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Troika: experimenting with light 08.10.12


Cross-disciplinary design practice Troika is many things – just don't call it an interactive lighting design studio. Yes, Sebastien Noel, Eva Rucki and Conny Freyer have studied design, created the odd interactive installation and like to experiment with light for some of their installations. But their interests – and work – extend far beyond those.

The trio's stunning installations play with the viewer's perception of space and what is scientifically possible, but they also invite people to contemplate a more complicated narrative thread. For instance, this summer's The Weather Yesterday is a 5m-high graphic LED sculpture in Hoxton Square, but also pokes fun at society's obsession with technology, mobile devices and forecasting, and British culture's predisposition to discuss the weather. Last year's Thixotropes for Selfridges were giant structures that spun into mesmerising cones of light, but also referenced a long history of light painting photography dating back to 1914.

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Troika's founders met at the Royal College of Arts, where Rucki and Freyer studied communication, art and design, and Noel studied design products. They collaborated on numerous projects before setting up Troika in 2003. Even though Noel does the bulk of the technical development, the Troika process is one of research and experimentation in which all three founders are equally vocal and involved. "There is input from all of us on concept and ideas," Noel says. "And that's why we started working together – we had similar interests and sensibilities."

Those sensibilities include a constant drive to explore the intersection of rational thought, observation and the changing nature of human experience, and a general "curiosity about how the world works", Rucki says.

Another key element of Troika's process is in-house project management. "We believe that that's the only way to not compromise the project we're doing," Rucki says. This comes with a fortuitous byproduct, as Troika often uncovers new concepts through the execution of other work.

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For example, when this October's Biennale Interieur in Kortrijk, in Belgium, invited the studio to design a room that imagined the future of living spaces, it was the perfect opportunity to apply the lessons of a previously stumbled-upon phenomenon. While experimenting with optics and lenses, Troika had apparently discovered how to bend light. "Of course it doesn't really bend – Einstein is safe – but it creates the illusion that the light is going in a curve," Noel explains. The practice is using this phenomenon to create a nave of light for the biennale, made from arches more than 3m high. It will be set in what Troika describes as "a twilight zone of what is intangible and what is physical, what can be seen and what is seemingly impossible".

The installation is a clear continuation of the studio's previous work. "A lot of our pieces try to find a reconciliation between that which is very subjective, visceral and non-processed by the brain and something that is really logical and rational," Noel says. "We try to find a balance and harmony between the two."

Hard Coded Memory, created for Swarovski's Digital Crystal exhibition which opened at the Design Museum last month, also explores that balance. The installation beams four photographs on to the wall, conjuring them from contracting and expanding light dots. These are created by hardcoded mechanical cams driving individual lights towards an array of lenses. With the photographs deliberately abstracted and morphing into one another in a continuous one-minute loop, viewers can project their own thoughts on to the images. Responding to the original brief of "memory in the digital age", the installation also questions the validity of digital photographs in keeping true memories.

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Enticingly, Troika's work might be available at a home near you in the future, as Rucki talks of the possibility of limited-edition commissions of some of its installations.

Biennale Interieur, 20-28 October 2012, Kortrijk, Belgium, www.interieur.be






Anna Richardson Taylor

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A lot of our pieces try to find a reconciliation between that which is very subjective, visceral and non-processed by the brain and something that is really logical and rational

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