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Like A Living Cabinet Of Curiosities, This Enchanting Installation Brings Insects To Life

Created for the London Design Festival, the Curiosity Cloud is made up of 250 hand-fabricated insects that fly around in glass bulbs when visitors approach.

The Austrian designers mischer’traxler are masters at marrying craft and technology in enchanting ways, as we’ve seen with their self-weaving, attention-craving basket and machine-weaved furniture that records the passing time. Now, the duo has hand made 250 tiny fabric insects and equipped them with motors and sensors for Curiosity Cloud, a new installation for London’s Design Festival.

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When it’s installed this September in the V&A’s grandiose Norfolk Hall Music Room, visitors will enter into the darkened room and stand under the hand-blown glass bulbs hanging from the ceiling in the shape of a cloud, each containing an tediously constructed insect affixed to the bulb with a wire. As infrared sensors attached to the bulbs sense a person’s presence, the insects start to frantically fly around in their glass containers, like a cabinet of curiosities come to life.

“It was important that we did something that suits the museum,” says Katharina Mischer, who runs the studio along with her partner Thomas Traxler. “We thought it would be interesting because the museum is a mixture of showing things and conserving things–that’s why the insects are in glass. There are species from all over the planet and the world, and we bring them into one room even though they would never meet in reality.”

The piece was commissioned by champagne producer Perrier-Jouët, who also worked with the designers for their Ephemera installation on display at Design Miami last year that featured plants on a table top that flattened as people approached. Mischer and Traxler call Curiosity Cloud a “sister project” to Ephemera because the two works both look at how nature reacts to humans. “We are interested in nature because it is a well-connected system and we as humans have to accept that we are part of the system. We are not observers from the outside,” says Mischer.

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About the author

Meg Miller is an associate editor at Co.Design covering art, technology, and design.

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