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Created in collaboration with Swarovski, Zotem was an 18-metre-tall double-sided monolith embedded with over-sized Swarovski crystals, which rose vertically from the Museum’s Grand Entrance to the Ceramics gallery directly above it, on the sixth floor.


The installation comprised over 600 custom-made Swarovski crystals scaled up to 2.5 times their regular size and displayed in a grid pattern within a frame of matte black aluminium. A roll of vividly printed mesh ran in a continuous loop inside the two aluminium faces – moving up one side and down the other. As light shone through the graphic mesh and the crystals, the pattern and colour were projected and distorted, creating an ephemeral and dynamic effect that brought the crystal to life and drew the eye upward. At the top of the structure – which could be viewed from the Contemporary Ceramics gallery – the crystal grid pattern fanned out in a crescendo of colour and light.


The title, ‘Zotem’ is a portmanteau word blending the sounds and meanings of both ‘totem’ and ‘zoetrope’ – a 19th century animation device that pre-dates film and gives the illusion of motion by displaying a sequence of isolated drawings that appear to move as they flick past the eye in quick succession. Like a zoetrope, the installation seemingly brought the inanimate to life. The looping mechanism of Zotem – which was visible through the open sides of the structure – also referenced the vintage animation device.

See also: The Best of London Design Festivals


“The installation is analogue but it looks strangely digital,” said Thomé. “It’s a play between how something appears and how it actually works – a bit like an optical illusion.” In another illusion, the installation appeared to intermittently turn itself off and then back on, an effect created by black segments on the patterned mesh.


Making use of the high atrium that connects the Grand Entrance with the Ceramics galleries directly above, Zotem created a visual link between two normally disparate spaces within the Museum, allowing visitors to perceive the interior architecture in a new way.

“When visitors enter the Museum, they rarely look up to the amazing Ceramics gallery on the sixth floor,” said Thomé. “I wanted to draw people’s gaze upward and give them an incentive to further explore that particular gallery.”


Nadja Swarovski, Member of the Swarovski Executive Board said: “Swarovski is delighted to continue its support of the London Design Festival, collaborating with emerging, London-based designer Kim Thomé to create an installation at the V&A. ‘Zotem’ reveals the interplay between light, color, and the experimentation with our crystal – this high-rising structure is the perfect way to celebrate the capital’s growing design talent.”

Source London Design Festival

See also: The Best of London Design Festivals

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