing off a tin roof? Or the fizz of popping candy?
Step inside the Rococo room, however, and you’ll see what’s making it buzz.
Suspended in glass globes, the creatures shy away from you as you come close, fluttering their wings to create this unusual soundscape.
‘You can walk around or through the installation, but you can never really look at an insect in detail because it always moving,’ explains Thomas Traxler.
Hidden heat and motion sensors detect your movements, triggering the insects to react. From common ladybirds and bumblebees to endangered species and newly discovered breeds, the inhabitants of the mouth-blown globes (produced by Lobmeyr in collaboration with the designers) are all drawn from real life.
Curiosity Cloud has grown from the seed of their earlier project, Ephemera – in which plants and flowers ‘grew’ from the surface of a tabletop only to retract when approached – displayed at Design Miami last year.
‘Both projects talk about the relationship humans have with nature,’ explains Katharina Mischer, ‘and about the specific moment when you approach a species too closely and it disappears.’
The 18th century interior space, designed by Giovanni Battista Borra, is also crucial in bringing the piece to life: ‘There’s a dialogue between the Music Room and the installation, between the past and something very contemporary. It’s very technological piece, working in a very Rococo setting,’ says Mischer.
Suspended within the ornate space, the glass bulbs pick up the gilded details of the plasterwork, while mirrors on the walls reflect the light.
After London Design Week wraps on 27 September, Curiosity Cloud will travel to Perrier-Jouët House where it will be permanently exhibited within its art nouveau collection.